The Son Glorified by the Father and the Father Glorified by the Son
“These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee.” — John xvii. 1.
THIS was a prayer after a sermon. These words spake Jesus, and then he lifted up his eyes to heaven in supplication. No discourse should be unattended by prayer, for how can we expect a blessing on what we have heard or spoken unless we ask it of the Lord. The sower should water with many a supplication the seed that he has sown, and the hearer should diligently seek the favour of him who giveth bread to the eater as well as seed to the sower.
It was a prayer in connection with the Lord’s Supper. Surely above all things prayer should mix with every part of our attendance at the sacred table? Dare we come to the sacred feast without prayer? Can we sit there without prayer? Can we retire without prayer? If so, let us not wonder if the ordinance should be a mere form and unrefreshing to our souls. With sermon and with sacrament let us mingle the salt of supplication, without prescribing how much.
Observe the attitude of the prayer. The Saviour, it appears, prayed with uplifted eyes. There is much in this outward manifestation of his devotion. We have not time to enter into it fully, but this may suffice: the uplifted eye showed to whom he was speaking, and it bore testimony that that he was not idly drawing the bow at a venture, but directing his prayer unto God and looking up as the arrow ascended to his Father’s throne. It showed also what he was looking away from, and above his disciples and their sympathy, above all the world and its enmity, and even above himself. His outlook was towards the Invisible: this is for our instruction. He could have prayed with eyes closed if so it had pleased him, but his were the opened eyes of faith and love, which could look into the face of God, and could yet look upon all things round without distraction, and hence it was not needful for him to draw down the curtains of the eyelids, but he gazed unto the opened heaven.
Notice the commencement of his prayer, for it furnishes our text. He began by saying, “Father.” He did not say “Our Father.” “Our Father” is for us, for we in the filial relationship which we sustain are many; but “Father” is for him, for he is one, and he is such a son as in some respects we can never be. Into the mysterious doctrine of the eternal filiation it is not ours to enter, but we know it to be a truth. “Father” is a word appropriate to our Lord’s lips alone in its highest conceivable sense; but how grandly it comes from him. It shows his love to God, his confidence in God, his complete resignation to the divine will, and his sweet acquiescence in it. He is about to be broken in pieces with the iron rod of his Father’s vengeance, but he calls him “Father” still. He is about to drink that cup of wormwood and gall, which would have been hell to us if he had not drained it dry, but he says “Father” still. And herein he sets us an example: in all times of tribulation let us fall back upon our sonship, our adoption, and the fatherhood of our great God. To our Father let us go, for to whom else should a child so naturally fly? Where else can we go but to our Father who knows what we have need of before we ask him and who will never desert his own, but like as a father pitieth his children will pity them that fear him?
The prayer itself— the very fact of the prayer, shows us his manhood. Jesus pleads: he must be man. He lifts his eyes to heaven and he cries “Father”; he must be like ourselves, a man. But the prayer in some respects bespeaks the deity which it scarcely veils. As in some statues, which you must often have looked upon with admiration, you seem to see the face of the figure through the marble veil, so it is here in the prayer of Christ, the God shines through the man. It is such a prayer as only he might offer who is God as well as man. Dare you say, “Father, glorify me, that I may glorify thee”? That would be a presumptuous expression for creature-lips to utter. He alone who counted it not robbery to be equal with God, though he made himself of no reputation, might thus pray. Though he cries to God, “Father, glorify thy Son,” yet may he add, and put no explanatory sentence therewith, “that thy Son also may glorify thee.” He is able to return all the glory God may give, and has the power as much to magnify the Father’s name as the Father may magnify his name. Herein I see the humanity, but I admire and adore the deity, of our blessed Lord.
The first sentence of his prayer reveals his foresight— “Father, the hour is come”— the hour ordained in the eternal purpose— the hour prophesied of which Daniel sought to know, the hour towards which all hours had pointed, the central hour, the hour up to which men dated and from which they shall date again if they read time aright; the hinge, pivot, and turning point of all human history: the dark, yet delivering hour, the hour of vengeance and of acceptance. “The hour is come.” He knew it. His inward infallible foresight made him know that now was the time for him to offer up himself a sacrifice for sin.
His expression is, however, very choice. “The hour is come.” His faith thinks it but an hour: the midnight of Gethsemane, the morning of the scourging, the day of the crucifixion, all are but an hour, a short space. Now is he in trouble, for his time of travail is come; but he counts it as an hour, for joy of that which shall be born into the world by his grievous pangs. Thus his love and patience make him despise the time of shame and reckon it but a brief interval.
The foresight of which we have spoken makes him look beyond the hour. You and I look into the hour of darkness, as a frequent rule, and see no further, for our eyes are dim through unbelief; but he goes on beyond the hour, and his prayer is, u Glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee.” He fixes his eye upon the glory that was yet to be revealed, and for joy of that he counts even his death to be but an hour, looking upon it as soon to be overpast and lost in the glory of his Father. In all this, brethren, let us imitate our Lord, and let us keep our eye, not on the present, but on the afterwards; not on this light affliction, which is but for a moment, but on the far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory which will come of it all; and let us with holy confidence whenever our hour of darkness arrives resort to our God in secret. The best preparation for the worst hour is prayer, the best remedy for a depressed spirit is nearness to God. In this, then, let us follow our Master, and may the Holy Spirit help us so to do.
Let us now consider the essential words of the prayer. They are twofold; and in them we find first a petition for himself: “Father, glorify thy Son;” and, secondly, the motive of that petition: “that thy Son also may glorify thee.”
I. Begin, then, with THE PETITION FOR HIMSELF; and I invite you to observe it as an answered petition. Eighteen hundred years and more have rolled away since those divine words fell from our blessed Master’s lips, and they have been answered, and are being answered still. We shall not look upon them from the standpoint of the apostles, but from our own, and regard the prayer as one which is granted.
And, first, it was answered in and during his sufferings. Some of the early fathers confined the sense of these words to the passion of our Lord, and I like their strong expressions when they say that his cross was his throne, and Gethsemane was as glorious as Olivet, if not more so; for the glory of the cross would be a wonderful theme if man had mind and words enough to expatiate upon it. Speak we of ignominy? Doubtless he died a felon’s death. Speak we of shame? No doubt they spat upon him and derided him. Speak we of weakness? No doubt he slept in a grave. But in his ignominy, shame, and weakness Jesus is most honourable, adorable, and strong. Faith sees a moral and spiritual splendour about her crucified Lord which outshines all the previous glories of his eternal throne.
I shall not so confine the sense of the words, but yet that sense must be included. The Son of God was glorified while he was dying, and it was one part of his glory that he should be able to bear the enormous load of human guilt. As a race we lay crushed beneath it. A thousand Samsons could not relieve us. Angels and archangels, cherubim and seraphim must have failed to lift the stupendous mass; but this one man alone, unhelped, in weakness of body and in death pangs, bore away the enormous load of human guilt. The chastisement of our peace was upon him; the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. What a load it was! And that he could bear it was indeed a display of his glory. The lost in hell cannot bear the wrath of God; an eternity of suffering will not have discharged the dreadful penalty, and yet he bore that burden in an hour. Oh, marvellous strength of the incarnate God! Glorious art thou, indeed, O Christ, upon thy cross; more glorious than even in that moment when with a word thou shalt shake not only earth, but also heaven, for now the weight of angry heaven rests on thee, and thou dost stand fast beneath it. Glorify him, beloved, you for whom he bore that weight, glorify him that he was able to endure it.
He was glorified also in the manner in which he bore it, in that he sustained it without shrinking or starting back. There was no guilt or guile in him, though questioned again and again before Caiaphas, and Herod, and Pilate. There were no angry speeches when he was browbeaten, and buffeted, and blindfolded, and spat upon; he displayed nothing but gentleness, even when his enemies had pierced his hands and his feet, nothing but triumphant pity and almighty love even when they mocked his agonies. They could not anger him with all their revilings, and when they cried, “Let him come down from the cross, and we will believe on him,” yet he did not loose a hand from the cruel tree to smite the scorners nor shake his foot free from the nail to spurn the blasphemers.
When you think of his physical agonies, of his mental torture, of his spiritual darkness— when you consider that all the powers of earth and hell were let loose upon him, and when, worst of all, you recollect that the Father’s face was hidden from him till he cried, “Why hast thou forsaken me?” and yet consider that our champion having begun the redeeming work, went through with it, and never drew back his hand from the covenant which he had made, nor flinched under the strokes he bore,— I say he was glorious in his passion, and his prayer was heard. The Father did glorify his Son even on the tree. It was an hour of glory that might dazzle angels’ eyes— that hour when he said, “It is finished,” and gave up the ghost. For what had he finished then? He had finished that which has saved his people, has peopled heaven with immortal spirits who shall delight in him for ever, and has shaken the gates of hell. God indeed glorified his Son in enabling him to bear, and bear so well, all the weight of sin and the penalty that was due to it.
And now to-day, beloved, we see that God glorified his Son in his death, because in dying he did save his people. I do not believe for a single moment that the result of Christ’s death ever was or ever could be uncertain. That which he intended to do by it will be done, and has been so far done to the last jot and tittle up to this moment. His great object was the redemption of his chosen; “Christ loved his church and gave himself for it.” It is said of a certain company that they sing, “He hath redeemed us from among men.” Now, when he died he did not render the redemption of his people possible, but he ransomed them completely. By his agonies and death he did not merely give a bare hope of the pardon of sin, but he hurled the sin of all his elect into the depths of the sea in that selfsame moment. He did not merely make the salvation of men a possibility if they would, but he saved his people then and there, and finished the work which he came to do, in proof whereof it is written that “this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God,” and he would not have sat there if his work had not been done. According to the words of the prophet he had finished transgression, made an end of sin, and brought in everlasting righteousness, for he had offered an effectual atonement which none can gainsay; and so the Father glorified his Son, even when lie died, since he accepted his redeeming blood on the behalf of his people.
The Father glorified his Son by making him, even in the hour of his passion, to be victorious over all his enemies. That nailed foot bruised the serpent’s head, so that he could never resume his former power; that nailed Hand grasped the serpent of sin and strangled it; and that dying head as it bowed itself smote death with its own sword, as David smote Goliath, for he “death by dying slew.”
The powers of evil were tremendous. Think of sin, of Satan, and of death, but all their leaguered hosts were defeated in that one pitched battle, of which the cross was the banner and the dying Redeemer the champion. O glorious Lord, thou hast led captivity captive, making a show of thine adversaries openly even on thy cross, and nailing up to the accursed tree the handwriting of ordinances that was against us. Yes, the Father glorified thee even there while yet thou wast in the agonies of death.
Beside this there were some outward signs of the glory of Christ even in his death which we can scarcely stay to mention. Did not the temple rend her veil? Did not the sun conceal his face? Did not the rocks open, and the dead arise? Was not all Jerusalem filled with tremor, and did not the centurion cry, “Truly, this was the Son of God”? Yes, the Father glorified his Son, even when it pleased him to bruise him and to put him to grief. With one hand he smote, and with the other hand he glorified. There was a power to crush, but there was also a power to sustain working at the self-same time. The Father glorified his Son.
And now, beloved, what shall I say concerning the Father glorifying the Son after his death, and as the result of it? I will not attempt to expatiate, but I will simply say that the rending of the veil at the moment of his death was the glorifying of Christ: for now there is a way to the throne of God made manifest for us, which aforetime had been closed. Then the opening of his pierced side was another glorifying of him, for this day the double fount is to believers the effectual cleansing of both the guilt and the power of sin; and thus the Saviour’s pierced heart glorified him in its power to bless. Then that poor body lay in the grave— I call it poor, for so it seemed— wrapped in the linen, and the spices. But, beloved, the Father glorified even that dead body which men thought to be corruptible, for it saw no corruption. During the three days and nights no worm could come near it, nor trace of decay. That crystal vase in which the rich ointment of the Saviour’s soul had dwelt must not be injured. “Not a bone of him shall be broken.” Beautified by those scars as when a skilful artist renders an image more lovely than before by marks of the graver’s tool, that body must be safely guarded by watching angels till the morning came. It barely dawned. As yet the sun was rising, and lo the Sun of righteousness himself arose! As a man arising from his couch puts on his garments, so did our Lord put on the vesture of the body, which he had laid aside, and came again into the world, alive as to his body and his soul, a perfect man. Oh, it was a grand glorifying of Christ when the Father raised him from the dead, and he was seen by his disciples once again. Death had no bands wherewith to hold him. The sepulchre’s ward could not confine the unequalled prisoner. Declared to be glorious by the resurrection from the dead, his prayer was heard.
And ere long, when a few weeks had passed over him, there came another glory; for from the brow of Olivet he gently ascended, floating in the air from the company of his disciples, rising up in the midst of angels till a cloud received him out of human sight.
“They brought his chariot from on high
To bear him to his throne;
Clapped their triumphant wings and cried,
‘The glorious work is done.’”
His Father glorified him, and now he sits at the right hand of God. Words, ye are dumb things, ye cannot tell out his present glory. Early the other morning there came to my bedside a brother to awaken me whose face seemed to beam with joy, as he said, “In my sleep last night I thought I saw the Lord upon his throne; and oh, the glory which the Father put upon him! I wish I could fall asleep again that I might continue to dream on.” The tears were in his eyes, as he said, “Oh, the glory of Christ! Oh, the glory of Christ!” I reminded him of how Mercy laughed in her sleep, and Christiana asked her why; and when she told her dream, the matron said she might well laugh if she so dreamed. Happy are those who, sleeping or waking, living or dying, may but get a glimpse of his glory. Nothing ever ravishes my heart like the thought of ray Lord’s being glorified. Oh, if I could by some means help to honour him! If I may but be the earthen vessel in which his treasure should be stored, or the trumpet by which his name might be proclaimed! This is joy enough for me. And you all feel the same, you who love him. You delight to think how high his throne is, and how bright is his countenance, and how resplendent are his courts. Have patience. You shall see him soon, for the Father will glorify him in the second advent. He tarries, he tarries long, as we think; yet he saith, “Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me.” He is coming to be glorified, even among the sons of men. So shall the prayer of the text be fulfilled in the golden ages yet to dawn, and then throughout eternity.
II. We pause a moment, and then we shall briefly think of THE MOTIVE OF HIS PRAYER.
“Father, glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee.” Do notice this. When you pray, it is a grand thing to pray with a clean heart; but selfishness is uncleanness. In our blessed Lord there was no selfishness. He said, “I seek not mine own glory”; and even in this prayer that word of his is true, for he only seeks glory that he may glorify the Father. Beloved, the desire of our Lord is granted, for God is glorified in Jesus Christ more than in any other way. The glory of God in nature is inconceivable. This round world and all that dwell therein; the open sea calmly mirroring the sky or ruffled with tempests; the wondrous expanse of heaven, fleecy with clouds, or blue beneath a torrid sun, or lit up with innumerable stars; yon hills with all their woods, yon laughing valleys with their lowing herds and bleating flocks,—
“These are thy glorious works, Parent of good, almighty,”
thou gettest glory from every flickering blade of grass or frond of fern, and every flitting insect and creeping worm mean thy praise; there is nought but what glorifieth thee, from leviathan to a minnow. Yet all nature put together fails to reveal all thy glorious attributes. The divine faithfulness, and justice, and truth are scarcely manifest in nature though traces of them may be seen; but in the face of Jesus, who is the express image of the Father, God is glorified to the full. In the death of Christ, above all things, God is glorified, for there all the attributes of God are seen. There was the power which sustained Christ beneath his more than Herculean task ; the love which surrendered the darling of its bosom that he might die instead of traitors; the justice which would not, could not forgive sin without satisfaction; the truth which had threatened to punish, and did punish; which had promised to give a Saviour, and did give him; the faithfulness to the covenant which kept that covenant at such a dread expense; the wisdom which planned the marvellous way of salvation by a substitute: nay, let me put it all together, the wholeness, the holiness of God, yea all his attributes are seen, each one equally magnified in the death of Jesus Christ. He is glorious, and the triune God is glorified in him.
And now, beloved, God is glorified in the death of Christ by the love of all those whom Jesus saves, by the sacred awe and filial fear of all whom Jesus brings to the Father’s feet, by the ardent, patient devotion of all who are consecrated in heart, and feel the sacred flame of love to Christ setting their souls on a blaze. Up there in heaven, where the white-robed never cease to sing, and here below where martyrs were burned for love of God, where confessors defied all adversaries to spread abroad the glory of his name, where humble Christians suffer in patience, or labour on with diligence, or walk in holiness, the Father’s name is glorified through the passion of the Christ of God.
We had many things to say, but time fails us; and therefore we close with these three observations, which we want to leave upon your minds.
The first is this. Christ’s motive should he ours. When you ask a blessing from God, ask it that you may glorify God by it. Do you pine to have your health back again? Be sure that you want to spend it for him. Do you desire temporal advancement? Desire it that you may promote his glory. Do you even long for growth in grace? Ask it only that you may glorify him. If there be aught that you dare wish and pray for, put it so: “Father, bless thy child, that thy child may, in return, bless thee and serve thee.” Those are clean prayers which have such a motive, all others have the taint of self about them. God help you to do everything to his glory, to speak to his glory, to live to his glory, to die to his glory, and then you shall rise again and live for ever to his glory. Happy, happy is the man whose lot this shall be. Let this be the constraint which masters you, even that which moved your Lord.
Next, Christ’s theology should he ours. What is that? Why, first that he is to be glorified, and secondly that the Father is to be glorified. Error sometimes blows one way and sometimes another. Years gone by the difficulty was to bring men to glorify the Lord Jesus; they would worship God, but not the Christ of God; and so there came the great Arian fight, and afterwards Socinian controversies, for they would not glorify Christ. Oh, you who have been saved by him, I am not afraid of you on that point; but nowadays there appears to be in some minds a forgetfulness of the Father. Christ is loved, for he died, but many seem to look upon the Father as having no share in the wondrous work of redemption; whereas, beloved, they are one in our salvation. Father, Son, and Spirit agree in one in our redemption, and it would be fatal indeed for us to set one person of the divine Trinity above the other two. Let all men honour the Son even as they honour the Father; and honour the Father even as they honour the Son. It would be traitorous to Christ’s inmost wish if we were to glorify the Son and fail to reverence and love the Father.
Lastly, let every believer here see his security. Is it not a most wonderful guarantee of the safety of every one for whom Christ died, that the glory of Christ and the glory of the Father— I may add the glory of the blessed Spirit— are all equally concerned in the salvation of the believing soul? Dare I say it? It would be a blot upon the everlasting glory if one believing soul were ever lost. Then were God’s truth no longer sure, his faithfulness no longer firm, his love no more immutable. His power might be doubted: his changeableness would be proved. But, beloved, it cannot be. Christ will not lose a sheep of his flock, nor will the Comforter lose a spirit in which he has once began to indwell. Rest ye then in this. Abide ye without doubt or fear in Christ; for the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but the covenant of his love shall not be removed from you, saith the Lord that hath mercy on you.
Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, dear hearers, and these divine privileges shall be yours; and as I prayed just now, so pray I yet again, that these things may belong to every soul in this house without exception, through faith in Christ Jesus, by the work of the Holy Ghost. Amen. Amen.