This morning is the sixth week in our Lenten Journey toward the Cross of Calvary. During Lent, Pastor Drew will be preaching a 7-part sermon series which will focus on some of things Christ specifically accomplished through his suffering and crucifixion, collectively referred to as the passion of Christ. The series is entitled “Why Did Jesus Die?” and is inspired by John Piper’s book, The Passion of Jesus Christ. The main point of the whole series is that the suffering an death of Jesus Christ was a purposefully event; many of the reasons for the passion of Christ are for our benefit. The hope is that you will come to a much greater appreciation for what Christ Jesus accomplished through his suffering and death on the cross. Today’s theme is Christ’s glory. The main point is that Jesus died so that he would be crowned with glory and honor.
- #1: March 6: “Faith Not Our Own But Ours to Live By“
- #2: March 13: “The Cross: The Means of Freedom“
- #3: March 20: “The Cross: The Means of God’s Blessings“
- #4: March 27: “The Cross: The Means of Reconciliation With God“
- #5: April 3: “The Cross: The Ground of Our Boasting“
- #7: April 17 (Easter): “Victory!“
Scriptures: Philippians 2:5-11; Hebrews 2:9; Revelation 5:12
Like many of you, I grew up knowing I was well loved. But more importantly, I felt loved. I’ve no doubt that being raised in an environment wherein love was so freely poured into me positively impacted how I see and experience the world around me as well as how I view and experience God. It’s my perception and experience that God truly is all-loving and that he loves me tremendously despite my lifetime of failures and wanderings and unfaithfulness.
I know my experience in this regard isn’t true for everyone, including some of you listening right now. I may not know exactly who you are or the details of your life up to this point, but I do know that some of you listening this morning have struggled your whole life with the gnawing sense that you’re not loved and may have even come to the conclusion that you’re not even lovable. Maybe your home environment growing up was anything but loving and affirming. It’s quite possible that to this day you feel like you’ve never measured up to your parents’ expectations of you, and that you’ll never earn the love or acceptance you so crave from them. And maybe that’s carried over into your experience and view of God—that even God doesn’t love you. Or more to the point, that he can’t love you on account of your perception that you’ve been such a disappointment to him through the years. It breaks my heart to know that that’s what many of us come to believe about God and how we experience him.
Maybe the path to seeing and experiencing God in a new way—a loving way—lies in having a better understanding of what great love really is.
We’ve all grown up thinking that being loved means being made much of. Our whole world seems to be built upon this assumption. If I love you, then I make much of you. If I love you, then I help you feel good about yourself. If I love you, then I give you lots and lots of positive strokes in order to build up and strengthen your self-esteem. Of course, the logic of this way of understanding how love is shown can easily lead to the conclusion that a failure to make much of you and help you feel good about yourself indicates that I don’t love you. As John Piper puts it in his book, The Passion of Jesus Christ, “it’s as though a sight of the self is the secret of joy.” Put another way, that joy and happiness come when I feel good about who I am and what I’m doing. And to a large extent, that depends upon how another person affirmed me.
But the truth is, we know better, even if we’re not consciously aware of this fact. The truth is our happiest moments in life have not been self-saturated moments, but self-forgetful moments. There’ve been times when we’ve stood at the edge of Grand Canyon, or at the foot of the Grand Teton Mountains, or breathlessly witnessed an aurora borealis, or took in the joy and excitement of a child opening presents on Christmas morning, or viewed a stunning sunrise or sunset over one of the Great Lakes and for just a moment lost ourselves in the joy of sheer wonder. You see, this is what we were made for. Every person. Paradise will not be a hall of mirrors. It’ll be a display of majesty. And it won’t be our own majesty on display. The majesty on display which fills us with the greatest love, both for others and for ourselves, is the majesty of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the King of Glory.
The night before he died, Jesus asked the Father to do something for him, something which you and I would never dream of asking for ourselves. Knowing he would soon die, he prayed, “Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I shared with you before the world was created” (John 17:5). In this context, to be glorified is to be honored with praise, admiration, or worship; it’s to be made more splendid or excellent than would normally be the case; it’s to be made glorious, which is to be conferred with glory, which is adoring praise and worshipful thanksgiving. In this prayer, Jesus referenced the state of divine glory he had prior to becoming a human being, the glory which he, the Son, shared with the Father, before the creation of the world. Father, he prayed, make me glorious above all people and all creation. Give me divine glory!
Let’s be honest, that’s a pretty bold thing to ask for—that is, if you didn’t know anything about Jesus prior to reading this prayer of his. I can easily imagine someone saying, “You tell me that Jesus is supposed to be so loving towards others. How can such a self-focused request be loving? How can Jesus be motivated to give us joy if he’s motivated to get his own glory? Since when is vanity a virtue?” That’s a fair question to ask, but it reveals a misunderstanding of Jesus’ eternal nature as well as the necessity of him being who he is.
I stated as few moments ago that human beings are designed to experience the greatest joy and happiness and sense of awe when what is majestic beyond our selves is on full display. Is there anything in all this world that is more majestic than the Lord Jesus Christ? Jesus Christ is the most majestic reality in the universe. If this is so—and I believe it is—then what must our Lord’s love to us be? Surely, not making much of us. It’s pretty clear that that wouldn’t satisfy our souls. Only a narcissist glories in him or herself. No, we were made for something much greater. If we’re to be as happy as we can be, we must see and savor the most glorious person of all—Jesus Christ. As John Piper points out, this means that in order to love us—to actively love us—he must seek the fullness of his own glory and then offer it to us for our enjoyment. This is why during that same prayer he told the Father, “I want those you gave me to be with me where I am. Then they can see my glory” (John 17:24a). That’s love. He loves us by showing us his glory and inviting us to participate in it through a personal relationship with him.
And what, exactly, was the motivation behind Christ being given that divine glory in the first place? It was the love of the Father for the Son. The full proclamation of John 17:24 is, “Father, I want those you gave me to be with me where I am. Then they can see my glory, which you gave me because you loved me before the creation of the world” (John 17:24). The Father’s love motivated Christ’s glorified and exalted nature, and Christ’s love motivated him to show himself to us so that we can experience that very same love of God.
Now, did you happen notice earlier that when Jesus asked the Father for this glory, he spoke of it as something which had yet to be given to him? Glorify me in your presence was the request. So, what, ultimately, made the fulfillment of this prayer a reality in Jesus’ life? It was his passion—his suffering and death on the cross. Jesus made this request before he died knowing what was about to happen to him. He knew full well the connection between his death and his being glorified.
Hebrews 2:9 reveals this truth. It speaks of Jesus being “made lower in order than the angels,” a reference to his becoming human, and it mentions his exaltation. Note what it says necessitated his being crowned with glory. “We see the one who was made lower in order than the angels for a little while—it’s Jesus! He’s the one who is now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of his death.” Jesus’ glory was the reward of his suffering.
Paul says the exact same thing in Philippians 2, which was read earlier this morning. Verse 7 says: “Being found in human form, [Jesus] humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross.” Can anyone here tell me the very next word in Paul’s proclamation? Grammatically, it plays a very important role in communicating a theological truth. Jesus humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death on a cross, THEREFORE…. Meaning, something happened as a result of his death on the cross. “Therefore, God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend…and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:9-11).
Revelation 5:12 also makes this point very clear. John reports that in his vision, angels, numbering in the millions, encircled the throne of God and said in the loud voice, “Worthy is the slaughtered Lamb to receive power, wealth, wisdom, and might and honor, glory, and blessing.” Who received this glory and honor? The “slaughtered Lamb,” which is a clear reference to Jesus on the cross. Jesus Christ died to receive back the crown that was his before creation.
Friends, when Jesus Christ died to regain the fullness of his glory, he died for our joy. As Piper so eloquently sums it up, “Love is the labor—whatever the cost—of helping people be enthralled with what will satisfy them most, namely, Jesus Christ.” That is how Jesus loves us. We experience his perfect love by looking into the majestic face of Christ with the eyes of our heart and through faith receive the love he’s pouring into us all the time. Let’s pray.