‘Glory’/doxa and ‘glorify’/doxazo are key words in John’s writings – they occur 31 times in his Gospel and 18 times in Revelation, but interestingly they do not come at all in John’s Epistles. Here in the story of the raising of Lazarus we are told that the purpose of the miraculous sign is for God’s glory. Indeed Jesus tells Martha that if she will believe, she will see the glory of God (11.40). Through the glorification of God, the Son is also to be glorified. We remember that God the Father and Jesus his Son are one, so the glory spreads naturally to both together. In fact, 11.4 actually says that the glorification of God is in order that the Son may be glorified. God’s great purpose is that Jesus may be glorified.
What then is meant by ‘glory’? It has a double significance. It carries the meaning of absolute splendour and light which is so brilliant that it is impossible to gaze into it. But ‘glory’ also signifies that this splendour of God comes down to earth and is manifested among us as mere human beings. Already in the Old Testament the Shekinah glory of God was manifested in the pillar of cloud and fire leading Israel through the desert. Likewise the glory of God filled both the Tabernacle and the Temple when they were dedicated.
So John underlines the reality that the Son of God who was in the glory of God’s perfect presence has now been sent down to earth with a mission. He reveals the Father in his very person and his miraculous works form part of that revelation. God’s glory has come to us and enters into the corruption of the world. Here in the story of |Lazarus It even invades the stench of death and burial. So in the raising of Lazarus we can see the splendour of God invading the tomb, the ultimate consequence of sin. Satan and death have lost their power. Jesus and God are victorious! God’s and Jesus’ glory is evident.
The raising of Lazarus demonstrates the greater reality that Jesus will die, but then will be raised from the dead. The glory of God is closely tied to Jesus’ sufferings and death, through which the new life of the resurrection comes to us. So Jesus’ glory can not be separated from his sufferings and it is only through suffering that the glory of new life can come.
How easily the concept of glory can be misunderstood! We read in Mark 10.37 that James and John requested Jesus that they might be given the seats of honour next to Jesus in his glory. He quickly tells them that they don’t understand what they are asking. Jesus’ glory is the agony of his death on the cross. Jesus will not have the power to determine who will be on either side of him in his crucifixion (Mark 10.40). The Roman authorities would chose two robbers for that honour.
We today are also prone to see God’s glory in prosperity, success and healing from suffering. We often fail to see that we can glorify God in and through our sufferings. Happily of course, like Jesus, we have the wonderful, sure hope of resurrection and ascension as God’s gracious gift after the sufferings.
Why does the Father love Jesus? John 10.17 declares that it is because Jesus is the true shepherd who is even willing to lay down his life in the ultimate sacrifice of death for his sheep. This verse goes on to state that Jesus lays down his life in order that he may take it up again. The purpose and goal of Jesus’ death is the glory of the resurrection. God’s great purpose is the resurrection of our Lord to a glorious new life which he in turn offers to us..
The NIV translates the original clear and purposeful word for ‘in order that’ with the less definite “only to” and the old King James Version has “that I might take it up again”. Have we over-emphasised a gospel which is centred on a theology of the cross? Of course the cross with its purpose of salvation through the forgiveness of sin is one strand of the New Testament message, particularly in the letters of Paul. But there can be a danger that in stressing the cross we rather neglect the resurrection in our understanding and proclamation of the Gospel. I believe that we need to redress the balance and bring back God’s gift of the resurrection unto new life as the central message of the Gospel.
In Acts 17 when Paul was preaching to Gentiles in Athens his message evidently stressed Jesus himself and his resurrection. The Athenians somehow failed to grasp what Paul was trying to say (cross-cultural communication is never easy – even for Paul!). They thought he was advocating two foreign gods, Jesus and Resurrection (in the Greek there is a definite article before both ‘Jesus’ and ‘Resurrection’). It is interesting to note that they did not think Paul was preaching Jesus and the Cross! Clearly his emphasis was on the glory of Jesus and the new life available through his resurrection. Surely in our modern world today our message should major on the new resurrection life which is available for all who will come to Jesus in faith. In our post-modern world people have little awareness of sin, so the message of the cross and redemption from sin is hardly ‘good news’/’Gospel’ to them. This biblical message of the cross will gain poignant relevance when we have met with the all-holy Lord and begin to feel our comparative sinfulness So our Gospel for today should start with the message of John and the new resurrection life. Paul’s emphasis on our cleansing from sin through the cross will and must follow later.
In the New Testament references to Jesus’ resurrection are normally in the passive – Jesus was raised from the dead. The traditional church creeds rightly underline that Jesus “was buried”. In this way the absolute finality of his death is reinforced. The horrendous coldness of the grave seems to deny any further hope. It was into this total hopelessness that the Father stepped in and raised the cold body of Jesus to new life. And however cold and hopeless we may be, still today the Father can come and bring the new life of his resurrection. Wonderful and glorious! Good news indeed! John 10.17 is very unusual in stating that Jesus would lay down his life and then himself would take it up again. But Jesus goes on to declare that his authority to take up his life again only comes by the command of the Father (John 10.18). It is even more certain that we in our weakness and sin have no power to lift ourselves up to new life, but depend only and totally on the Father’s wonderful grace. As we revel in God’s amazing loving kindness to us, my wife and I constantly say to each other “It’s all of grace” – the new life in Jesus is indeed God’s fantastic gift to us. Praise the Lord!
The Jewish leaders in Judea use such interesting words in their approach to Jesus. Literally this verse may be translated “For how long will you take away our life? If you are the Christ, tell us boldly.”
The context in John 10 strongly emphasizes the glorious fact that Jesus is the beautiful shepherd with beautiful works (10.32 is literally ‘beautiful works’, not “great miracles”), particularly that he lays down his life for his sheep. So 10.24 stands in marked contrast. Does Jesus take life away from those who will not believe in him and follow him? Is he the final judge? Or are the Jewish leaders implying that Jesus is failing to proclaim his messiahship and thus causing loss of true life? Their enigmatic question may imply both these thoughts.
The word used for “boldly” (Greek parresia) cannot easily be translated into English. It means that the person is absolutely sure and convinced of the truth and reality of what they believe. This assured confidence leads to a boldness which is willing to suffer in consequence. It is used quite often by Paul and about him. For example, in Colossians 4.19 Paul asks prayer that he may be enabled to make the good news of Jesus known “fearlessly” – the same Greek word.
In Britain today we need also to pray for such “boldness”. Christians need quality teaching, so that we may know what we are talking about and have a deep and confident assurance of biblical truth. We also need to gain the courage to proclaim and share the good news of new life in Jesus boldly with our neighbours, friends and relatives. Good teaching and assured faith without bold witness is useless; and bold witness without underlying assured knowledge is just empty fanaticism.