‘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.