With Thanksgiving before us, it’s natural to look ahead to Christmas. If we’re intentional, these next weeks can become for us a season of gratitude for all we’ve been given, including Christ the King. John, the beloved disciple, had a way with words, describing this gift, Jesus, with poetic power:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.”John 1:1-4, NIV
There’s no brilliantly composed Christmas story in the Book of John. Instead, he takes us back to the beginning. The very, very beginning. Then leaps ahead to Jesus among us:
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”John 1:14, NIV
And, when we take another leap with John, landing in Jesus’ prayer in chapter 17, we discover that we — you and me — have been given this glory, God’s glory. Here’s today’s passage:
“I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began!”John 17:22-24, NLT
It does feel like a bit of a leap — us having been given God’s glory — but the beauty of true belonging is that we get to share in the goodness and fullness of God. Even His glory.
Glory makes its final appearance in this passage and draws our eye toward the heart of this prayer, and it seems to come in two parts, the Already and the Not Yet.
Glory in the Already
So, what is this glory that God offers us now, in the Already? It helps to recognize that glory is multi-faceted and is used to indicate either God’s presence, brightness associated with God’s presence, or worth and praise and honor. For example:
- God’s presence, His glory, filled the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle (Exodus 40:34)
- God’s glory shone as a brilliant light in Jesus at Transfiguration (Luke 9:29-32)
- And, in our verse (22) today, “the glory You gave me,” is based on the Hebrew definition, referring to the good opinion, the honor and worth God gave Jesus. The Harper’s Bible Commentary takes it a step further, explaining that in John’s gospel, glorification means revelation. “Jesus glorifies God in revealing Him to humanity, in His ministry and in His death and exaltation” (pp.1070-1).
As we think about John 17, we can see that the more we know Jesus — not just informationally, but in a personal way — the more we’re made holy in Him (v.19) and are able to attain this glory. Gary Burge explains that this kind of glory happens in our lives when we are made one in Christ (v.22), made joyful in the midst of suffering (v.13), and made holy like God (v.17-19). He goes on to say this is “not just a superior moral effort but something deriving from the holiness of Christ, in whose presence we are to live” (The Baker Illustrated Bible, p.1154).
Jesus clearly states that He has already given us this glory, so living in the good opinion of God for the honor of God is ours to do when we live in and for Christ. I love this because I think I have only ever associated glory as something just for God, not me. I’ve mistaken God’s glory for the vainglory of the world. Both desire good opinions — but from different sources and for different purposes.
My own pride in writing battles the temptation of vainglory when I desire to succeed in my writing for my own glory, for the honors and praises given by people. What I long for most, however, is God’s glory, so daily I place myself in God’s presence in order for my heart to desire what He desires. I pray that by recognizing the emptiness of vainglory that I’ll only ever write for God’s glory and the good of others.
I think because I have this inner battle, I am most astounded by Jesus’ gift of glory. In the now. In the Already. He has GIVEN US HIS GLORY. Not for our praise and honor but for God’s. This is a truth we can humbly rest in and live by.
Glory in the Not Yet
Implied in verse 24 is that someday we’ll be with Jesus where He is — and when we get to heaven, to eternity with Him, there will be another level of glory. I picture it as the purest kind of glory where we forever live in the brightness of God’s presence without fear of death and without need for sunglasses or clefts in a mountain (Exodus 33:22). Instead, the bright Shekinah Glory of God’s presence will light every moment in eternity (Revelation 22:5).
Did you notice Jesus also says we’ll be able to see this glory? Here on earth, this kind of intangible glory is not visible, so what will we see in heaven? Some scholars think this glory is God’s presence — so, we’d see God. Others suggest it could be the bright light of His presence. I’m thinking, yes! Yes, the glory we’ll see in heaven is all of that!
Before we move from this idea of glory, let’s just sit in these truths a minute. Think of the angels who came to shepherds in heavenly glory to announce the birth of the Messiah (Luke 2:8-10). Think of Jesus, who at age 33, prayed this incredible prayer over His disciples (John 17) — He who came to earth without visible glory so He could give that glory to His followers. Glory that is God’s good opinion and His presence. All of that — it’s been given to us.
Our passage also carries with it a heralding cry of love. God loves us as much as He loves Jesus (v.23). We, who are not messiahs and certainly not perfect nor divine, are loved as much as the One who is all those things. We’re meant to accept that love, friends.
And on the chance we needed clarification about why Jesus would ask all this and His Father would say yes, verse 24 explains it’s because God loves Jesus — and has since before the world began. All of this uniting and giving and glorifying is done out of love, with love, and for love.
My own experiences with the person of Jesus has come with a recent exhortation to root myself in His love — to stop rooting myself in false beliefs, distractions, and things like fear. As I’ve explored this idea of God’s love, I have been learning that everything He does always comes from a heart of love. When we live rooted in His love, that love will become our source, our motivation, and our truest place of belonging. And in the process, we’ll realize that we do, indeed, have His glory.
I’d love to end with one more quote — this one from Matthew Henry in his commentary on this John 17 chapter as relates to the glory we’ll see in heaven. “We shall not only be in the same happy place where Christ is, but the happiness of the place will consist in his presence; this is the fulness of its joy.”
Love. Glory. Joy. It’s starting to sound a lot like Christmas!
- Today start a list of things and people you are grateful for in your journal. I pray rich blessings on your Thanksgiving — wherever you are, whoever you’re missing, and whatever is on your table. We have a Savior who gives us His love and glory — that is much to be thankful for, indeed.
- Our Belonging playlist includes a song by Selah called “I Belong to Jesus” that beautifully captures the Not Yet part of glory:
I belong to Jesus
Oh, hasten now the day
That I behold Your glory
And look upon Your face
Robed in holy splendor
Like thunder we will stand
The voice of every saint declaring
Worthy is the Lamb