TITLE : The Glory of Christ before the cross and on the cross
DATE : Good Friday - 6th April 2012
In our church we are very familiar with the story of the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ , partially because we speak about this so very often, and partially because we remember it in a practical way in our communion services. And we also make a point of remembering what Easter is really about , every year.
The danger of re-telling this story again and again is that we become familiar with the sacred , and we may be tempted to loose the glory , the weight and the gravity of it all.
Glory , weight , gravity - I use those words very deliberately and synonymously . The word ‘glory ‘ in the Hebrew language is the word ‘kabod’. This word has to do with weight or gravity. Seen against this background we note that God’s glory is heavy! It pulls you down to the ground. You can’t stand before His glory. If you should be confronted with the glory of God in your present state ( having a non- glorified body) you would not stand – you would die instantly at the sight of the full revelation of God’s glory ! So, when you look at the biblical encounters of men with God , or of a divine manifestation ( e.g. an angel) from His presence , you will note that the glory of God is always very ‘heavy’ upon people . It literally pulls them down. Moses at the burning bush ( Exodus 3) , Isaiah in the temple ( Isaiah 6), Paul on the Damascus road ( Acts 9), Peter , James and John at the Transfiguration of Christ (Matt 17:5,6), John of the Revelation ( Rev 1:17) , they all fell down before the glory of God or at the manifested glory of the ascended Lord Jesus Christ. John says of the revelation of the ascended Lord Jesus : “I fell at His feet as though dead” (Rev 1:17)
There are very few displays of God’s glory now as seemed almost common in the OT era. I am referring here to the angelic visits and theophanies prior to our Lord’s birth. Why is that? The plainest answer I can give is this : God has sent us His glorious Son, the final revelation of God from His heaven. Of this John testifies : “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us , and we have seen His glory , glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (Jn 1:14). The writer to the Hebrews says : “…in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom He also created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power.” (Hebr 1:2,3)
People in all ages have been seekers after demonstrations of glory. They want power displays and miracles in order to believe. Martin Luther once pointed out that we have two kinds of people in this world: theologians of glory or theologians of the cross . A theologian of glory says “ show me a miracle, and I will believe! A theologian of the cross sees the glory of God in the beaten , bruised and crucified Jesus – and says : “ The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world ”, and that is his sufficient evidence.
In response to a question by Philip : “Lord, show us the Father , and that will be enough“ , we have a theologian of glory . Jesus responds (paraphrase) : “Look at me Philip . Whoever has seen me has seen the Father! “ (Jn 14:8ff)
The glory of God is seen in the final revelation of God to us : Jesus Christ! Of Him God says : “This is my Son , with whom I am well pleased ; listen to Him!” (Matt 17:5) . If you want an experience of glory you must seek Christ. It is proven from Scripture however that an ordinary look at Christ will not present you with a picture of glory . You must look with the eyes of faith to see Christ for who He really is .
And to see Him as He really is we can only do one thing : We must look into the Scriptures – the only reliable revelation and testimony available to us today. And we must do so humbly and prayerfully and always in dependence upon the Holy Spirit. He is not only the Inspirer of Scripture , He is also the One who opens our eyes to see the Jesus of glory .
And now I want to do a very simple exercise with you, in dependence upon the Holy Spirit who is the Revealer of Christ and His Truth . We will read from Luke 22:35 until the end of Luke 23 and we shall deliberately look out for evidences of the glory of Christ in the harshest , most violent section of the Bible - in the emotional agony of Christ in the garden and in the physical sufferings of Christ , the unfair trial and the crucifixion . May God be pleased to add faith to our understanding so that we would walk out of here this morning with a sense of having seen the glory of Christ .
You will need to have the Bible open to follow the argument:
1. Jesus fulfils the Scripture : Lk 22: 35-38
“And He was numbered with the transgressors” – a fulfilment of Isaiah 53:12. The glory and weight of Christ is seen that He identifies Himself with the long expected Messiah – Isaiah’s suffering servant . Jesus says “I am He!” – You were wondering who Isaiah was talking about? Look no further! Look at me! Immediately you see a glimpse of glory. No one ever spoke like this!
2. Jesus prays : Lk 22 : 39- 46
Though Jesus dreaded what was before Him, He prayed: ”Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless not my will , but yours be done.” The glory of Christ is seen in His principled obedience to the Father. We also learn here about the glorious, weighty truth that prayer (which is the language of dependence upon God) has the Father’s ear. In this case the prayer was not to be delivered from the cross, but to be faithful even unto death. It is with the help of His prayerful dependence upon the Father that Jesus is helped to overcome the very real temptation to quit. [Note : the disciples failed because they did not watch and pray in this hour of temptation]. Now let me ask you: Aren’t you glad that Jesus remained obedient to the will of the Father? What would have happened if Christ had given up? No atonement of your sins! Can you see the glory in Christ’s active obedience for you?
3. Jesus arrested : Lk 22:47-53
The glory of Christ is seen here in the fact that He did not run away like a fugitive. He faced His enemies manfully, because He was submitted to the plan and will of the Father.
Moreover, note the healing of the ear of the servant of the High priest in the midst of this chaos when one of Jesus’ disciples thought that it was his duty to defend Christ , and in the attempt of doing so he cut of the ear of the poor man. The glory of Christ is seen that even in desperate times , Jesus finds time to minister to the needs of others. Would you? We tend to be so self- absorbed in our little hours of crisis that we rarely find energy to minister to others in their need because we are so focussed on our own need.
4. Jesus and Peter : Lk 22:54-62
The glory of Christ is seen here in the fact that Peter has foreknown Peter’s denial (cf 22:31ff) . The glory of Christ also lies in the fact that He has already interceded , prayed for Peter on this account , that His faith may not fail (22:32). In fact , Jesus has already designed it that Peter should strengthen his brothers later, and that He would become “the Rock “ (Cephas / Petros) and “the first among equals” . What a glorious Saviour ! He knows how to keep His own .
5. Jesus is mocked : Lk 22:63- 65
The glory of Christ is seen here in that the eternal Son of God who could have called legions of angels to rescue Him from these evil men, passively submitted Himself into their hands to do whatever needed to be done. Little did they know that they were manhandling the Lord of glory. Paul comments on the terrible ignorance of the worldly powers who thought that they had control of Christ , in 1 Corinthians 2:8 : “None of the rulers of this age understood this , for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory “.
6. Jesus before the council: Lk 22:66-71
The glory of Christ is seen here in a very plain statement made in response to the taunting questions of His inquisitioners : “If you are the Christ , tell us !”. Note Jesus’s answer (would a mere man say this?) “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I ask you, you will not answer . But from now on, the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” This is no subtle hint . This is a plain affirmation of who He is ! The Lord of glory !
7. Jesus before Pilate : Lk 23:1-5 & 18-25
The first and subsequent appearances of Christ before Pilate reveal something of the human conscience that testifies to the glory of Christ. Pilate knew instinctively that Christ was not guilty of these charges. Three times he affirms: “I find no guilt in Him“ (vv 4,14,22). Even Pilate's wife testified to this for she had been shown in a dream that Christ was a righteous man! (Matt 27:19)
8. Jesus before Herod : Lk 23:6-16
We read : “Herod, when he saw Jesus was very glad, for he had long desired to see Him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by Him” . Herod had heard of Christ’s marvellous and glorious ministry . But as you see, he was a theologian of glory. He wanted to see miracles and not Christ for who He really was. He wanted entertainment and not the truth! The glory of Christ is also seen in the fact that at this time He said nothing. This was to fulfil the Scriptures of Isa 53:7 : “Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent , so he opened not his mouth.”
9. Jesus crucified : Lk 23:26- 43
The glory of Christ is supremely seen in His crucifixion and death :
(i) To the lamenting women He said “do not weep for me, weep for yourselves and for your children“ , and He was referring to AD 70 when Jerusalem and her inhabitants would be destroyed. We see the glory of Christ here in His foreknowledge of all things , but we also see that even on His way to the cross He is strong and prophetic , leaving warnings of judgement to those who will hear !
(ii) We see the glory of Christ in the forgiveness extended to those who would crucify Him v.34 “ Father forgive them . They do not know what they do .”
(iii) We see the glory of Christ as even on the cross He speaks pardon and peace to one of the condemned criminals who trusted in Him even as He hung there in utter pain and disfigurement : “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise “. But the greater glory lies in the fact that He can make such a statement . This is God the Son , speaking!
10. Jesus’ death : Lk 23:44-49
The glory of Christ is seen , finally, in His death
(i) The sun’s light failed – a glorious supernatural sign!
(ii) The temple curtain was torn - another glorious supernatural sign!
(iii) Jesus , though at this time rejected of the Father for the sin that He bore, nevertheless clings to His Father as He says : “ Father into your hands I commit my spirit .” A glorious tenacity – even though you must let me go , I will not let you go!
(iv) A Roman centurion saw all this and puts it all into a grand perspective for us . He praised God and said “ Certainly , this man was innocent “ . Matthew and Mark’s gospel record: “Truly this man was the Son of God “ (Matt 27:54; Mk 15:39) . He was merely repeating what Jesus had been saying about Himself all the time . All this was an affirmation of the glory of Christ