Call to Worship: Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us that we should be called the children of God: Let’s unite our voices in praise of Him who loved us so.
For Jesus life had a climax, and that was the Cross. To him the Cross was the glory of life and the way to the glory of eternity. “The hour has come,” he said, “for the Son of Man to be glorified” (John 12:23). What did Jesus mean when he repeatedly spoke of the Cross as his glory and his glorification? There is more than one answer to that question. Why in A W Pink’s words we have tragedy and triumph, victim and yet a victor.
(i) It is one of the facts of history that again and again it was in death that the great ones found their glory. It was when they died, and how they died, that showed people what and who they really were. They may have been misunderstood, undervalued, condemned as criminals in their lives, but their deaths showed their true place in the scheme of things.
When James Montrose was executed, he was taken down the High Street of Edinburgh to the Mercat Cross. His enemies had encouraged the crowd to revile him and had actually provided them with ammunition to fling at him, but not one voice was raised to curse and not one hand was lifted. He had on his finest clothes, with ribbons on his shoes and fine white gloves on his hands. James Frazer, an eyewitness, said: “He stept along the street with so great state, and there appeared in his countenance so much beauty, majesty and gravity as amazed the beholder, and many of his enemies did acknowledge him to be the bravest subject in the world, and in him a gallantry that braced all that crowd.” John Nicoll, the notary public, thought him more like a bridegroom than a criminal. An Englishman in the crowd, a government agent, wrote back to his superiors: “It is absolutely certain that he hath overcome more men by his death, in Scotland, than he would have done if he had lived. For I never saw a more sweeter carriage in a man in all my life.” Again and again a martyr’s majesty has appeared in death. Consider the radiance of Stephen: It was so with Jesus, for even the centurion at the foot of the Cross was left saying: “Truly this was the Son of God” (Matthew 27:54).
The Cross was the glory of Jesus because he was never more majestic than in his death.
John Calvin: For in the cross of Christ as in a splendid theatre, the incomparable goodness of God is set before the whole world. The glory of God shines indeed in all creatures on high and below but never more brightly than in the cross.
The Cross was his glory because like a magnet it drew men to him in a way that even his life had never done–and it is so yet.
(ii) Further, the Cross was the glory of Jesus because it was the completion of his work. “I have accomplished the work,” he said, “which You gave me to do.” For him to have stopped short of the Cross would have been to leave his task uncompleted. Why should that be so? Jesus had come into this world to tell men about the love of God and to show it to them. If he had stopped short of the Cross, it would have been to say that God’s love said: “Thus far and no farther.” By going to the Cross Jesus showed that there was nothing that the love of God was not prepared to do and suffer for men, that there was literally no limit to it.
H. L. Gee tells of a war incident from Bristol. Attached to one of the Air Raid Precautions Stations there was a boy messenger called Derek Bellfall. He was sent with a message to another station on his bicycle.On his way back a bomb mortally wounded him. When they found him, he was still conscious. His last whispered words were: “Messenger Bellfall reporting–I have delivered my message.”
That is exactly what Jesus did. He completed his task; he brought God’s love to men. For him that meant the Cross; and the Cross was his glory because he finished the work God gave him to do; he made men for ever certain of God’s love. He made known “your name” What a legacy!
[iii] Anticipated it through the church – you and me. v10 In our Being – sanctification/being conformed to His image – It is not just about words but about who we are.
In our Service – incarnational presence in the world
(iv) But there is still more. Jesus prayed to God to glorify him and to glorify Himself. The Cross was not the end. There was the Resurrection to follow. This was the vindication of Jesus. It was the proof that men could do their worst, and that Jesus could still triumph. Why in the tragedy there is triumph a victim and victor. It was as if God pointed at the Cross and said: “That is what men think of my Son,” and then pointed at the resurrection and said: “That is what I think of my Son.” The Cross was the worst that men could do to Jesus; but not all their worst could not conquer him. The glory of the resurrection obliterated the shame of the Cross.
(v) For Jesus the Cross was the way back. “Glorify me,” he prayed, “with the glory which I had before the world began.” He was like a knight who left the king’s court to perform some perilous and awful deed, and who, having performed it, came home in triumph to enjoy the victor’s glory. Jesus came from God, and returned to him. The exploit between his coming forth and his going back was the Cross. The ‘no vacancy’ sign over the door at Bethlehem ended in the spitting and scoffing of Calvary. For him, therefore, it was the gateway to glory; and, if he had refused to pass through it, there would have been no glory for him to enter into. For Jesus the Cross was his return to God. We might say the cross was an ET moment! Home Home – remember these words in the famous film.