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. (John 1:14)
Leon Morris notes that there is no transfiguration scene in John’s Gospel and observes that this is because glory suffuses the ministry of Jesus: in John’s perspective, the glory of the Son is displayed in and through the flesh.
Glory is a tricky concept to define and it may be one of those things that we can recognise when we see it. We can think of words like renown, fame; it has connotations of brightness and weight. The word, again, takes us back to the Old Testament accounts of the tabernacle and the temple. Upon completion of each, God’s glory is said to have taken up residence.
In the Gospel, Jesus says his purpose in coming was to bring glory to God.
For John, the glory of Jesus is displayed in the series of signs he performs. The first of these—the transforming of water into wine at the wedding of Cana—sets the scene for how these signs are to be read: they display the glory of Jesus and the proper response is to believe on their basis. The glory displayed is that of the Messiah, who is also the unique Son. The signs point to the life giving ability and purpose of the Son’s work; and they are also glorious in that show the absolute supremacy of the power and work of the Son, dwarfing the claims of any rival world be gods in the first century context. Glory all round
Even as the word “glory” is used, its normal connotations are subverted. Jesus glorifies God and displays his glory in the activity of humble service; humble obedience, perhaps all encapsulated in the foot-washing incident, even as it prefigures the cross. And it is the cross that is the climactic moment of glory in this Gospel. The cross is the hour when the Son is glorified by the Father; and when the Son brings glory to the Father by revealing the character and purpose of both as self giving love. The very action of incarnation is, of course, a glorious act of self-giving love on the part of the the Son, who has everything (all things were made through him), yet become poor and dwells amongst us.
Glory then, from first to last.
This glory is “beheld.” The original viewers of Jesus did not just see, they: observed; looked intently; perceived Christ’s glory. And we benefit too from their beholding: now we can also behold through the pages of Scripture.
In John 12, John quotes from Isaiah as he explores the apparent failure of Jesus’ public ministry. The quotes suggest that everything is happening according to plan in fulfilment of Isaiah’s words. John draws a direct line between Isaiah’s words and the ministry of Jesus when he says that “Isaiah said these things because he saw His glory and spoke about him.”
What does this mean? Did Isaiah see a vision of the divine son as suffering servant in the throne room vision of Isaiah 6? Whatever he saw, he saw the glory of Jesus and spoke about him in the words of his prophecy.
We can be grateful that John and his fellow disciples also saw the glory and spoke. And we should ask ourselves what we will speak as we too observe the glory in the incarnate, crucified and risen Christ.
The incarnation is a glorious thing.
Thanks be to God that the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us and that we have beheld his glory!
Photos: (Header) Staci Flick, flickr; (Body) pexels.com