The Church's Future in Seeing Jesus' Glory
Passage: John 17:24–17:26
Sermon from John 17:24-26 by Bret Rogers, Pastor
Delivered on February 8, 2015
We’re going to be looking at the tail end of Jesus’ prayer in John 17. This is the night before he gives up his life for sinners. To this point he has prayed for the church’s preservation (17:11); he’s prayed for our protection (17:15); he’s prayed for our holiness (17:17). Last week we saw him praying for our unity (17:21). Today, we look at one last prayer he makes for the church’s future.
I want you to sense the importance of Jesus’ prayer for our future. If we just step back for a minute and remember the situation, it’s rather bleak for the disciples. If all that defined them was the darkness of their sin and present circumstances, it doesn’t look so great. If the darkness they face is all there is, then the trajectory for their lives isn’t very hopeful. The end doesn’t look very glorious.
There’s a sorrow that’s beginning to settle on them, because of all the uncertainty in the air (16:6). They will weep and lament over Jesus’ departure (16:20). Jesus promises the world is going to hate them if they keep following him (15:19; 17:14). The devil is going to be all over their case, threatening to undo them, to destroy their faith (17:15). Jesus says they’re going to face trouble in this fallen world (16:33). And before that, Jesus exposed the disciples’ own frailty; they’re going to leave him when things get rough (16:32).
And if only these things set the trajectory for the disciples’ lives, they’re really without hope. Their future is bleak. And I imagine many of you can identify with them. You trust in Jesus; you’ve given him your life; you look to follow him. But then there’s the daily struggle against sin—sins keep rising to the surface; particular sins that you wonder if you’ll ever defeat. You’re tempted by the powers of darkness. Some mornings you wake up distraught; grey clouds follow you throughout the day. You’ve drawn near to love others—as Jesus has told you—and you got hurt in the process. You don’t just sin against others, but others sin against you. You’re surrounded by a culture embracing a moral vision that will soon test the genuineness of your faith, and you wonder if you’re going to make it. News media spreads fear of economic failure, of widespread disease, of rumors of war. Your own mortality stares you in the face.
If only this darkness determines where we’re heading, then our future is truly dismal. But Jesus’ prayer makes very certain, that if we belong to him, the darkness is not what determines our future. The darkness of sin, death, and the devil does not determine our future if we’re trusting in Jesus. And the proof of that is found in Jesus’ prayer.
In this prayer, Jesus runs us all the way to the consummation of the ages, and shows us what the church’s future is—that despite the sin remaining in you, despite what this world will throw at you, despite what the devil will tempt you with, God is determined to bring his church to glory with Jesus. The forever-enjoyment of Jesus’ glory is our future, and the darkness can do nothing to stop the triune God from getting us there. That’s what Jesus’ final prayer is about. So, let’s read it, beginning in verse 24.
24Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.
The forever-enjoyment of Jesus’ glory is the church’s future. I want to bring this together for you with four observations.
1. Being in Jesus’ Presence Is Our Future
Number one, being in Jesus’ presence is our future. We should remember, Jesus plans to go away (16:5). He entered this world in obedience to his Father’s will (5:30). All that the Father gave him to accomplish he is fixing to accomplish on the cross (17:4). And then he will rise from the dead and ascend back to the Father in glory (16:28). He won’t be visibly present with the disciples any longer. They’ll still be in the world while he’s in glory (17:11, 13).
But this separation from Jesus’ visible presence won’t last forever. Jesus’ prayer in verse 24 ensures us of that. He says, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am.” This, of course, is a reference to the future glory coming with God’s final kingdom on earth. If you recall, he began comforting his disciples with similar words in chapter 14: “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again [meaning at his Second Coming] and will take you to myself, [get this!] that where I am you may be also.”
Now, if you opened a book one day and the cover page read, How to Make a Cake, and then you flipped to the back of the book, and some of the last lines read, “and that’s how you make a cake,” what do you think everything in between is talking about? How to make a cake, right?!
Everything we’ve been learning from Jesus in chapters 14 to 17 falls between these bookend remarks: “that where I am you may be also” and “that they also…may be with me where I am.” So, what do you think all of chapters 14 to 17 are talking about? They’re talking about God getting us into the presence of Jesus in final glory.
Jesus’ life on earth (14:11), his death on the cross (15:12-13), his resurrection from the dead (16:22), the sending of the Spirit (14:16), the peace he gives (14:27), the true Vine who gives life to his branches (15:1-8), our election (15:16), Jesus’ fulfillment of Scripture (15:25; 17:12), the preaching of the gospel spreading in the world (15:27), the Father’s protection (17:11, 15), our sanctification (17:17)—everything is about how God gets us into the presence of Jesus in final glory.
And this, of course, brings us face-to-face with the ultimate blessing of the gospel, namely, our total reconciliation with God. The Bible says that since Adam fell into sin, humanity has been separated from God (Gen 3; Rom 1:18-3:19; 5:12ff). We were made to walk with our Maker in perfect intimacy, but our sin keeps us separated from him. Again and again the Bible highlights this problem (e.g., Ps 5:9; 10:7; 14:1-3; Isa 59:7-8; John 1:1-3, 9-10)…
But that’s not all the Bible says. The Bible also proclaims a God who reconciles people to himself. The Bible proclaims a God that pursues sinners with grace, when they only deserve punishment. It proclaims a day when God would put away the sin that separates people from him. It proclaims a day when God himself would act to make people his own, a day when he would dwell in their midst with perfect intimacy, a day, he says, when “they shall be my people, and I shall be their God” (Jer 32:38), a day when a people would fill the city of God, and the name of that city would forever bear the title, “The Lord is there”—meaning, the Lord is there, in the midst of his people (Ezek 48:35).
And here we come to a Gospel in which Jesus has been revealed as God himself in the flesh (John 1:1, 14, 18). He’s heading to the cross for our forgiveness (1:29). And here we find him praying what the heartbeat of God’s redemption story has been all along: that all God’s people might be with him.
There are many wonderful blessings that come with knowing Jesus Christ—like the removal of God’s wrath, the escape from hell, the forgiveness of our sins, the cleansing of a guilty conscience, the gift of Jesus’ own righteousness clothing us, liberation from sin’s enslaving power, the hope of resurrection, the inheritance of heaven. But none of these blessings are an end in themselves; none of them can be called the ultimate good of the gospel. They’re all serving the highest good of the gospel, namely, intimate fellowship with God himself revealed in the person of Jesus Christ.
All of redemptive history is barreling forward to this future day for the church, when we dwell in the presence of God revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. This is Jesus’ will and determination as he heads to the cross. More on that in a minute.
2. Seeing Jesus’ Glory Will Be Our Delight
Number two: seeing Jesus’ glory will be our delight. Jesus wants us to be with him, because he wants us to see him as he really is. Look at the way he says it in verse 24: “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, [and here’s the purpose] to see my glory that you have given me.”
Now, it’s true, throughout John’s Gospel the disciples get glimpses of Jesus’ glory. He does things like change water into wine and raise Lazarus from the dead; and in each case we’re told the disciples see Jesus’ glory (2:11; 11:40). And then we’re even taught to view Jesus’ cross in the same light—that one of the most profound displays of God’s glory is in the wretched shame of Jesus’ crucifixion (12:28; 13:31; 17:1). It’s there, in Jesus’ death, that God shows his greatness in saving sinners. Based on what he sees, John has every right to say, “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” (1:14).
But without taking away from any of that, the glory Jesus speaks of here is different. The glory he speaks of here is the same glory he mentioned back in verse 5: “Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” That’s not to say Jesus somehow lacked glory when he became a man and now needed more of it. It’s just to say that, at least for a time, he set aside his right to be seen as glorious. He didn’t come to earth wrapped in his regal beauty and unveiled splendor. His glory was hidden. He came as a servant. But once he finished his work as servant, God vindicated him to glory. He’s now wrapped in glorious majesty to be seen as he always has been, only now with his human nature intact.
And the Bible isn’t silent about what this glory is like. The glory of God is when his intrinsic worth goes public; it’s the visible manifestation of his perfections. And there are occasions when God pulls back the curtain, so to speak, and gives the saints visions of Jesus’ glory, both before his incarnation and afterwards.
Isaiah sees Jesus’ glory, when God gives him a vision of his kingship in the heavenly temple (cf. John 12:41). Isaiah sees the Lord Jesus sitting upon a towering throne. The train of his robe filled the temple—the idea being that Jesus is so majestic, Isaiah simply stands in awe of the hem of his garment! Above him stood the seraphim—these fiery angelic beings, each having six wings. With two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one seraph would cry out to the other, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isa 6:1-3).
Ezekiel sees Jesus’ glory, again in a vision of the throne room. He sees the likeness of a throne, and the appearance of the throne is like sapphire—this radiant blue beauty. And seated above the throne was a likeness with a human appearance. And upward from what had the appearance of his waist he sees as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist he sees as it were the appearance of fire, and there was rainbow-like brightness all around him. And Ezekiel falls on his face (Ezek 1:26-28).
And then, of course, we have John writing similarly in the book of Revelation, but now this same glory shines from a man—the Son of God who took on flesh. And as John walks us to the throne, he can’t help but see every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth bowing in worship; myriads upon myriads and thousands upon thousands of angelic hosts praising and serving Jesus (Rev 5:11). And as he walks you closer he sees the twenty-four elders surrounding the throne, and even closer the four living creatures with numerous other angelic beings never ceasing to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” and “Worthy is the Lamb” (Rev 4:1-8; 5:12-13).
And as he looks upon the glorified Jesus, he can’t help but see what David said always exists at God’s right hand: fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore (Ps 16:11). The throne is wrapped in rainbow-like emerald beauty, with jasper and carnelian decorating the royal majesty (Rev 4:3). Many diadems are on his crown, a golden sash across his chest, hair white like wool, much like Daniel’s Ancient of Days (Dan 7:9; Rev 1:13-16; 19:12). He has eyes like flames of fire; his face shines like the sun in full strength (Rev 1:14, 16). In fact, his glory is so brilliant and so self-sustaining that there’s no need for sun or moon to shine in his kingdom (Rev 21:23-24).
And when John hears him speak, his voice is like the roar of many waters—Jesus’ voice puts Niagara Falls to shame (Rev 1:15). He carries all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, honor and power; the fullness of deity dwells bodily in Jesus; he dwells in unapproachable light, with springs of water never ceasing to give life to all the nations who come to him by faith (Col 2:3, 9; 1 Tim 6:16; Rev 21:6).
This is the glory Jesus prays all his disciples will see. This is the experience of glory he came to give us by giving his life for us. The disciples only saw Jesus’ glory in veiled fashion. And we only see Jesus’ glory in veiled fashion. We read God’s word and behold Jesus’ glory by faith, but not yet by sight. Even Paul says that now we only see through a mirror dimly. But Jesus wants us to see him face to face. He wants all his people enjoying his magnificence. This is his prayer in going to the cross. O the gratitude we should feel when we think of the cross—it wins for us this future hope if we trust in Christ.
3. Triune Love Is the Foundation of Our Future
Number three: God’s triune love is the foundation of our future. Look at the way Jesus describes his glory at the end of verse 24. It’s a glory he has, “because you [the Father] loved me [the Son] before the foundation of the world.”
Question: What was God doing before he created the universe? According to this verse, loving himself. For eternity, God has existed as one God in a trinity of persons. He has always existed as a relational being—Father, Son, and Spirit sharing the divine essence, but each relating to each other in their complementary roles. And this inner-relationship between persons of the Godhead is one characterized by love. We can say the Father’s love for us had a beginning. But we can never say the Father’s love for the Son had a beginning. Father and Son forever existed in a relationship of love.
What Jesus brings out here is that this triune love expresses itself in mutual glory. The Father clothes the Son in glory, because the Son is his delight. It has been this way since before the foundation of the world; and it will continue to be this way into the future. Jesus’ glory will never fade, because it proceeds from the Father’s eternal love for his Son. His always being glorious as Son is bound up with the very being of God himself, who is love. That’s an unshakable foundation for your future.
Now, get this: this eternal triune love that never had a beginning and will never have an ending—we actually get to share in its wonder when we’re brought into the presence of Jesus. And here’s what I mean. Verse 23 says that the Father loves us even as he loves the Son. That’s a most remarkable claim. To become a Christian means you’re so united to Jesus that for the Father to love his Son is for the Father to love you likewise.
And more than that, by the end of verse 26 we get this: “that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” Again, totally remarkable language! The goal of all Jesus’ ministry is that we love Jesus with the same love the Father has for his Son. Can you imagine loving the Son with the passion the Father has for the Son? You can’t fully comprehend that right now. But the day is coming when God will do this in you, and he’s already at work fitting you for that day if you belong to him. God’s love for God plus God’s love for us equals God’s love for God in us.
It’s no wonder Paul would later write, “[O that we] may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:18-19). Triune love is the foundation of our future.
4. Triune Resolve Guarantees Our Future
Number four: triune resolve guarantees our future. Here’s how we know we’re going to make it to the forever-enjoyment of Jesus’ glory. We know from other places in John’s Gospel that the Father always reveals his will to the Son, and that the Son only speaks what the Father commands. We shouldn’t think anything less when we come to Jesus’ prayer. He is praying the Father’s will. When you read at the beginning of verse 24, “I desire,” don’t get the idea that Jesus’ prayer amounts to some wishful thinking—like, “I really want this to happen, but who knows?” No, his resolve to pray this way is the direct result of his Father willing this way. They are one in purpose and mission. The Father is going to answer his prayer.
Then on top of that we get verse 26 saying, “I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” In other words, I will continue to make it known, so that all this will be true. Now, some think this is referring to the way Jesus will make God’s name known in the cross. Others have thought he’s referring to the coming ministry of the Holy Spirit, who will reveal God to the church. I don’t see why we have to choose between the two—especially since the two are so interrelated in John’s Gospel (John 7:38-39; 19:34).
The point is that Jesus will do everything necessary in his cross and in the ministry of the Spirit to get us to glory. He will be clothed with shame if it means clothing us with honor. He will drink the cup of God’s wrath if it means giving us drink from his living water. He will be buried with the dead if it means giving us eternal life. He will be baptized with the fire of judgment if it means baptizing us with the life of the Spirit. He refuses to return to his unveiled glory without bringing the church with him—“I will continue to make it known.” Father, Son, and Spirit—they are resolved to bring all God’s church into the presence of Jesus.
Now, some of you are asking, “what does all this mean for the present? That’s where we’re living by faith, before that future day in Jesus’ presence. What does all this mean now?” A few points where Jesus’ prayer intersects with our “now”:
Jesus determines the trajectory of our life, not the darkness
First of all, I want to take us back to the beginning and say this: if you’re believer this morning, the darkness of your sin—and, perhaps, the darkness of your circumstances; some of you have been under trial for a long time—this darkness does not determine the trajectory for your life. If you’re trusting in Jesus, the darkness of sin, death, and the devil does not determine your future. Jesus does. And he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion. This is his will for you—glory!
Some of you—your heart has grown so weak in the battle against sin. You’re tired of fighting it again and again. You keep experiencing the same temptations, and you wonder if they’ll ever let up. Some of you have even started talking like this: “Well, I’m just always going to be struggling with this;” “I guess I’ll just always have this problem with anger and lust and guilt;” “I guess I’m always going to be carrying this shame I’ve had since high school and college.” And based on Jesus’ prayer here, I just want to say, “No you won’t! That’s not true! Jesus is stronger than that. His blood is more powerful than that. Jesus’ is work is more comprehensive than that.”
Don’t buy into the lie that you’re just always going to be this way. When you believe in Jesus, you’re put on a different trajectory than the rest of the world, and that trajectory lands you in glory. And you know what happens there? This! First John 3:2, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” That’s where you’re heading.
Some of you deal with depression. It follows you around like a hound. Even on days when you find joy in the Lord, you can’t help but wonder if the depression will find you again. Be encouraged by Jesus’ prayer: this depression will not follow you into Jesus’ presence, because in Jesus’ presence there is only joy and love and peace. And that’s where you’re going—into arms that shield you from oppression forever.
We’re all tempted in some way by the powers of darkness. The devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Neither he nor any other adversary of ours will follow us into Jesus’ glory. Clouds and thick darkness surround him, righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne, fire goes before him to consume his foes on every side, Psalm 97 says. To be ushered into Jesus’ presence is to be ushered into his perfect protection and victory over evil. All your enemies will fall flat in the presence of Jesus.
So, I pray that Jesus’ prayer will give you all the more wherewithal to fight the good fight, to take hold of eternal life, to run to what’s already yours. He’s at work in you both to will and to do; therefore work out your salvation with fear and trembling. Don’t waste your thoughts on the present darkness; it’s not going to last much longer, folks. Salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. Take every thought captive for Christ’s sake, so that the glory you now behold by faith will become yours by sight.
Center your present motivations on Jesus’ glory
Something else to consider: as you work out your salvation, be sure your motivations stay centered on Jesus’ glory. It’s the enjoyment of his glory that we’re heading toward; and so that should inform the way we pursue Christ-likeness now.
I appreciate these probing questions from John Piper’s book, God Is the Gospel. These are questions to evaluate the root of your motivation for pursuing Christ-likeness. Listen to some of these:
Do [you] want to be strong like Christ, so [you] will be admired as strong, or so that [you] can defeat every adversary that would entice [you] to settle for any pleasure less than admiring the strongest person in the universe, Christ?
Do [you] want to be wise like Christ, so [you] will be admired as wise and intelligent, or so that [you] can discern and admire the one who is most truly wise?
Do [you] want to be holy like Christ, so that [you] can be admired as holy, or so that [you] can be free from all unholy inhibitions that keep [you] from seeing and savoring the holiness of Christ?
Do [you] want to be loving like Christ, so that [you] will be admired as a loving person, or so that [you] will enjoy extending to others…the all satisfying love of Christ? (Piper, God is the Gospel, 159).
These questions hit right at the heart of our Christian walk—why we do what we do, why we want the changes we want. Do we want this specific sin out of our lives, so that we can just move on to other things without guilt? Or do we want this specific sin out of our lives, so that we can enjoy more of Jesus? Is the point of your Bible study, so that you can be on top of your game in debates with others? Or is the point of Bible study to thrill your needy soul with an all-sufficient Savior?
Because that’s ultimately the point of our conformity to Christ. That’s where we’re heading as believers, seeing Jesus’ glory as our supreme delight. So, let’s be sure that the center of our future delight stays the center of our present delight, namely, the glory of Jesus. He is our highest good in everything; he is why we do what we do.
Encourage each other with the future in Jesus’ glory
Another way this intersects with our present lives: encourage each other with the future in Jesus’ glory. How bad to you want each other to enjoy Jesus’ glory? Are you helping your brothers and sisters behold him by faith now, to behold him by sight later? He is the ultimate gift you can give to anybody in this church—and anybody in this world. He hasn’t revealed these things to us simply to enjoy by our lonesome. He’s revealed it to us, so that we share it with others. I need brothers to come and tell me when I’ve lost sight of the future in Jesus’ glory as a pastor, as a husband, as a friend. I need someone to pick me up by the collar and show me the glorious end when I’m stuck in the cloudy present.
Several months ago, I remember getting a few emails that—for reasons I couldn’t discern at the time—sent me on a downward spiral into self-pity and cynicism. I was just disheartened and joyless. And so I called up Travis Bennett at the time and said, “I’m not well. I need a brother to speak into my life.” So, he met me the next morning about 6:00 and spent the first fifteen minutes at the Denny’s talking about heaven as a place of love; this is where the Lord is taking us; look at how Jesus’ glory will reflect through every deed of every person in the kingdom; he’s taking all his elect there. And that was enough to free my soul from “doubting castle” and urge me on in the walk.
I needed a vision of God’s end for his people for why my love should endure, for why I should keep laboring for the gospel, for why I shouldn’t throw in the towel. Travis did for me as Paul tells the Thessalonians to do, encourage one another with these words. How will you encourage one another with these words? How will you encourage each other with the certainty of Jesus’ prayer for his church? Some of us get so bogged down sometimes, because all we’re looking at is the church-now instead of the church-future in Jesus’ presence. How will you help each other see the end, and keep seeing the end, as you endure the present? That’s what Jesus is doing as he prays for his disciples.
Pray “Come, Lord Jesus!” for Jesus
And speaking of prayer, shouldn’t this future in Jesus’ presence give us all the more reason to pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!” For the right reasons. If you’re anything like me, the bulk of the time we make that prayer—“Come, Lord Jesus!”—it’s because we want immediate escape from the pain and suffering of this world. Right?
I remember making this prayer on exam days in college. Get me out of this situation; it’d be really great if you came back now. It wasn’t a prayer rooted in any desire to see Jesus, just a prayer for escape.
Now, don’t get me wrong. The pain and suffering of this world should move us to cry for God’s kingdom to come. Maybe not the pain of an exam day(!). But the real pain from injustice, and sorrow over sin, and hatred for evil—all this should move us to pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. We should want Jesus to put the world to rights, and pray for it to be done. Come, Lord Jesus!
But that’s not all we should want, or even the main thing we should want in our prayer, “Come, Lord Jesus.” The main thing we should want in “Come, Lord Jesus,” is Jesus—to see the unveiled majesty of our Savior-King, who still carries the wounds it took to bring us into his glorious presence. To that end, Ben, would you come pray?
More in The Gospel According to John
May 24, 2015Eyewitness Testimony to the Greatness of Jesus
May 17, 2015Loving Jesus & Feeding His People at All Costs
May 10, 2015Believing the Apostle's Testimony When Not Seeing Jesus