Thursday: March 3, 2022 | John 17:1-8
In this passage from John’s Gospel, we listen in with the disciples as Jesus prays to God the Father. As readers of the Scriptures, we know what’s coming—the betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion of Jesus. It’s an unexpected beginning to our Lenten season. Already we look with Jesus to the end of it.
Strangely though, when Jesus announces that the “hour” he has been waiting for has come at last, he describes it as an act, not of denigration, but of glorification. Moreover, it seems that the impending glory of the Son and the eternal glory of the Father are not separate—one earthly and gruesome, the other holy and distant. On the contrary, “Glorify your Son,” Jesus prays, “that the Son may glorify you…. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (vv. 1, 4).
Why does Jesus call his approaching death glorious? Why does he indicate that, in his coming crucifixion, he will know the eternal presence of the Father in a unique way?
It is sometimes said that the Father abandoned Jesus on the cross—that he poured out his wrath upon him as the penal substitute for sinners and turned away from him in rage against fallen humankind. This is how some make sense of Jesus’ cry of dereliction: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” But in this passage, it seems Jesus is casting even that moment as glory, and more specifically, as an intimate sharing in the Father’s glory, even as he experiences the Father’s absence. How do we make sense of this?
The second half of the passage gives us a hint. Beginning in verse 6, Jesus shifts the focus of his prayer from glory to giving. God has given Jesus his own people. Jesus has given God’s people “the words that [God] gave [him]” (v. 8). Indeed, everything that God gave to Jesus it seems that Jesus has likewise given to us (v. 7). Jesus describes our work in this exchange as the work of receiving: we receive his words, and in doing so we receive his very person: “They have received [your words] and have come to know in truth that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me” (v. 8). God’s gift to the world is not some abstract and shapeless “good news” about peace and forgiveness. God’s gift to the world is God’s own self, Jesus. Jesus is God’s good news in the flesh.
The cross is revealed to be glorious because it is there that the gift of God’s self to us in Christ Jesus is complete. God gives himself to a human death to fill even the grave—even the most desperate cry of human despair—with his own eternal and life-giving presence. And if he has filled even the grave, he has filled every step from here to there as well. As we stand at the outset of Lent, we look toward the days ahead with anticipation and solemnity, but also with joy and with hope: God will be with us, and his company is glorious.
Kaylie Clapp has been attending Trinity Cathedral since June of 2019. She enjoys serving as an acolyte and lector and works part-time as the Cathedral Administrator. When she is not at Trinity Cathedral you can find her cooking for friends or outside with her two dogs, Wendell and Willow.