I was on a golf course in northeast Ohio recently with a friend. This time of year the trees are ablaze with autumn colors. Eventhough my friend has lived all his life in Ohio he is still in awe at the beauty of these wonderful trees. I know I was in awe. I can only describe the beauty of these deciduous trees as “glorious.” In southern California we see so little of this seasonal change. It simply does not get cold enough to initiate the chemical process that brings about these wonderful color changes. So often we simply see deciduous trees turn from green to brown. California, of course, has its awesome trees. The giant redwoods and sequoias are not only beautiful – they are big! They too are glorious.
The “pray for revival” group that I meet with weekly often refers to those verses in the Gospel of John, chapter 17, where Jesus prays for our “complete unity.” Why? “To let the world know that you (God) sent me,” Jesus said. This emphasis on unity has had its good effects, helping us to lay aside our personal agendas, our peculiar denominational characteristics, and get down to the business of prayer for revival. There is also an emphasis on love because by this love for one another “all men will know that you are my disciples,” Jesus said. (John 13:35)
But there is one word that almost always goes undefined and even unnoticed in our discussion of chapter 17. That word has caught my attention lately. It is a word that I believe Jesus emphasizes for good reason. Vs. 22, “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one.” We can emphasize unity and we can love one another but without this glory there will be no unity, at least not the kind of unity Jesus had in mind.
Out of this verse arises some questions that beg to be answered:
1. What is this “glory” of which Jesus speaks?
2. Who is this Jesus to whom the Father has given/returned “glory”?
3. Jesus gives to his followers this “glory.” What does this mean? What does that look like?
4. How does having Jesus’ “glory” make us one?
We know of the glory that settled on Mt. Sinai when Moses went up the mountain. We know about the cloud that covered the Tent of Meeting and the glory of the Lord that filled the tabernacle. And there are numerous other instances in the Old Testament similar to these. The manifestation of the glory of God had no doubt to be toned down in the natural realm lest it blow people away. Nevertheless, the Israelites were awestruck by the light and the dark, by the power and the authority of the presence of the glory.
John tells us that this glory came to earth in a person: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)