VII. The glorified Christ in the Gospel of John
The Gospel of John describes the Lord Jesus as the Son of God who, as a dependent human being here on earth, carries out the work that His Father gave Him. The events it reports took place, of course, before there was a glorified Christ in heaven. Nevertheless, there are several passages in this Gospel that give us a very special view, or preview, of the time when Christ would be glorified.
In some places in John’s Gospel the Lord speaks as if the work on the cross and his glorification in heaven were already accomplished facts.
34. A source of refreshment in us
“In the last, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried saying, If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. He that believes on me, as the scripture has said, out of his belly will flow rivers of living water. But this he said concerning the Spirit, which they that believed on him were about to receive; for the Spirit was not yet, because Jesus had not yet been glorified." (John 7:37-39)
Here in chapter 7 Christ speaks of his glorification which, at the time, was still a future event. The Feast of Tabernacles was just being celebrated, but this “feast of the Lord” had become a mere "feast of the Jews" (John 7:2). It should have been a feast of true spiritual joy, but it had degenerated into a pious show. Officially, everything went as planned, but fellowship with God and with the one He had sent was missing. On the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles - the "great" day - Jesus stood up and in a loud voice uttered a sentence that must have greatly displeased the leading Jews: He spoke of thirst! This was the truth: behind the pious façade there was no real satisfaction, only "thirst".
But the words that Christ speaks here are an invitation. They are addressed to all those who are thirsty, without reservation. Whoever believes in Him will not only be able to drink and quench his own thirst, but whole streams of living water will flow out of him – that is, he will become a source of refreshment for others. The Lord was speaking here – as the next verse expressly states – of the Spirit of God. Anyone who believed in Christ would receive eternal life, and the Holy Spirit as the source of power of this life. This, however, could not happen immediately, "because Jesus had not yet been glorified" (v. 39; cf. 15:26; 16:7).
This last expression is a kind of look into heaven, a gaze at the glorified Christ – or rather at that time still an "outlook". At the time, it was a preview of what would once happen. Today, it is long since an accomplished fact. This passage, then, shows us a magnificent consequence of the fact that Christ is in heaven as a glorified man: The Holy Spirit indwells believers on earth, so that not only our thirst is quenched, we are not only refreshed ourselves - and this “for ever” (John 4:14) – but we also become a source of spiritual refreshment for those who surround us.
35. He washes our feet
"Now before the feast of the passover, Jesus, knowing that his hour had come that he should depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, loved them to the end. And during supper, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon, Iscariote, that he should deliver him up, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given him all things into his hands, and that he came out from God and was going to God, rises from supper and lays aside his garments, and having taken a linen towel he girded himself: then he pours water into the wash hand basin, and began to wash the feet of the disciples, and to wipe them with the linen towel with which he was girded." (John 13:1-5)
This passage tells of an impressive event. The evening before his death on the cross, Christ washed the feet of his disciples. He was the One who deigned to serve, and how lowly and humble a service it was! What humility!
But the passage has a deeper meaning. The washing of feet was not only a unique service rendered by the man Jesus Christ on earth, but it illustrates a ministry that He is engaged in now as a glorified man in heaven. This becomes clear from the following considerations.
- In the passage quoted, it is pointed out twice that Jesus was about to return to God, his Father.
- John 13 to 17 contain the Lord’s farewell words addressed to his disciples. These words were spoken in view of the fact that He would leave them in the world, but not as orphans. He would prepare the Father's house for them, would send them the Holy Spirit and would see to it that they could live in communion with the Father and the Son. It is about His departure and the results of His going to the Father.
- The Lord knew that Peter did not understand what He was doing at that moment, but He points out that Peter would understand later (cf. v. 7).
- The Lord tells Peter that the washing of feet is necessary to have fellowship with Him: "Peter says to him, 'You shall never wash my feet. Jesus answered him: "If I do not wash you, you have no part with me" (verse 8). The washing of feet was more than a gesture of hospitality. It was a condition for the enjoyment of communion. It must, therefore, have a figurative, spiritual meaning.
This figurative meaning can only consist in Christ washing the feet of the believers with the water of the Word of God, while He is already with the Father. We can only marvel at this: He is the glorified Christ and yet He remains the servant. Moreover, it is an extremely encouraging and comforting thought: although He would no longer be with the disciples physically, He would still be actively seeking to ensure that they could enjoy fellowship with Him and the Father. The first verse gives the reason: "because He loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end". He proved his love on the cross, but it did not end there. He still loves us today.
On the way through the desert, dust easily sticks to our feet. A thousand things in our environment want to and can negatively influence and defile us. These things hinder our enjoyment of fellowship with Him. Therefore, He uses the word to wash our feet. Then we can, as He put it, "part with Him" again.
Peter asked, "Lord, you wash my feet?" Then he even added, "Never wash my feet!" (V. 6.8). He must have felt how strange it was that the Lord, who deserved the highest place, washed the disciples’ feet. That is why he refused at first. But after hearing the Lord's explanation, he was quite enthusiastic: "Lord, not my feet alone, but my hands and my head!” Again, Peter was not quite right here. But he regarded fellowship with the Lord as a precious treasure from which he could not get enough – and this honours him. The Lord explains: "He who has bathed has no need to wash himself except his feet but is completely clean; and you are clean...". (V. 10). The bathing, once for all, speaks of new birth. It cannot and does not need to be repeated. But the cleansing and refreshment through the feet-washing we need repeatedly. He performs this service – even as the glorified Christ!
36. God's answer, which could not wait
"If God be glorified in him, God also will glorify him in himself, and will glorify him immediately.” (John 13:32)
It is a historical, tragic and solemn moment. It is the evening before the crucifixion of Christ. Together with his twelve disciples, He celebrates the Passover (not the Lord's Supper - that comes later, after Judas has left). He knows that one of them is a traitor and with the sign of the host's favour (the dipped bite) He unmasks him: Judas Iscariot. Judas leaves the room and goes out into the night.
The Son of God has always known it – but as a perfect man, the thought of this betrayal had "troubled Him in spirit" (John 13:21). It was precisely in this situation, when Judas had left the room, that Christ opened his lips to an extremely unexpected, profound and far-reaching statement: "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him" (v. 31). One might have expected the sentence: "Now is the son of perdition unmasked". Instead, He says: "Now is the Son of Man glorified". Here He is not speaking of His imminent glorification in heaven, but of the cross. There, the Son of Man would be glorified, there His character traits and perfect qualities would be made visible: his obedience unto death, his devotion, his purity, etc. In announcing this glorification, the Lord takes the ground of it already having occurred.
At the same time God would be glorified on the cross. And this is what happened: "God is glorified in him". God's character and attributes became visible on the cross: He is light and He is love, He is just and holy and yet merciful and gracious. All these things were seen and proved on the cross, in a way that could only happen on the cross. Only there could all the characteristics of God be represented without contradicting each other (there, and only there, could loving-kindness and truth meet, righteousness and peace kiss (Ps 85:10). And only on the cross could the full extent of these characteristics be shown. Let us take an example: the love of God. He had often shown love – to creatures, to Israel, to individual believers, etc. But never has the extent of God's love become so visible as on the cross (1 John 4:9,10).
What happened on the cross could not remain without answer. He who so glorified God on the cross – in the place of greatest shame, the place of curse and contempt – must also be glorified. It is true that He will receive a glory that will be seen publicly in the 1000-year kingdom (cf. John 12:23). But God could not and would not wait for this. What happened on the cross demanded a prompt, immediate, and instantaneous response. God glorified Him, He gave Him the place at His right hand and exalted Him above every power in the universe and crowned Him with glory and honour (cf. Eph. 1:20-23; Heb. 2:9).
We see this, too, when we look at the glorified Christ in heaven:
- His exaltation is God's answer to his work on the cross.
- It is the proof that God has accepted the work (not only as a basis for saving sinners, but – this is what is at stake here – as a vindication of the glory of God, i.e. as the glorification of God).
- It is the answer that was so urgent that it could not wait. Such a perfect glorification of God on the cross requires a corresponding exaltation, and that without delay.
When we consider these points, we realise: Christ and his death on the cross also deserve an answer in our hearts - and this immediately!
37. A place prepared
"In my Father’s house there are many abodes; were it not so, I would have told you: for I go to prepare you a place." (John 14:2)
In his farewell words to the disciples, the Lord not only makes it clear that He is going away, but he also explains for what purpose He would go away. It is a twofold conclusion, so to speak:
- When He goes away, it is to prepare a place for us. This, by the way, has already been done long ago, and that is because He went, as a Man, to this place, the Father's house.
- If He goes there to prepare a place for us, it is obvious that He will return to take us to Himself so that we can occupy that place.
The goal of this is heart-warming: "so that where I am, you also may be".
This is also a preview. Christ was still with them. They are still preparatory words. But they show us a special aspect of his absence on earth, or rather, of his presence in heaven: he went there to prepare a place where we can be and see the Father in Him. For this He had to enter the Father's house as a human being. That is what the Father's house is all about. The expression "where I am" occurs five times in this Gospel and each time it refers to the Father's house (7:34, 36; 12:26; 14:3; 17:24). On one occasion the Son speaks to the Father and uses the expression "with yourself" – again, referring to the Father’s house (John 17:5). The Father's house has been called the "home of eternal life" – the place where the Father is and the Son and eternal love is enjoyed.
The Lord’s going away, therefore, in no way indicates any indifference towards his own, but just the opposite: He loves them and wants to have them with Him and there they should see His glory (cf. John 17:24). More is not possible. Hence, He has gone to the Father in order to make the very best possible for us!
38. Works greater than these
"Verily, verily, I say to you, He that believes on me, the works which I do will he do also, and he will do greater than these, because I go to the Father." (John 14:12)
At first sight it seems impossible: how can it be true that those who believe in Christ should do greater works than He Himself? But we know from the Acts of the Apostles that this did indeed happen: men and women came to faith in droves – 3000 of them through a single sermon! Even the shadow of an apostle or a cloth he touched healed the sick or cast out demons. Extraordinary miracles took place (Acts 2:41; 5:14,15; 19:11,12). We are not told anywhere that such miracles were wrought while Christ was still on earth. The question is not whether these greater works happened, but why.
The Lord Himself gives the answer. It is encapsulated in the short sentence "because I go to the Father". Of course, He far surpasses all who came after Him, both in personal glory and in moral beauty. The reason for the greater works that were to follow had little to do with the servants who were used to perform them. Rather, the greater works flowed from the glory of Christ. They reflected the fact that He was no longer on earth, in lowliness, but glorified by and with the Father.
We do well to realise this connection: The fact that the Lord is no longer on earth in no way limits His power. A glance at the glorified Christ makes this clear.
39. Ask in my name
"And whatever you will ask in my name, this will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you will ask anything in my name, I will do it." (John 14:13,14)
After Christ's ascension, the disciples would not only be able to do greater works than He had done, but they would also be allowed to "ask in His name".
To grasp this point, we must realise that "asking in His name" goes far beyond "prayer" per se. From the earliest days of humanity, there were people who turned to God, who called upon His name, who prayed: "In those days they began to call on the name of the LORD" (Gen. 4:26). This matter of calling on the name of the Lord became the mark of believers throughout the centuries, even in Old Testament times (1 Kings 18:24; Ps 99:6; 116:13,17).
Christians also bear this mark: they call on the name of the Lord (Acts 9:21; 1 Cor. 1:2; cf. 2 Tim. 2:22). But the expression "ask in my name" does not apply every prayer. Rather, the Lord promises His disciples that they should be given the authority to make requests in His name – with the promise that He would hear them.
Of course, believers often have requests that are not (or not yet) heard because God has a different plan for us. So it was even with Paul, who pleaded three times with the Lord to deliver him from the "thorn for the flesh" (2 Cor. 12:7, 8). The thorn was not taken away from him; he received grace in return, which enabled him to endure this pain and the limitations that came with it and to continue his ministry in the power of God.
This also explains the expression "for whatsoever" you will ask. This does not mean an automatism or "self-service shop". It is not a mechanism to achieve our human or even selfish ends. If a small child reaches for a knife, of course parents will not give it to him. But if it comes and is hungry, they will provide.
"For whatsoever" tells us, however, that there is no subject or area of life that, a priori, is excluded from this promise. In principle, a Christian can "ask in His name" in relation to any issue and any situation in life – he or she just has to make sure that the request is not contrary to God's will. Then we may rely on the promise that He will hear or "do" it.
In the verse quoted above, the Lord gives the disciples – and thus us – a tremendous source of help for the time when He is already with the Father while we are still on the journey: We can make requests on behalf of (in the name of) Him in whom the Father is well pleased and who is now with Him!
40. I am coming to you
"And I will beg the Father, and he will give you another Comforter, that he may be with you forever, I will not leave you orphans, I am coming to you.” (John 14:16,18)
These words give a double consolation to the disciples whom the Lord left behind in the world. First, Christ would send them the "other comforter". This is an adviser or intercessor. He would take care of all their needs. He would remind them of everything, guide them into the whole truth and even proclaim what is to come. In particular He would present to them the glory of the Son (John 14:16; 15:26; 16:13).
But by this He did not mean in any way that it was a kind of "exchange" in which they lost one divine person and gained another divine person in return. Rather, Christ Himself would come to them, through the Holy Spirit! He would not leave them as orphans but would send the Spirit of truth AND be with them Himself!
This would be done by the Spirit of God setting before them the beauties and glories of Christ as effectively as if Christ Himself was standing before them.
41. You will see me
"A little while and you do not behold me; and again a little while and you will see me, because I go away to the Father." (John 16:16)
The second part of this verse, in particular, is not easy to understand: "You will see me because I go away to the Father". Perhaps one would have rather expected the corresponding negation ("you shall not see me…"). How can one understand this verse correctly?
The first part of the sentence reads: "A little while, and you will not see me". This "little while" was indeed short. The very next day the Saviour was to be hung on the cross and from that point onwards, he would disappear from the eyes of the disciples. If He then continues, "again a little while and you will see me", one might think of the resurrection (and this is certainly not wrong (see John 20:20)). But this cannot be the entire meaning, because the statement continues: "because I go to the Father".
This last statement contains the key: because He went to the Father, they would see Him. This could only be the case because the Lord would go to the Father and from there send the Holy Spirit, of whom He had just said before: "He will glorify me" and: "bear witness to me" (John 15:26).
It is not, then, a matter of looking with the natural eyes of the body, but a matter of spiritual contemplation. In fact, in the Greek original of our verse (John 16:16) two different words are used for "seeing":
- "You no longer see me": this is about the seeing of an observer or spectator.
- "And you will see me": this word means so much as to recognize.
From this it becomes clear that they would see Him in a new way. Through the Spirit they would be able to "see" much more of Him than they had ever "seen" on earth.
The sentence "And you will see me" – namely through the Holy Spirit – is an apt paraphrase of the book you are holding in your hands. It deals (apart from the example of Stephen) to a large extent with spiritual vision, the view of the glorified Christ in heaven. He is still invisible to our physical eyes, but our eyes of the heart are already enlightened (cf. Eph. 1:18).
42 The glorified Christ - in John 17 (part 1)
In the prayer that the Son addresses to the Father in John 17, we find five references to the glorified Christ, which we would like to touch upon briefly:
1. "These things Jesus spoke, and lifted up his eyes to heaven and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you." (John 17:1)
The word “glory” (or “glorify”) is used often in John’s Gospel, but not always with the same meaning. What is meant here by “glorify” your Son?
- John 12 speaks about the glory that Christ would receive in the future when He would be recognized as the Son of God (already today, see John 12:1-8), as King of Israel (John 12:12-19) and as the Son of Man (John 12:20-23). Before this could happen, it was necessary for Him to go to death (John 12:24).
- Chapter 13 speaks about the glory of Christ as the Son of Man on the cross, the glory of God that He revealed there, and God's response to it, namely the immediate glorification of the Son of Man in heaven.
Here in chapter 17, it is a question of His being glorified as the Son. In verse 1 He asks as a Man to be glorified by the Father, that is, to be received into heaven as a Man. This place was of course due to Him, but in perfect humility He asks for it. The goal is for the Son to glorify the Father.
He would do this from heaven, as a glorified Man. How does this happen today? Primarily by giving eternal life to people on earth, so that they may glorify and make known the Father on earth (John 17:2.3).
Have we ever thought about the fact that our Lord, as a glorified Man, is still working to bring glory to God? And that He also gives eternal life to people today for this purpose?
2. "and now glorify me, you Father, along with yourself, with the glory which I had along with you before the world was." (John 17:5)
The Son of God would take his place with the Father, as a Man. The glory that He had always had as the eternal Son, He would now also possess as a Man. This glory was due to Him because He was the Eternal Son.
But – conscious that He became Man ("This is what Jesus said" (v. 1)) and, as such, entered into a relationship of dependence from the Father, He does not reach for this glory by Himself, but He requests it from the Father.
3. "And I sanctify myself for them, that they also may be sanctified by truth." (John 17:19)
Verse 19 deserves our special attention: Christ takes his place in the glory to "sanctify" himself there for us. Here we see that sanctification does not mean to get rid of sin (for He had no sin), but to be set aside for a specific purpose. So here: He is with the Father so that He may be the object, the great theme for the hearts and affections of the believers.
Even “the theme” in itself is still too weak – unless one realises that it is about a Person. That is decisive. The Lord Jesus had already said: "Sanctify them by the truth: your word is truth" (v.17). The Word of the Father has an attractive and therefore sanctifying effect on the disciples – but verse 19 goes even further. Here it is a Person we know, for whom our hearts beat, to whom we are attracted.
To the extent that their heart is directed towards Christ, the Son of God, the glorified Man with the Father, the believers would be sanctified by the truth.
43 The glorified Christ - in John 17 (part 2)
4. “And the glory which you have given me I have given them, that they may be one, as we are one; I in them and you in me, that they may be perfected into one and that the world may know that you have sent me, and that you have loved them as you have loved me." (John 17:22,23)
We have already seen that Christ received glory as a Man. He had asked for it (v.1) and the Father had heard Him. But now He says: "The glory you have given me I have given them”. He does not say "will I give them", but "have I given them". How is that possible? We have not yet been taken up into heaven, and in this sense, we are not yet de facto glorified. Only at the rapture will we be glorified, and only at the appearing will this become visible to the world ("that the world may know..."). But the Lord expresses himself in this way to show that it is absolutely certain – as certain as if it had already happened. He regards the glory as already having been given to us (cf. Rom. 8:30).
At this point, we look into the open heaven and say: there is the Son, the Lord Jesus, to whom the Father has given the glory that He well deserved. But He had the desire to give us also of this glory! And that even the world shall see. He will appear with us, for the whole world to see: He, the Crucified One, has been glorified and we, the despised disciples of the Crucified One, have also been glorified, together with Him. The world will have no choice but to recognize and acknowledge: the Father must have loved these people as He loved Christ as man.
What an unimaginable panorama opens up to us when we dare to take this look into the open heaven!
5. "Father, as to those whom you have given me, I desire that where I am they also may be with me, that they may behold my glory which you have given me, for you loved me before the foundation of the world." (John 17:24)
We now come to the fifth vision of the glorified Christ (in John 17). As glorious as the first four views were, what comes now puts everything in the shade.
In verse 1 and verse 22, the glory consisted in the fact that He was received into heaven as a man. Here, as in verse 5, the point is that Christ, as Man, receives the glory that He had always possessed as Son of God. This is the "glory that I had with you before the world was" (v.5). This is confirmed by the next sentence in verse 24: "For you loved me before the foundation of the world". Verse 5 presents the fact; verse 24 informs us that we will be able to contemplate this glory.
So it is not the glory that the Son of God will to share with us and that the world will see at his appearing (v. 22). It is a glory that is intimately intertwined with the eternal love between the Father and the Son. This glory is entirely outside this world and will only be seen bye those who have their home in heaven.
At this point we realise that our words fail. What is certain is that it will be indescribably wonderful. It is, so to speak, a view into the Father's house, into the home of eternal life.
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