Based On: John 12:20-33
When Johann Sebastian Bach, the famous composer, would write a piece of music he often began with the letters J. J., an abbreviation for the Latin phrase “Jesus Juva” which means “Jesus help”. Then, at the end of the piece he wrote the letters S. D. G., an abbreviation for the Latin phrase “Soli Deo Gloria” which means “to God alone the glory”. Bach said, “The aim and final reason of all music should be none else but the glory of God.”
The Bible talks about glory and we as Christians talk about glory, but what is glory? Whether you can put it into words or not, I think you know it when you see it. For example, do you feel glory when people talk about you behind your back or make fun of you? Is it glorious when you share God’s Word with someone and it is met with a blank stare and silence? What about when you are even physically abused? Is that what glory is about?
No, I don’t think you would make the connection between those things and glory. Glory is just the opposite isn’t it? The dictionary says glory is “very great praise, honor, or distinction bestowed by common consent.” Glory comes from the praise of others.
Now look at Jesus. This event from John chapter 12 took place during Holy Week. Jesus knows what will happen and so he says, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” What is he talking about? His resurrection? Certainly the resurrection is included, but Jesus immediately gives the illustration of the seed that falls to the ground and dies. Later he talks about being lifted up, a reference to the crucifixion. He is talking about his suffering and death.
All of those things we just said were not glory – people making fun of you, people not listening to you, people even beating you physically – all of those things and more happened to Jesus. Jesus considers his suffering, death and resurrection all part of being glorified. Why? Doesn’t that sound strange?
Not for Jesus. You know he could have avoided all of that. He even prayed to God, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” But that would not serve God. The suffering and death – “It was for this very reason I came to this hour,” Jesus said.
His very next words were “Father, glorify your name!” In those words you see his humility. He directed the attention away from himself and directed it toward God. That was his purpose. Jesus came to bring glory to God by carrying out his Father’s will.
His Father’s will is to save sinners. Jesus came to carry out that will and through the saving of sinful people like you and me Jesus brings glory to his heavenly Father. By bringing glory to his heavenly Father he himself would also be glorified.
When Jesus is talking about his death it doesn’t appear that he is talking only to his disciples. There were some people who wanted to see Jesus. The response seems to be directed to them. And from this response it sounds like their intent was to be followers of Jesus – his disciples. We want the same, don’t we?
Jesus is clear about what it means to follow him – “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” Perhaps we could say it this way – if you seek glory in this world you will end up with nothing, but if you despise the world’s glory you will share Christ’s glory. It means following in our Savior’s footsteps, doesn’t it? It means we watch him reject the world’s glory to seek glory for his Father and then we do the same.
This is humility means we don’t draw attention to yourself. We don’t say “look at how good I am”. We also don’t say “look at how bad off I am – don’t you feel sorry for me.”
Even as we see our Savior suffer and die to bring glory to his Father, we know we have already failed to follow his example. Every moment of every day we should be directing people’s attention away from ourselves and toward our heavenly Father, but we don’t. This is obvious just by looking at where we spend our money and where we spend our time. We often think of ourselves more highly than we should.
Consider this to help you put yourself in the proper perspective. You are just one of the many people in this sanctuary. If you were to view yourself from above, you would see “you” and the dozens of others around you. Now broaden the view of the camera to see all of Sleepy Eye. There you are with thousands of others. Do you see yourself getting a little smaller? Broaden the view a little more and you see all of Minnesota and you are one in about five million. Then all of the United States and you are just one of 300 million. Can you pick yourself out in that view. What about the entire world? Pull the camera back all the way and you are just one of over 6.5 billion. Do you feel like a single grain of sand on a vast beach? How important are you in the grand scheme of things?
It can be humbling to think about how small we really are. But now consider this. As insignificant as we truly are, God made us worthy to receive glory. God picked up that single grain of sand that is you and he said, “I will make you my child. I will send my my son as a human being to live a perfect life for you, to die on the cross for you, and to come back to life for you. I will then call people to share my word with others so that one day you will hear about Jesus, your Savior, and believe.”
God has done all of that for you. Because of Jesus, he has forgiven all your attempts to focus attention on yourself instead of him. He has forgiven the times you think you are bigger than you really are. Now we follow Jesus and serve him. And Jesus says, “My Father will honor the one who serves me.” Think about that. God has done all the real work and yet, he will honor you. That is true glory.
Now which life is worth holding on to – our temporary life as a grain of sand among many other grains of sand, or our eternal life as a very special child of God? How can we say anything but “Father, glorify your name!”