GLORY ON EARTH
“I have glorified thee on the earth.” John 17.4.
Our blessed Lord is here engaged in prayer. He evidently opens His whole heart to His Father; His petitions are wonderful; first for
Himself, and then for “those whom thou hast given me.” As Aaron appeared before the Lord in the Holy Place, with the names, and circumstances, and conditions of Israel borne upon his heart on the breastplate of judgment, for a memorial before the Lord continually, so Christ appears before God in this prayer. A greater than Aaron is here; Christ is all in all-the altar, the sacrifice, the incense, the priest, and intercessor, all in Himself; and He here presents Himself before His Father’s throne in all the inestimable worth, preciousness, and perfection of His mediatorial work and office. He pleads, “I have glorified thee on the earth.” Truly this prayer and this pleading did ascend into the very Holy of Holies, and perfume the heavens for evermore.
Now it is of the utmost importance that we should understand, as it is also the perfection of blessedness that we should realize:
1. Who and what is the glorious Person here pleading with the Father.
The person of the Lord Jesus Christ is the greatest of all the revealed mysteries of God: He was, and ever will be, God and man in one person; the eternal Son of the Father, one essential being in the infinite essence of the Godhead; the Word of God, by whom all things were made, and without whom was not anything made that was made, was made flesh and dwelt among us. The Son of the Father became the Son of Man also; and, as such. He was “The brightness of the Father’s glory, and the express image of his person” (Heb. 1:3); “we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14); “in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9).
Therefore, the majesty, the holiness, the blessedness, the preciousness, and the glory of the God-man, Christ Jesus, can never be conceived or expressed; the Father’s love for Him, and His delight in finishing the work which the Father gave Him to do, are utterly beyond conception; His love to sinners in working for them, in living for them, in dying for them, must be infinite, and the dignity of His person must stamp eternal value, power, and efficacy upon His words and upon His works.
2. Then the circumstances under which He here presents Himself before God.
That Christ undertook the office of mediator between God and man, and consented to take our nature and our place, was in consequence of covenant stipulations, engagements, and settlements between His Father and Himself. He, “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: . . .humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Eph. 2:6-8). He was also to see of the travail of His soul, and be satisfied in the salvation of those for whom He was born, for whom He lived, and for whom He died. The Father covenanted to accept the Offering; the Son covenanted to present His whole self upon the altar of divine justice as an atonement for sin; and the Holy Ghost undertook to reveal the great salvation and apply it with power to the hearts of those whom the Father had given to Christ.
Now this covenant runs all through Scripture. In Psalm 89, from verse 19 onward, all refers to Christ: “Then thou spakest in vision to thy holy one, and saidst, I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people. I have found David my servant; with my holy oil have I anointed him.” The King of Israel, David, was but a picture, and type of the One who David meant here. “With whom my hand shall be established: mine arm also shall strengthen him. The enemy shall not exact upon him; nor the son of wickedness afflict him. And I will beat down his foes before his face, and plague them that hate him. But my faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him: and in my name shall his horn be exalted. I will set his hand also in the sea, and his right hand in the rivers. He shall cry unto me, Thou art my Father, my God, and the rock of my salvation. Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth. My mercy will I keep for him for evermore, and my covenant shall stand fast with him” (Ps. 89:22-28). Then observe this precious part of the covenant: “If his children forsake my law, and will walk not in my judgments; If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David” (Ps. 89:30-35). This was the Father’s part of the covenant. Christ’s part was to glorify Him upon the earth. Now David well knew such language was not intended to have its fulfilment and fruition in himself. In 2 Samuel 23:1-4 we read: “These be the last words of David . . . The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue. The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain.”
A beautiful picture of the kingdom, glory, and majesty of the Lord Jesus! “Although,” David adds, “My house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow” (2 Sam. 23:5). In Acts 13 the apostle Paul teaches that the promises to David were fulfilled when God raised Christ from the dead, because this was the seal and confirmation of the everlasting covenant. Again (Isa. 42:1-8):
“Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law. Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it: he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein: I the LORD have called thee-(He is speaking to Christ)-I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house. I am the LORD: that is my name:
and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.” This was God’s part of the covenant-His engagement to Christ; Christ’s engagement was to glorify Him on the earth.
Then, if we turn to the prophet Malachi 2:4-6, “That my covenant might be with Levi”; here the true Levi is meant, the Lord Jesus Christ. “My covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name. The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips: he walked with me in peace and equity, and did turn many away from iniquity.”
In Luke 1, we come to the fulfilment (vv. 68-75) in the song of Zacharias: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.” This was the provision of the covenant; God’s part being to give His only begotten Son: the Son’s part being to glorify Him upon the earth;
and the Spirit’s part to reveal and apply this salvation to the hearts of His people, by His Word and by His grace. Lastly, we find God revealing Himself by His Spirit in a new covenant character, as the God of peace: “The God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will” (Heb. 13:20,21). Such were the circumstances under which the Lord Jesus Christ prayed to His Father.
3. The ground upon which He rests His plea.
“I have glorified thee on the earth.” The Saviour pleads the performance of His part of the contract. He was at this time standing, bound with the cords of everlasting love, beside the altar of burnt offering. The last act was as good as done; He was on His way to Gethsemane; He stands at the bar of God’s justice, faithfulness, and holiness; He represents His people, and He gives them the whole benefit and credit of all the infinite merit belonging to His person, work, and office as mediator, in His life and in His death; and, on this ground, He claims an equivalent from His Father’s justice for Himself as their Head, and for His people as members of His body; for Himself as the Son, and for them as those whom the Father had given Him-the people of His love, on whose behalf He had descended from heaven to earth to glorify His Father.
“I have glorified thee on the earth.” I conceive that these were the greatest words ever spoken here below, even by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself; and I am sure if we could enter into all their fulness we should be convinced that this is true. Who can express them in their height, and depth, and length, and breadth? “I have glorified Thee on the earth, My Father; I have, according to the good pleasure of Thy will, according to the riches of the glory of Thy grace, and according to the covenant engagements between Me and Thee, performed all that was in Thine heart, and all that Thou didst require of Me for the accomplishing of the salvation of Thy people given to Me. I have opened all Thine heart, I have expressed Thine eternal and everlasting love to poor sinners; I have manifested Thy faithfulness to Thy promises; I have displayed the riches of the grace Thou didst bestow on a lost world. I have come down from heaven to make known the holiness of Thy nature and Thine unspeakable gift; I have magnified the perfection of Thy law by descending from heaven to obey it. I have demonstrated Thy justice and Thine abhorrence of sin to the uttermost, for I am about to lay down My life upon the cross to expiate it; I have revealed and displayed Thine infinite love, for Thou didst so love the world that Thou didst give Thine only begotten Son, that Thou mightest be just and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus. This I have done; and all that remains to be done I am prepared to do and to fulfil to the uttermost. Look upon the Son of Thy right hand; upon the Son of Man whom Thou hast made strong for Thyself. Thou knowest Me, Father, that I am Thy fellow, Thou God of Hosts; Thou King of Saints; Thou knowest the honour I have done to Thy law by being born under it, and by My obedience unto death to expiate the guilt of those who transgressed against it; Thou knowest the preciousness of My blood-Thou knowest its eternal efficacy to put away sin; Thou knowest that I have more than vindicated the dishonour done to Thy name, Thy character, Thine attributes, and Thy will. I have glorified Thee on the earth; that earth so long a land of darkness to Thee-that earth so long in the hands of the usurper-that earth which has been so long arrayed in arms against Thee; I have glorified Thee here, and I will glorify Thee again.”
Verily! none but the Son of God Himself could have truly uttered what is here expressed; not all the angels and archangels in Jehovah’s presence, even though they excel in strength, though they do His commandments, hearkening unto the voice of His word; not all those ministers of His, that do His pleasure, could say individually or collectively, “I have glorified Thee” in heaven or earth: the great Jehovah has glorified them and glorified Himself in them and by them; but they never glorified nor could they glorify Him who “dwelleth in the light which no man can approach unto.” His name, His blessedness, His truth, His majesty are beyond all expression and surpass all thought; He is the God of glory, and He cannot but be what He is-essentially happy, holy, glorious, and incomprehensible: universal nature, the course of Providence, the displays of grace, even Christ Himself could add nothing to God’s essential glory. It is utterly impossible. God is most blessed for evermore, and His glory is incapable of increase or decrease; and, therefore, while we desire so to explain those words as to put immortal crowns upon the head of the Mediator, we must take heed in doing so not to overlook the essential glory of the Godhead which even He could only manifest but not increase.
Man’s sin did not and could not diminish it in the most remote degree. The clouds that flit across the noonday sun may hide his beauty, but cannot mar his splendour; the moon, that beautiful satellite, made to reflect his light, may eclipse, but cannot add one beam to his glory: so sin did rise up, as a dark cloud, and shut out the light, and beauty, and glory of God from our creation, casting back its midnight shadow-its darkness that might be felt-its death-pall upon the hopes, happiness, and destinies of man. It was to remove that cloud, and to put away that sin by the sacrifice of Himself, Jesus Christ came; and, through the rent veil of His own crucified body, He opened a new and a living way, even for the chief of sinners, to God, to holiness, and to rest. It was through that veil, rent from the top to the bottom, the glory in the Holiest shone forth, inviting and encouraging sinners to come boldly to the Throne of Grace; and thus it was that the Lord Jesus Christ glorified God on the earth.
We read in Isaiah 59:2, “your iniquities have separated between you and your God.” These were the clouds that had risen from beneath and passed across the ineffable glory of Jehovah, obscuring Him from mortal eye; and Jesus came down to scatter them by the sacrifice of Himself.
The crucifixion of the Lord of glory, and the atoning death of the Prince of Life, was not the extinguishing of a lesser glory, as the light of a star put out by the sun; but it was the glory of a sun hiding itself under the dark cloud of our sins, that the holiness of God might shine out and be magnified by His eclipse; as if one king did descend from his throne to do honour to another king, thus in the substituting of Himself, as a curse for us, in emptying Himself of the glory He had with His Father before the world was, and coming down to be spit upon, rejected, and crucified here on earth, the Lord Jesus did remove the cloud that obscured the glory of His Father, and, at the cost of the eclipse of Himself, could say, “I have glorified thee on the earth.”
They are wonderful words. It was not only from the time the Lord Jesus was born in Bethlehem, but from the morning of all time He had been the glorifier of His Father. Creation was the handiwork of Christ. “Thou, Lord, in the beginning (to the Son he saith it), hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands; they shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail” (Heb. 1:10-12). And He that made all things doth uphold them by the word of His power, therefore creation itself is but Christ’s manifestion of the glory of God in one way; and providence is Christ’s manifestation of that glory in another way. How early He began to glorify His Father by manifesting His wondrous ways and works and His thoughts which were to usward; how soon He began to make it evident that His delights were with the sons of men, and that creation and providence were but the circumstantials by which Jehovah surrounded the creature He delighted to honour; that the visible universe itself was but a home for man-a platform on which He purposed to manifest to Him all His grace and all His glory!
See Him walking in the garden with Adam; feasting in the tent with Abraham; wrestling, and suffering Himself to be overcome by Jacob; speaking face to face, as a man speaks to his friend, with Moses; bearing His people of Israel out of Egypt as upon eagles’ wings; as Captain of the host of God leading them through the wilderness. The manna that fed them was Christ; the rock that followed them was Christ; the pillar-cloud that guided them was Christ. And as He was their companion in the wilderness so He was afterwards their companion in the furnace. “The form of the fourth,” in Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace, walking in the midst of the fire, with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, was “like the Son of God.”
Who was it that sent the prophets, rising up early and sending them? It was JESUS! and “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Who was it that sent messengers from time to time to His tried and troubled people, suiting the word of hope, or comfort, or faith, to their varied necessities? It was Jesus! How often in times of danger, we read, “Fear not!” How often, in times of difficulty, “I will be with thee!” How often in seasons of sorrow, “I even I, am he that comforteth you!” How often in seasons of desolation, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee!” How often in periods of sin and shame, “I, even I am he that blotteth out thy transgressions”-till at last He came Himself, and the angels of God sang the song of His nativity, “Glory to God in the highest!” He did not begin to glorify God then; but it was a new phase of it-“Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good will toward men.”
What was His whole life here but a continued manifestation of the glory of the Father! When Philip said to Him, “Show us the Father,” what was His answer? “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9). Now only the crowning act was to be accomplished-nothing remained for Him but to lay down His life, “the Just for the unjust to bring sinners to God.” And thus He provided the highest of all the high crowns of God-the crown of the glory of His grace, the crown of our salvation. All this, and a thousand times more than this-more than any angel or mortal tongue could tell-the Mediator gathers up into this one plea:
“Father, I have glorified thee on earth.” There is the set-off against man’s sin; there is the set-off against the dishonour done to God’s character, God’s law, and God’s truth. Put this in the one scale, and all the creature could do is but as the small dust in the other.
“I have glorified thee on the earth.” May faith rest upon that plea, and come with boldness to the throne of grace, seeing that He who glorified Jehovah on earth is now seated on His throne, with open arms, to welcome those who have never glorified Him-that they may come in, and receive, and enjoy the great salvation which the God of all love and grace has provided for them in the Son of His love.
Taken from, Our Lord prays for His Own; Thoughts on John 17. Chapter 5.