************ Sermon on John 1:14 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on December 20, 2009
"We Have Seen His Glory"
Candle Light Service 2009
Have you noticed our call to worship every single week of Advent this year? Over and over again, you have been hearing the words of John 1:14. Because in this verse you hear what one commentator has called the most important words in the entire Bible. Listen to these words again:
(Jn 1:14) 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.In this short verse we hear the message of Christmas, the reason for the incarnation, the fulfilment of prophecy, the claim of divinity, the mission of the Father, and the proclamation of the Gospel. What I want to focus on tonight, in our candle light service, is the phrase, "We have seen his glory." And, think of the glory as we go through the candle light litany.
I The Glory of God
A We cannot understand what John is saying without first taking a look at the glory of God in the Old Testament.
How did God show Himself to humankind in the Old Testament? The most frequent way God showed Himself to humans was by means of His glory. So, for instance, God showed Himself to Israel at Mount Sinai. At that time, Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the LORD settled on it. To the Israelites, the glory of the LORD looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain (Ex 24:15-17).
But this was not the first time Israel saw the glory of God. According to Scripture, God showed His glory when the Pharaoh and his whole army were drowned in the Red Sea and the people of Israel were brought through the same sea on dry ground (Ex 15:11). And, God showed His glory when He led His people through the wilderness with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Ex 13:21-22).
God again showed His glory at the dedication of the Tent of Meeting and the Temple. The cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, fire came down from heaven and consumed the offerings of the Temple, and both places were filled with the glory of the Lord. Neither Moses nor the priests could enter in because the glory of the Lord filled those places (Ex 40:34-35; 2 Chron 7:1-3).
According to Scripture, God showed His glory at the time of Korah. Korah, and some well-known community leaders, rose up against the leadership of Moses and Aaron. The glory of the Lord appeared to the entire assembly of Israel. Do you remember what happened next? The ground split open and swallowed all the rebels, their households, and all their possessions (Num 16).
God showed His glory when He made water gush forth from a rock after Moses struck the rock with his staff (Num 20).
The glory of God is God's way of revealing Himself. Sometimes, this glory means judgment, sometimes it means salvation, sometimes it means provision, sometimes it means blessing. But, however it is expressed, the glory of God is always scary and awe-inspiring.
B Do you remember the time Isaiah saw the glory of God? Isaiah was in fear and trembling. And he cried out,
(Is 6:5) "Woe to me!" ... "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty."Isaiah knew God to be a holy, consuming fire. So he was scared when he saw the glory of God.
Remember what happened whenever Moses entered the Lord's presence? His face became radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. So radiant, in fact, that the people were afraid to come near him. What the people saw was the glory of God on Moses (Ex 34:29-35).
C To see the glory of God is an awesome thing. And, an awesome privilege. Those who have this privilege are expected to respond in worship, praise, and obedience. In Numbers 14 we read what happens to those who witness God's glory but do not respond appropriately. This is what God says:
(Num 14:21-23) Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the LORD fills the whole earth, (22) not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times-- (23) not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it.The Lord does not take it lightly when His glory is ignored or treated with contempt.
D We've been talking about it but we have not really defined it. What is the "glory of God"? What is meant by this phrase? The most important Hebrew word for "glory" means "weight" or "importance." This reminds me of a book in my office with the title, "The Weight of Glory." God's glory is weighty. When we look at the Old Testament passages and stories that I have mentioned, we see that the "weight of glory" includes such things as splendor, brightness, shining, radiance, brilliance, might, power, praise, honor, status, greatness, wonder, wondrous and mighty acts, justice, judgment. All of this is the weight of glory.
To speak of glory, then, is to speak of God. Glory is how God reveals Himself to man.
II The Glory of Christ
A Keep this Old Testament background in mind as you listen to our text for this evening:
(Jn 1:14) 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.Let me repeat the middle line: "We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only."
Do you hear what John is saying? John is saying Jesus has the same weightiness as God; like God, Jesus is full of glory. In other words, in the glory of Jesus God is revealing Himself to man. And, He expects the same response as in the Old Testament: worship, praise, and obedience or – as John puts it – belief or faith (Jn 20:31).
When we go through the Gospels, we see glimpses of this glory, don't we? I think, first, of Christ's miracles. What does John write about Jesus' miracle of changing water into wine?
(Jn 2:11) This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory ...What is true for this miracle, is true for all the miracles: they reveal His glory, the glory of God. Pick any miracle: the healing of the official's son (John 4:43ff), the cure of the man at Bethesda pool (John 5:1ff), the multiplication of the fish and loaves to feed the 5000 (John 6:1ff), Jesus walking on water (John 6:16ff), sight given to a man born blind (John 9:1ff), Lazarus raised from the dead (John 11:1ff); all of these wonderful, powerful, awe-inspiring acts give us glimpses of glory, they give us glimpses of God!
The other three Gospels report on an event that John himself was privileged to witness: the Transfiguration (Mt 17:2). Remembered what happened?
(Mt 17:2) There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.This, too, is a glimpse of God and His glory.
B Why do I use the phrase, "glimpse of glory"? Because that is exactly what all of this is. It is merely a glimpse, a peek, at what is going to come.
"We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only." What is this glory John is talking about? At the start of the Gospel, the real glory is yet to come. The real glory is yet to be revealed. The real glory of Jesus is something we don't see until He has died on the cross and risen from the grave.
Do you remember what Jesus said to His mother when she told Him there was no more wine at the wedding feast in Cana? Jesus said, "My time has not yet come" (Jn 2:4). Time for what? Time for the fullness of His glory to be revealed. It is only when the cross is an immediate prospect that Jesus says, "The hour has come [for what?] for the Son of Man to be glorified" (John 12:23; cf John 12:27,28a). And, "Father, the time has come. [What time?] Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you" (John 17:1).
When do we see the real glory? Let me quote from Paul's hymn in Philippians 2:
(Phil 2:6-11) Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, (7) but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. [Do you hear the Christmas story?] (8) And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! (9) Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, (10) that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, (11) and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.Do you see the order? First the cross, then the glory. First the shame, then the highest place. First the suffering, then the crown. First the humiliation, then the exaltation.
Paul saw this glory of the risen Lord first-hand, didn't he? Think of Paul on the Damascus Road. He was on his way to persecute and imprison and kill Christians. Remember Who stopped him? The glorified Lord. Listen to the description:
(Acts 26:13-15) ... as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. (14) We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? ...' (15) Then I asked, 'Who are you, Lord?' 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,' the Lord replied. [Cf Acts 9:3-5]
C When God showed His glory in the Old Testament, it was always spectacular: fire on Mount Sinai, Pharaoh and his host drowning, Israel walking through the sea on dry ground, pillar of cloud and fire, the presence of God filling the Tabernacle and Temple, the earth opening in judgment, water from a rock. So, when John said, "We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only" (Jn 1:14), the Jewish people expected another cosmic spectacle; they expected divine fireworks, a display of thunder and lightning and fire and glory. What they got instead was a baby, a cross, and a grave. Not at all what they expected, is it?!
D "We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only." I want you to think of the time Moses begged to see God in all His glory. Remember what God said?
(Exo 33:21-23) "There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. (22) When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. (23) Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen."In other words, Moses was privileged to see only part of God's glory.
Let's fast forward to the other end of the Bible. John is given a vision of the glorified Christ. Unlike Moses, he doesn't see only part of God's glory. Unlike Moses, he is not covered with God's hand. Unlike Moses, he sees Jesus as He really is:
(Rev 1:13-16) ... among the lampstands was someone "like a son of man," dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. (14) His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. (15) His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. (16) In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.Do you hear all the glory? Do you imagine all the glory (remember, the Revelation is a book we need to see or imagine in our mind)? Like Isaiah before him, John was scared by his glimpse of glory. But Jesus said, "Do not be afraid" (Rev 1:17).
"We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only." Why didn't John have to be afraid, like Israel, like Isiah? Why was John allowed to do what Moses could not do? Because of the cross and the grave. Because Jesus died and Jesus arose. Because He was dead but now He is alive for ever and ever. Because all those who receive Him, all those who believe in His name, have life in His name and therefore nothing to fear (cf Jn 20:31).
Think back to what I have said about the glory of God and of Jesus. Most of the time, the glory of God and of Christ is associated with fire and light and brilliance. A fitting image, don't you think, for this candle light service?
But keep this in mind. Like Moses, like Israel, like Paul, and like John, when we witness God's glory, the most appropriate posture is on our knees. And, the most appropriate response is worship, praise, and obedience – or as John puts it, faith and belief.
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