I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.John 17:4, 5
This prayer was prayed prior to his going the cross, but, in its scope, it reaches beyond and includes the cross. Our Lord knew where he was going, he knew what he would be doing in the next few hours and what would be accomplished. That work included more than the cross. It encompassed his ministry of healing and mercy, and even those thirty silent years back in Nazareth. They were all part of his life, his work, which the Father had given him to do.
He includes this in his prayer to indicate to us the character of his work while he was here. He is suggesting that his work was characterized by a continual self-emptying, that is, a laying aside of glory. Now that he has reached the end, he is ready to resume the glory which was properly his, but he is thinking back over thirty-three years of his life and recognizing that all during that time he had voluntarily surrendered his right to be worshipped, his right to the glory that belonged to both the Father and the Son. Jesus is pointing out that his work that glorified the Father was essentially one of self-emptying.
We are so confused about this. We think that God is interested in our activity, that there are certain religious pursuits which we can perform which God will be pleased with no matter in what frame of mind we do them. That is why we sometimes drag ourselves out to church week after week when we have little interest in attending church — because we think that attending church is what God wants. How little we understand God! It is not activity that he desires. It was not merely that which Jesus did which glorified the Father. It was not his ministry of mercy and good works. Others have done similar things. But it was the fact that throughout his life he had a heart that was ready to obey, an ear that was ready to hear, a will that was ready to be subject to the Father. It was his willingness to be always available, to forever be giving of himself, that glorified God.
There are many books written about the so-called
cost of discipleship. They declare, in one way or another, that to have power with God we must pay a high price. In various ways they state that to become a victorious Christian, an effective Christian, requires a difficult and demanding discipline. I am not impressed with this type of literature at all. We have gotten the cart before the horse. I do not mean that such an approach is untrue, for the fact is that obedience to God does mean saying,
No to a lot of other things. I do not mean that living for the glory of God does not indeed cost us certain fancied pleasures and relationships which perhaps we want to hold onto. But greater than the cost of discipleship is the cost of disobedience! There is where the emphasis should be placed.
How well we know that cost. What a tremendous toll our disobedience, our unwillingness to give of ourselves, takes in our lives in terms of frustrated, restless spirits; the shameful, degrading acts that we hope nobody discovers; the skeletons that rattle around in our closets; the irritated, vexatious dispositions that keep us in a nervous frenzy all the time; the weak, spineless, crowd-following ways that we often exhibit; the self-righteous, smug, religiosity which we call Christianity that is a stench in the nostrils of the world and an offense unto God and men. Are these not the terrible price that we pay for an unwillingness to yield ourselves to the Lordship of Christ? We say we want to do God's will — as long as it is what we want to do. At the center of our lives Self is still king, and that is the problem. Our own glory is in view. We still want what we want and we are not willing as Jesus was, to walk in glad obedience. But it is only this obedience that glorifies the Father.
Father, may I be among those who are ready to fling our lives away for Jesus Christ, to be utterly careless of what happens to us in order that he may be glorified.
Do we consciously, or otherwise, count on our 'good works' to compensate for our self-serving attitudes? Is the glory of God motivating a glad obedience as he leads us in paths of righteousness for his name's sake?