How Can This Be Glory? It Does Not Look Like, Sound Like, And Feel Like Glory

Text:  John 12:20-43
Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
On this day we wave palm branches and sing boldly in honor of Jesus coming into Jerusalem.  We join with those from long ago to acclaim the Son of David as our King, for He is most surely a King. 
He is a strange King though: riding on a donkey, no magnificent chariot, no fireworks, no powerful swords lifted upward, no battle cries, and no demonstration of flexing muscles, just a modest procession of the Son of David on a donkey.
Needless to say, there was excitement in the air that first Palm Sunday, for Jesus performed all the signs of the Messiah.  The blind received sight, the lame walked, lepers were cleansed, the deaf heard, and the dead were raised to life.  Thus, it makes sense that the people expected more of the same.  Would Jesus rally the people to overthrow the Roman Empire?  Was there some great plan that Jesus had hidden, underneath His humble entrance into Jerusalem?  What was He planning?  What would happen?  What could they anticipate?  They, like us, stood on the edge of Holy Week, on the edge of greatness and glory.
The disciples must have felt the same sense of anticipation as Jesus continually said to the disciples over three-and-a-half years,
“My time has not yet come.  My hour has not yet come.  It is not my time yet.  No, not now my disciples; the time is later.” 
Yes, there were countless occasions where Jesus was either almost arrested or taken by force to Jerusalem to make things happen, but it simply did not occur because the time was not right.  The hour of Jesus’ glory had not yet arrived. 
However, in our Gospel reading from this morning, things are a bit different.  Otherwise stated, right after Jesus came into Jerusalem on a donkey, after all the palm branches, after the great welcome and yelling of, “Hosanna, Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” we hear that Jesus is interacting with His disciples and a group of Greeks.  He then says to them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” 
Yes, after all the countless times of saying that it was not His time, here in today’s Gospel reading, Jesus is now saying that it is His time.  Now is the time for Jesus to reveal His glory. 
We can just imagine the reaction of the disciples and others when they heard this news from Jesus:

“It is about time.  Now, we will see things happen.  Yes, the timing is just right Jesus; now we are going to see something really spectacular.  Let’s capture the buzz and excitement and funnel it towards Jesus as He unleashes His glory.  Yes, Jesus you healed, gave sight, and imparted health; now you are going to drive out the Romans, restore the temple, and make Jerusalem great.  Hold on and fasten your seatbelts for we are in for a ride!”
Yes, Jesus said that the hour had come for the Son of Man to be glorified!  “What earthly glorious pictures those words must have called up in the minds of the disciples. They were flushed with the glory of the palms and hosannas of Palm Sunday. This, they thought, was the real Jesus, the royal Jesus. This was Jesus coming into His own. The kingdom was about to be established.”[1]

Surely, glory is about to be revealed.  The disciples and followers were on the edge of glory; they were about to experience and see glory in Jerusalem.

For you and me today, we stand on the edge of Holy Week, the edge of glory as well.  We lean forward and are able to looking into the events of this next week.  But what does this glory exactly look like?  What do you think glory looks like as we stand on the verge of Holy Week anticipating the glorification of Jesus?
Well, you may believe that glory is the accumulation of power and status.  You may believe that glory is the gathering of money, health, and influence.  You may believe that glory is acquiring first place and having a list of achievements, achievements that provide a platform for boasting.  You may believe that glory is using God’s divine power to make your life a little bit easier here on this earth.  You may be convinced that victory, prestige, health, money, power, influence, confidence, status, boasting, control, and beauty are all words that are attached to and communicate the word ‘glory.’

Thus, is this what we will see in Jesus?  Is this what we can anticipate this next week as we hear about Jesus being glorified during Holy Week?  As we have been journeying towards Holy Week during Lent, has our slow journey been a steady uphill climb towards the flashing glitter and power of glory that anchors itself above the troubles of suffering?  As we come closer to Good Friday will we find that the Roman Empire has been destroyed, that the Pharisees have been silenced, and that Jesus sits in power and control on a mighty golden throne?  We may hope.  Will we find ourselves sitting on Jesus’ right and left established in health, wealth, and happiness?  Oh, how blissful that would be having our problems and enemies under our feet!

My friends as you step into Holy Week you will most definitely hear and see Jesus in glory.  However, the glory that you and I will see is quite a bit different from the glory that you and I anticipate.  It is different from what the disciples anticipated as well.  You will not see Jesus overcome and destroy the Roman Empire, but Christ destroyed, bloodied, and beaten on a Roman execution cross.  You won’t see Jesus correcting a crooked justice system, but you will see a Kangaroo court enacting perverted justice upon a truly sinless man.  You won’t see a halo, but a crown of thorns.  You won’t see a radiant Jesus sitting on a golden throne, but rather you will see a suffering servant spit upon, beaten to mush, and crucified.  This week you and I won’t see anything of renown, honor, beauty, respect, delight, splendor, and adoration.  It seems that Jesus’ definition of glory is quite different from our definitions of glory. 

Yes, instead of rising out of the Lent Season to a glittery and flashy glorious Holy Week, it seems that we will encounter an entirely different kind of glory; we are going to travel much deeper and darker to a place called Golgotha, the place of the Son of God’s death.    

But how can this be glory you may ask?  It does not look like glory.  It does not sound like glory.  It does not feel like glory. 

I want glory. 

I need glory. 

This sounds depressing; culture says that I have a right to be happy.  This sounds too negative and too pessimistic; culture says that goodness comes to those who speak positive. 

Stop, I don’t want to know what happens when we plunge deeper and further away from what I perceive glory to be like.  Hold the show, I don’t want to follow Jesus any deeper or go any darker into the valley of death.  I want positive and encouraging thoughts; I want happy feelings; I don’t want the cross.  I don’t want to see the crown of thorns; I want a Precious Moments halo.  I don’t want to be spit upon; it is not sanitary.  I don’t want to hear the hammer and nails colliding with flesh; I want glorious fireworks and cannons.   I don’t want blood to be spilt upon me; I want celebratory champagne spilt on me.  I don’t want suffering; I want that euphoric feeling of awesomeness.  Where Jesus goes, I cannot go… …Thus, my friends, Jesus goes alone; abandoned by His disciples, abandoned by the crowd, and abandoned by you and me.  Jesus goes to the cross on His own solidarity.  Jesus goes to this anti-glorious place to be lifted up on a cross.

When the Christ is lifted up on the cross—after being spit upon, bloodied, mocked, betrayed, and forsaken—the scriptures say that He draws all men to Himself.  Yes, in this anti-glorious place; in this dark, ugly, low place of shame and death, Jesus drags and pulls the weight of sin from the world—from you—unto Himself.  Do you and I truly hear this?  Jesus chose the crown of thorns—for you.  He chose the hammer and nails—for you.  He went into the darkness—for you.  He chose the cross—for you.  He drank the cup of wrath and He drags and pulls the weight of sin, your sin and mine, into this anti-glorious place Golgotha where He finds death!  It is finished. 

“On Good Friday, when you see Christ dying on the cross, being cut off from God for sin, say, ‘That is my death for my sin.’  When Christ rises out of the whelming waters of death to life, say, ‘That is my rising to life.’  ‘I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless, I live; yes not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me, and gave Himself for me.’(Galatians 2:20)”[2]

As you step into the events of Holy Week remind yourself that Jesus was fighting a different war, His tactics were different; His definitions of glory were different.  Indeed, this is the week that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey as God’s anointed warrior prince—the very Son of God in the flesh—who is on His way to do battle for your soul and the souls of mankind.  This is the week of war; the hour had come for a war that had eternal consequences, a war against sin, death, and the devil.  Yes, we stand on the edge of war, on the edge of glory, for Jesus must die and will die in order to win—all for you.  

This – Is – Glory.  This – Is – The – Glorious – One – At – Work – For – You! 

Have a blessed Holy Week, dear Baptized Saints, as we journey to Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Resurrection Sunday!

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

[1] Norman Nagel, Selected Sermons of Norman Nagel (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2004), 106.

[2] Ibid, 108. 

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