We Want Glory; We Have Glory

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
I am addicted to glory my friends!  There is no doubt about it that I want glory and I am pretty convinced that you want it too. 
Glory, it is great honor or fame; it is being in a position of adoration, receiving attention, receiving splendor, and being exalted! 
Who wouldn’t want this?   Who doesn’t fight and at least strive for this?
For men it is awesome to be in a place of honor and fame is it not?  It is good to be king of the hill.  Climbing the hill is all worth it, if you can have glory as a trophy.  For women, it is wonderful when you are a princess and it is exhilarating when the whole world bows to your magnificence and serves you.
The thoughts of glory intoxicate us in euphoric bliss.
Not only do we long for glory, we are also told in our culture that we deserve glory.  Listen to some of these marketing slogans,
“Have it your way.  Because You’re Worth It.  You deserve a break today.  We do it all for you.  You deserve the best.”
The desire for glory is nothing new though, for all of mankind has this innate addiction for that which is glorious.  We want to bask in glory, possess it for ourselves, and then display it as something that we have accomplished. 
The desire for glory is also present as a theme in today’s Gospel reading.  Otherwise stated, just before today’s Gospel reading, Jesus tells His disciples the supposed non-glorious news that He is going to Jerusalem where He is going to be handed over to the religious rulers and authorities, so that He can be flogged, spit upon, beaten, and crucified.  He reveals the news that He has revealed before; however, it just seems as if the disciples don’t hear Jesus and are fixated on their own perceptions of glory. 
“Jesus, grant us to sit one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 
The disciples were pretty convinced that Jesus was someone special.  They witnessed His miracles, they saw Him transfigured like the sun, they knew His authority, and they dreamed of how He was going to make things happen; put things into action if you will.  They anticipated, like many others, that Jesus would arrive in Jerusalem, fireworks would go off, the fight would be on, and Jesus would overthrow the Roman Empire and usher in an independent Jerusalem with a powerful reign like King David’s.  Pure glory! 
They wanted to be ‘in’ on ‘this’ glory.  They wanted a piece of the glorious pie.  They even wanted this glory so bad that jealous tension arose about whom gets the right hand spot.  Who gets to sit closest to glory!
When we see this kind of stuff going on, it makes us sick.  You know what I am talking about—this nepotism, influence-peddling, heads rolling, you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours, corporate ladder climbing, kissing up to authority to get a favor—this glory snatching and glory grabbing.  All of this stuff is really the same, people wanting to get that position of honor, fame, and glory and doing whatever it takes to get it.  Like I said, it makes us sick and makes us want to puke. 
“Jesus does not puke [though].  He continues on His way to Jerusalem.  And He draws us along with Him, which means leaving all that putrid and enslaving stuff behind.”[1]  Otherwise stated, Jesus is not distracted by these requests of the disciples, He does not rebuke the disciples.  He doesn’t even condemn their request.  You see the disciple’s request for glory—believe it or not—actually springs forth from faith.  That’s right, they realized that glory was attached to Jesus and this is a good thing.  It is a good thing that they want to be on Jesus’ right and left.  It is good when we want to be with Jesus in His adoration, fame, honor and splendor, rather than finding glory in ourselves.  It is a good thing for us to want to rub against Jesus in His glory.  The problem is not that the disciples sought glory from Jesus, the problem is that their motives and their understanding of glory needed to be purified; it needed to be refined.  The same is true for us. 
The disciples wanted to sit with Jesus at His right and left in glory.  As previously mentioned, this is good; nothing wrong with this.  However, Jesus challenges them and says, “You do not know what you are asking.”  In other words, they didn’t understand what it meant for Jesus to obtain glory.  They were ignorant of what their request involved.  They didn’t understand the real kingdom that Jesus was building.  They wanted glory but didn’t understand the pain that Christ was about to go through.  They wanted glory without the pain.  Give us a bit of your glory Jesus along with comfort, honor, prestige, special handouts, and respect, but hold the pain and humiliation.  Let us go upward in glory, not downward!
Jesus corrects them and asks,
“Are you able to drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized.”
Painting by Stephen C. Dawson
Now, this isn’t merely drinking a strong cup of coffee or a strong drink or getting a little wet.  The phrase “drinking the cup” was a phrase that communicated pain and suffering.  Furthermore, when Jesus talked about “baptism” here, He is not referring to water over the head, but rather He is talking about being submerged in death.  In other words, He is asking James and John if they would be able to go through suffering and death as He was about to.  Could they truly be on His right and left sides in glory?  Do they know what they are asking? 
We know who gets those places when Jesus is crowned, proclaimed king, and enthroned.  Those at His right hand and at His left are those who are crucified with Him.  Thus, are the disciples able or do they understand what it means to drink the cup of suffering? 
The same can be asked of you and me.  When we want to cozy up to the glory of Jesus, do we realize what we want to cozy up to?  The crown is thorny; the cross gives slivers.  Are we really able to drink the cup that Jesus drank; are we able to be baptized in the baptism of suffering that Jesus endured? 
Truth be told, we are not.  We are not able.
Jesus points out to James and John that the way to glory and greatness is not through overthrowing the Roman Empire and being in victory.  Rather, the way to glory is through the cross, through suffering and through humiliation.  The kingdom of God is not like the ways of this world. 
My friends, if we think that we are able to obtain spiritual glory, we are severely mistaking ourselves.  Furthermore, even though it is good that we may want to be at the right and the left of Jesus in His glory, our faith is still misguided, for we do not understand what glory completely entails. 
You want glory at Jesus right or left?  Are you able to drink the pain of a thorny cross?  You want to be in a position of glory?  Are you able to drink the pain of flogging?  Are you able to drink the pain of God’s wrath?  Are you able to bear the sins of the world on yourself?  It is good that we want to be with Jesus in His glory. However, we are not able.  The whips are too frightening, the pain is too great, the weight of sin is too heavy, and death is too powerful for us.  We are not able.
Christ is able though. 
Yes, Christ Jesus was able.  Jesus drank the cup of suffering.  Jesus was baptized in a drenching of death.  Jesus suffered the pain.  Jesus went to the cross.  This is why Jesus is glorious.  He is not a glorious savior because He conquered a mere feeble earthly kingdom, but rather, He is glorious because He conquered darkness, He conquered sin, and He conquered death itself.  Jesus obtains glory, honor, splendor and fame, through losing on the cross, which is ultimately victory.  The way to glory in the kingdom of God is through suffering. 
This idea of glory is climaxed in the thoughts that Jesus became last, He was made sin and He became a slave of all—which means He did this all for you and me too.
Dear friends, glory comes not by being first, but by being last. Glory is found not in your sacrifices for Christ, but in His sacrifice for you. Jesus did not come to be served, but to be a slave for all, a servant for you.  The purpose of Jesus’ life was to give, not to take.  He did not come to take earthly kingdoms, but to give you the kingdom of God.  Jesus paid what you should’ve paid but simply could not.  “God did the judgment on you when He did the judgment for your sins on Jesus.”[2]
And so, after all is said and done, you who are not able to acquire glory are given glory.  You are given Jesus.  “He gives you a baptism with which to be baptized.  He buries you into His flesh and resurrects you via that same flesh to a new life.  He places a cup to your lips and bids you drink of the blood given and shed for you.  He has given His life as a ransom for you, so that you are now His own.  He has bought you at a price.  You are His.  You are His, His beloved child.  And nothing in heaven or on earth can change this.”[3]
Your debt became His debt.  Your sin became His sin.  His righteousness is your righteousness.  Jesus was able; Jesus was willing.  That is your glorious Savior, glory given to you. 
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), 102.

[2] Ibid., 103.

[3] Chad L. Bird, Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons (Copyright 2014), 107.

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