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The Cross of Glory

Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him. If God be glorified in Him, God shall also glorify Him in Himself, and shall straightway glorify Him.—John liii. 31-2.

"TUDAS, having received the sop, went immeJ diately out, and it was night." Surely that is more than a note of time. Into the dark that dark soul went to do his dark work, and the Evangelist would have us note, how fit the time was for the deed. He connects the words of my text with the withdrawal of the betrayer by the significant clause, "therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said." The presence of the traitor had been a restraint, and when he was gone, the flow of speech was freer, as when some black rock that chokes the channel of a river is lifted out of the bed. Jesus too, knew the oppression of an uncongenial presence, and was more at ease when it was withdrawn. The traitor's departure led to these great words in another way, too, for by his going out on his errand, the Cross was brought appreciably nearer, and in the consciousness that the deed was as good as done, our Lord speaks now as if it were already past. "Now is the Son of Man glorified." That "now" not only points us to the occasion of His speaking thus, but it also points us to the fact that it was the Cross of which He was speaking. What Judas went out to do was the beginning of Jesus Christ's being glorified. They were strange words at such a time.

You note, of course, the threefold "glorifying" that is spoken of here, and the ring of triumph that is in the words. They tell us what Christ thought was glory, and they stain all the lustre of our poor, vulgar notions of what it is. They lift a corner of the veil, and show us what it was that drew Him, a not unwilling sacrifice, to the Cross. They ought to melt hearts into reverent love, and to mould lives into strenuous imitation. We take these three instances of "glorifying," which all cluster round that Cross, for our consideration now.

I. The Cross As Glorifying Christ.

If we read such words as these in the biography of any martyr or hero of liberty or of truth, and found him welcoming death as the very crown of his life, they would live in men's memories, and be familiar on their lips. But Jesus speaks them, and even those that love Him best do not appreciate their deep significance. Let me try to work it out.

Now, if we look over this gospel, we find a very distinct peculiarity in it, in that the point of view from which it looks at the death of Christ is the opposite of that which most of the New Testament writers take up. To them it is the very lowest point of His humiliation; to this gospel it is the very apex of His elevation. And it was Himself that set the example of so speaking of it. For, if you remember, almost at the beginning of His career, according to the record of this Evangelist, He said to Nicodemus: "Even so must the Son of Man be lifted up." The elevation which was in His mind was not the foot or two above the earth to which the victim upon a cross was raised, but in that insignificant detail of a crucifixion, Jesus saw a symbol of His truly being lifted up, not merely to be conspicuous, like the brazen serpent on the pole, from which He drew the emblem, but to be truly exalted in the very moment of deepest shame. You will remember, too, that in a similar fashion He again used the very same phrase when He said, "I, if I be lifted up "—and only if—" will draw all men unto me." So this Evangelist, catching the spirit of His Lord's words, and echoing their tone, speaks repeatedly of the Son of Man's being glorified as a synonym for the Son of Man's being crucified. I need not quote the instances; they will recur to your memory. At all events, here is the fact, that to Jesus Christ Himself, looking on His approaching death, that Cross assumed, with swift alternation, two apparently opposite aspects. At one moment, as we have seen in former sermons, He shrank from it as dark and grim, and in the next moment, as we see here in this ringing note of victory, He welcomes it as the very climax of all His career. Like some great pillar elevated on a mountain, when the thunder-clouds fill the sky, it stands out grim and dark, and then in a moment the strong wind sweeps them away, and the sunlight smites it, and it shines out white and lustrous. With such swift alternations, and almost a confluence of the two streams of feeling, to Jesus Christ the Cross was dark and the Cross was radiant. The lowest depth of His humiliation was the highest summit of His exaltation, so that not only, as one of the Apostles puts it, "He humbled Himself unto : : : the death of the Cross," and " therefore God hath highly exalted Him," but also "He humbled Himself unto the death of the Cross," and therein, as well as therefore, He is highly exalted. What, then, were the aspects of it as it presented itself to Him, which thus made Him recognize, in its ignominy and in its shame, in its pain and in its desolation, the loftiest point in His whole mission?

First, it was the supreme revelation of Himself, and for Him to be known is to be glorified. He had been filtering, as it were, His gracious gentleness, His utter self-surrender, His all-embracing pity, in drops of mercy and love and deeds of brotherhood and tenderness, through all His life; but what had been dropped was now being poured out in a full flood. Because He therein was able to express utter pity, entire selfabandonment, love that shrank from no surrender for the sake of the beloved, therefore to Him the Cross, which thus revealed the infinitude of His tenderness, was His glorifying. One can fancy a mother bending over her child, and shrinking from no pain or suffering, if only the child could by it understand the infinite depths of the mother's heart. And so Christ says to Himself: "I die, and then they will understand how I loved them." That was His idea of what glory is,— entire self-surrender, able to express itself to the uttermost in the giving up of life, and so to steal into men's hearts.

Then, again, the thought that the Cross glorifies Jesus rests upon the fact that Jesus recognized His death as the forth-putting of the mightiest power that He was able to wield. It we take anything but the highest (let me, for simple convenience, use the word —the evangelical) conception of Christ's death, I understand not how it could ever appear to Him as being His victory, and the strongest of the weapons that He wielded. Rather, surely, it must have seemed to Him, as it might have seemed to a Socrates or a John Huss, His definitive defeat, and His joining the ranks of the great multitude that had tried to help men and had failed. There is only one notion of what Christ's death was and is, that seems to me to focus, so to speak, with these words of my text. If in it the Lamb of God was taking away the sins of the world, then, and only then, as it seems to me, was it the climax of His work, and the very brightness of His glory. Mighty were His deeds of healing and of mercy, and mighty, with the might of gentleness, were His words of wisdom and penetrating rebuke. Mighty were the beams of radiance that streamed from His pure character, but mightiest of all are the forces which were brought into operation in humanity by that death which redeemed the world. This Samson slew more of the Philistine foes in His death than in His life; and at the moment, when, apparently, He was most powerless and manacled, He took the gates of the prison-house on His strong shoulders and bore them away, and set the oppressed free. Christ's death is the store-house of His power. The greatest of all the deeds that He did, He did when He died.

That death is His glorifying, inasmuch as it is His one means of winning men's hearts. If you take it out of His work, you de-magnetize Jesus, and He has no longer the attractive power which draws all men unto Him. So, because of its being His perfect selfrevelation, because of its being His most potent instrument, because of its being the secret of His charm to win men's hearts when its significance is rightly apprehended, He stood looking across the narrow cleft that separated Him from Calvary, and proclaimed: "Now is the Son of Man glorified."

Let me remind you, in one sentence, that He calls Himself here "the Son of Man." That Name means, whatever else it means, the realized ideal of humanity, and therefore the path that He trod is the path that we have to tread. "Glory "—let us understand what it is, not the vulgar thing that goes strutting about the world, and calls itself by that name. Flaunting sun-flowers and gaudy poppies are not so fair as the violet hiding below the stone, or as the pure white of the lily. If we seek for glory, let us learn that the highest glory is to forget self, and to surrender life for the blessing of others. That is the path by which Christ sought and found it, "leaving us an example that we should follow His steps."

Now turn to

II. The Son As Glorifying God. "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him." Does not that strike you as being the expression of a consciousness of union with God much more close than anything to which we can aspire? Does a man's virtue, however lustrous and radiant it may be, "glorify God," except in a roundabout fashion? But Jesus Christ here speaks as if His glorification was also, in a direct and immediate way, God's being glorified. Do the words not sound as if a world too wide for the facts, if Jesus was no more than one of ourselves, with no other or closer relation to God than the rest of us hold? To me I confess they cannot be freed from the charge of exaggeration, unless we come to the old faith: "the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us; and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only Begotten of the Father."

But I pass on to fix rather upon this one other thought, that according to our Lord's own conception of what His death meant, the world is to find in it the very chiefest, most brilliant outraying of the uncreated light of God. Is not that a tremendous claim for a man to make? Stars and sun pale their light, all the magnificences and subtleties of creative energy dwindle into comparative insignificance; even the voice by which God proclaims Himself in the depth of men's hearts is hushed as into silence. For those who seek to attain the truest and the loftiest idea of God, there is but one course to take—to turn away from Creation, with its inconceivable magnitudes and as inconceivable minutenesses, suns and microbes, and from Providence with its perplexities, from the intuitions of our own hearts, and the monitions of our own consciences, and to turn to that Cross. A strange embodiment of Divine power, or Divine wisdom, but not a strange embodiment of the infinite seeking love of the Father God, is that weak Man, dying there in the dark. As we look, if we are wise, we shall cry out with the prophet, though with a new application of his words: "Lo! this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us." God is glorified in Him, for in Him, and in His death rightly apprehended, there is a revelation of far more than the physical attributes, which are mainly the opposite of human limitations, and the transcendence of human conceptions. There is more than merely the attributes which declare purity of moral nature or righteousness of administration— these are the fringes of the brightness, but the central heart of it is the great message of the Cross, God is love. "He commendeth His love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

And so I come to the last of these three-fold glorifyings—

III. The Father As Glorifying The Son.

"He will glorify Him in Himself, and will straightway glorify Him." I cannot deal adequately with the great, though dim, thoughts which emerge from that utterance, but let me just suggest them to you very briefly. "God will glorify Him in Himself; "—take, for commentary another word of Christ's in that great intercessory prayer where He prays: "Glorify me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was," and again, when in language which singularly blends petition and authority, He asks: "I will that they also whom Thou hast given Me be with me . . . that they may behold My glory, which thou hast given me." Who can add anything to these words? Our comments would but weaken them, and our speech would sound thin and harsh in contrast with their mighty music, as a shepherd's reed is to the deep notes of a great organ. I only venture to put beside them another word from this Gospel: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God," and I beseech you to ponder on these great sayings. May they help us all to understand Who it was that went to His death, and what it was that His death did!

But then, notice further how here we get, in the very language of my text, a wonderful thought added to that of "the glory before the world was." For it is "the Son of Man" that is to be "glorified by the Father," and that means that the Jesus Who dwelt amongst men, our elder Brother, the bearer of our nature, is now "the first Begotten from the dead, and the Prince of all the kings of the earth," and "sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty." What the shekinah-cloud signified when it received into its lustrous folds the ascending Christ, and hid Him from the gaze of His disciples, was just that Man was encompassed with the radiance of God.

So, brethren, this vision of "the glory that should follow" united with His love and His pity to draw Jesus, with the whole consent of His heart, to the Cross, because through the gloom that wrapped it, He saw the light of the glory beyond. In like manner, since it is as the Son of man that He is glorified, if we follow Him, if we, too, count our glory to be utter self-surrender, if we are magnetized by the attraction of His Cross, if we yield to Him as thereby enthroned King of men, if we seek in our daily lives to glorify Him, and God through Him, then we, too, will be permitted, as is said of one of the Apostles, by our manner of death to glorify God, and we, too, are entitled, not indeed to make the glory that shall follow our supreme motive or impulse to lives of holiness and Christian service, but to encourage ourselves, in the midst of our difficulties, and to brace ourselves for any cross that may He before us, by having respect unto the Crown that is beyond the Cross.

If we take Christ for the glory of our lives, and use our lives for the glory of Christ, then we may humbly believe that the glory which the Father gave to Him, He, according to His own promise, will give to us, and that we shall sit down with Him on His throne, even as He overcame, and is set down with the Father on His throne.