Wednesday, 2 May 2007

the glory of God John 13 27-35

It was night. Last week it was winter, now it is night. Sometimes John is sparing with his words. It is often when what he has to say is most poignant. Judas has slipped out of supper to do what he had to do. The sun has gone down on his wrath and under the cover of darkness he did what he did because his deed was evil and he preferred darkness rather than light. Judas gets a bad press in John. He steals from the bag and allows Satan into his heart. In a narrative that makes so much of the symbolism of darkness and light the words “it was night” are profoundly chilling.

And yet that awful brief phrase (just seven characters in the Greek) is immediately trumped. Now at that moment as Judas is betraying him; now at that moment of deepest night; now at that moment that Satan has penetrated into the heart of one of Jesus’s closest followers; the glory of God is most clearly revealed. Five times in 33 words we read that God is glorified. Of course darkness cannot obliterate light. It can only reveal it. Only light can destroy light. In Portugal on the feast of the Assumption in the middle of August fireworks are launched into the height of the noontide sky. They explode with deafening bangs but leave only whispy smoke trails across the brilliant sky. When the sun goes down, they career across the inky velvet of the star spangled heavens, showering spectacular reins of amber and balls of green, blue, red and silver and gold. Against the lowering clouds of Caiaphas’s judgment the triple rainbow arch of God’s mercy sparkles more spectacularly than at any other point of human history.

There has been some controversy about the atonement recently; what is the glory of God? It is certainly not his wrath. Jesus tells his disciples clearly where the glory is revealed. “Love one another.” It may be new it may be radical it may not seem to match perfectly what they understand by atonement but this is the truth that Pilate and all politicians and lawyers like him find so elusive. The darkness of a betrayal, the darkness of a lynching, the darkness of unjust trial, the darkness of a cynical political trade, the darkness of a crucifixion: they extend the love of God and man to the furthest limits of their elasticity. The love of Peter for his Lord might snap relatively early in the piece, but the love of Jesus for his mother survives and the love of God for the whole human race shines in glory from pole to pole across that eclipsed earth.

So, if you want to demonstrate the glory of God in your living, look to me in my dying, Jesus says. Forgiving, healing love is the glory of God. Live his glory in all your relationships.

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