Wow. I just love the way John wrote that first chapter of his gospel, where he introduces the Word: creator, life, light – the Word that “became flesh and dwelt among us,” (John 1: 14a) pitched his tent right in the middle of our lives.
What caught my attention follows the famous “dwelt among us” phrase:
…and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1: 14b
Here’s what struck me. When I think of “glory,” words like weightiness, majesty, dazzling come to mind. Not “grace” and “truth.”
When I think of God’s glory, I think of scenes like Isaiah 6: 1-3:
… I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim… And one called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”
My handy dandy ESV Study Bible points out that Grace and Truth are Greek equivalents of the Hebrew Steadfast Love or Lovingkindness (also translated Mercy) and Faithfulness. (I blogged about those attributes here.)
Those two words are constantly used in the Old Testament to describe our covenant-keeping God. When Moses asked God to reveal His glory, God “passed by” and then gave him the 10 Commandments. God then described Himself to Moses:
The Lord passed before [Moses] and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.… Exodus 34: 6-7
So, when John talks about Jesus’ glory revealed in His grace and truth, any listening Jew would recognize that God’s glory is similarly revealed in the fact that He was faithful to Israel – even when the nation was not – and that He abounded in steadfast love towards His people – especially when they didn’t deserve it. They might just get the point that Jesus was God!
And if the Jews listened to the next phrase in the Exodus passage (and thought about what John wrote about Jesus), they’d remember God’s promise to “forgive iniquity and transgression and sin.”
God’s glory as revealed in Jesus wasn’t the high and mighty version of God (Jesus was on the throne before he took of the robe and came to pitch His tent with us…), but it was the gracious and truthful God who kept his loving covenant.
This reminds me of one other time John talks about God’s glory. It’s when he quotes Jesus’ Last Supper prayer (known as the High Priestly Prayer):
… Jesus … lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. John 17:1-5
Jesus’ glory was not displayed on throne, but on a Cross. God kept his covenant and loved us on the Cross. All the covenant promises were fulfilled in Jesus.
So that we could be forgiven, so that we could have eternal life.
So when I think of revealing God’s glory, I’m going to start thinking of living in a way that reveals His grace, mercy, lovingkindness, truth, and faithfulness. I’m going to reveal it especially in the way I show love and faithfulness to other Christians, through my unity with them.
Jesus’ prayer tells us as much:
The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one. John 17: 22
Dear Lord: Help me to think more often about how I reveal Your glory (or not) every day. And help me to do it like Jesus did, with grace and truth. Amen.