Father, Glorify Your Son
What must we pray and seek in the hour of trial? If sorrows engulf, duty presses, and afflictions sift, what should your heart be craving? How can we endure the “valley of the shadow of death,” the night of pain, the steady approach of the hour of death, the ascendance of the wicked, and the humiliation of the saints, which though temporary, is a bitter cross to bear? What can lift the soul in the worst moments of life to a higher plane of peace and joy, hope and courage to move forward when forward means hardship and suffering? Let us follow our Lord to such an hour and to such a place. Consider the opening lines of his prayer in John 17, with the cross before him, faithless friends about to flee, and a roaring devil.
As he begins his prayer, he lifts up his eyes to heaven. He had eyes like you and me. He saw sorrow and trouble. Because he resisted sin unto death (Heb. 12:3), he knew the full strength of temptation, felt the full weight of grief, and learned the cost of full obedience. He plumbed the depths, in our flesh, of our fallenness, our rebellious world, our awful death. He is able and willing to help us. We have his promise.
His eyes saw something facing him that night that you and I cannot fathom and will never see. He saw the cross before him. He saw judgment before him, not the possibility of suffering, a haunting dread of an uncertain future. No, he had come to “the hour.” He was about to become the offering for our sin. No hand from heaven would stay the knife raised to slay him. No rivers of sorrow or bloody sweat or pleading would deliver him from that hour. The sword of divine justice would strike him down. He saw it vividly. He was unhinged by it, driven to the earth with the weight of it.
But he lifted his eyes to heaven. There was no other helper for him but his Father. He always lived before the face of his Father, and in an acutely painful sense, he knew that heaven would not, could not deliver him from this hour. He would experience sin’s judicial, bitter separation from God. Love must satisfy justice for love to be just. He must descend into hell and be surrounded with its sorrows (Ps. 18:5) to deliver us from evil. No, the hour could not be avoided. A little earlier, he had said about this hour, “Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour” (John 12:27).
As he arrives at the hour, he prayed, “Father, glorify your Son.” To carnal sense, it might seem that more glory would come by the Father sending legions of angels, destroying the tyrannical, idolatrous Romans, ending the crushing regime of the apostate Jewish leadership, and erecting an earthly kingdom of splendor for all. Our Savior rejected this version of glory, for it was not glory at all, but Satan’s imitation of glory. The glory Jesus sought was for the Father to glorify his Son through the cross.
God was glorified uniquely by the cross. Upon that stake truth and justice, peace and righteousness met and kissed. God was glorified by humbling his Son, his Beloved Son, by striking him down in place of sinners. God’s grace was glorified, his mercy exalted, his righteousness upheld, his love triumphant, all by the cross. Jesus knew the plan; he was part of the plan from all eternity. He asks to be glorified by being given strength to endure his soul being made an offering for sin. He would be glorified as our Mediator by doing as we should have done – obeying the Father. It is a strange request – to be glorified by the cross, and also by the resurrection and exaltation to follow. In the Son’s glory, eternal life would be given to all God’s children (v. 2). To know God as our Father, to see his grace and love in the marred face and bloody back and nail-pierced hands, this is glory. It is the glory of Jesus Christ that he laid down his life for us and now gives eternal life to all who look to him.
We should pause here regularly. It is incredible mercy that we are allowed to hear this prayer and see the love between Father and Son, and the glory of their love in the Son’s obedience unto death and the Father’s receiving his Son’s offering and raising him from the dead. The Father has glorified his Son, for he laid down his life and opened the wells of salvation. He finished his work given to him by the Father. He has been received up into heaven, all things in subjection to him, ruling in the midst of his enemies, gathering all his sheep into one fold, and bringing salvation to the ends of the earth. The Father answered his prayer. He is “exalted, extolled, and very high,” as promised (Isa. 52:11). If we could see him now – and how faith strains for a glimpse – on the throne of his glory, his prayer answered, his kingdom secured, his glory and fellowship with his Father restored, our souls would be at peace in our dark hours.
For as it is with our Head and Savior, so it must be with us. He is glorified, and so we must be. We must sit on thrones (Rev. 20:4), be transformed into glory (1 Cor. 15:49; 2 Cor. 3:18), bear the weight of eternal glory (2 Cor. 4:17), see the glory of God fully in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6). Do you not know, believer, that whatever your earthly circumstances and prospects, you are already raised and seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Eph. 2:5-6)? That your trials are working glory for you, if you look not at the temporary and difficult but at the eternal and the glorious God and Savior (2 Cor. 4:18)? It is true that we do not know what we shall be (1 John 3:1-2), but already we enjoy an access to glory, a growing likeness to glory, and strength in glory of which the world knows nothing.
But this glory is so hidden as to be practically worthless, some may say. Look at Jesus as he prayed. Look at him in Gethsemane. Look at him upon the cross. No glory to be seen there, but a curse – and yet, look again. Glory approaching, glory descending into the abyss to redeem sinners, glory yielding to the will of God and drinking the bitterest dregs of suffering. Glory is not what the fallen think it is. Glory, weightiness, is the majesty, grace, love of God revealed, carried by trust and obedience, followed into the darkest places of trial and suffering because he leads us there.
And even in these dark hours, we can have a taste of our Savior’s hope, his anticipated glory, his strength and grace, as we learn to pray, “Father, glorify your Son.” But take seriously that the glory for which he prayed must pass through the cross. It was self-effacing, self-emptying, obedient to the will of his Father. Our Savior’s prayer was not as our prayers often imply, “Glorify me so that everyone will see how right I am, how worthy and good.” His prayer was not, “Glorify me so I can have the life I want, my husband love me as I need, my boss recognize and reward my talents, a full bank account, pressures gone.” No, his prayer was, “Father, glorify your Son, so that I may glorify you.”
We have less strength in life, less hope in trials, less courage before man’s threats and Satan’s roaring because we have such low views of the glory of Jesus Christ and such low desires for him to be glorified. When was the last time we honestly, seriously, fervently prayed, “Father, glorify Jesus Christ in these present difficulties. Whatever happens to me and my family, whatever I must endure, whatever men think of me, glorify your Son. Glorify him so that he may glorify you.” It is altering to pray in this fashion. The entire perspective of the day, of life is changed, of problems, vaccine mandates, government tyranny, economic lockdowns, when we pray not first for deliverance, not first for relief, not first for fire to fall from heaven upon evildoers, but first for glory, for Jesus Christ to be glorified. His prayer to be glorified in the shadow of the cross alters us. It reorients our faith toward glory, the eternal, the centrality of God’s glory, and our highest and chief end, as well as highest joy and peace – the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
In glorifying his Son, the Father is glorified. This is the reason the Son of God as our Mediator prayed to be glorified – so that he might glorify his Father. And we must practice our Savior’s reason for glory. “Father, glorify Jesus in us, so that he might glorify you, so that your love and strength and faithfulness are glorified. Help us not so that we can be relieved from frustration but so that your Son is glorified as our Mediator, and therefore your keeping grace in him is magnified.” Let us learn to pray for our Savior to be glorified in us, in all we do, in enduring difficulty and hardship for his name’s sake, finishing our work, loving our families, and speaking his truth. Father, glorify your Son, so that you may be glorified. It is a wondrous circle of glory to which we are invited. We see it dimly now, and John 17:1 is but a spark of it. One day, there will only be glory.