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Sermon : Sodom and Gomorrah

The Throne of the Cross: The Glorification of Jesus

For John, the death is absolutely necessary. That is, the crucifixion is the purpose of Jesus' coming and is therefore an inevitability so that all the events prior are a leading up to this moment of triumph. While there are hints of this in the Synoptics, such as the Gospel of Mark where none of Jesus' actions can fully be understood unless under the shadow of the cross, none of them are as deliberately focused as John is. In 2:4, Jesus makes the first reference to this mysterious 'hour' that is approaching, and which 'hour' is alluded to as unavoidable. A number of similar expressions are subsequently scattered throughout the book, illustrating Jesus' movement toward a particular destination and along a specific path. The picture of the wheat kernel in 12:24 presents the principle of life through death by which Jesus is operating, and God in fact has appeared to deem as necessity. With the verse prior to this, Jesus finally declares that the hour to which everything has led, to which Jesus has ultimately been moving has finally arrived. This hour is of course not a sixty minute period, but a figurative depiction of the time at which Jesus is to pass through suffering and be glorified.3

In comparison to the Synoptic accounts, there are astounding differences in the Gospel of John that are often overlooked for they have all been blurred together through the tradition of reading the texts in parts and as well in a mixture of Scripture. Indeed, Jesus in John is always in control, always omniscient, and therefore cannot be caught off guard by what will and is occurring to Him.4 Correspondingly, nowhere in the Fourth Gospel is Jesus said to have fallen prostrate in the dust of the night praying that the hour and the cup be taken from Him, but Jesus explicitly in fact rejects the prayer that would ask the Father to save Him from the hour (12:27),5 and states that it is for this very hour that He has come - so that the Father's name may be glorified (12:28).

Furthermore, instead of being surprised, such as in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus goes out to meet Judas and the arresting party. Indeed, some commentaries hesitate to even name the scene at the garden with the title of 'arrest' for the events are dominated by initiatives Jesus takes.6 The Passion, therefore, begins only because Jesus allows it to begin by such acts as giving Himself up and rebuking Peter for ignorantly attempting to thwart God's designs.7 Jesus, in the Passion events, is the only person who fully knows and understands what is happening, even though many of the other characters may believe that they do; however, each fail to comprehend the divine reality of it.8 Thus, there is not even a suspenseful struggle between that of good and evil, as there at times appears to be in the Synoptic accounts, for the 'forces of evil' have no power at all over Jesus,9 who is the Shining Light which the darkness can neither understand nor overcome (1:4).

Accordingly, Jesus is fully aware of His identity - of whom and what He is.10 His pre-existence is something of which He appears to be conscious of.11 This pre-existence of the Son gives an essential superiority to Jesus, so that His place in relation not only to God is special and unique, but also His place in relation to the world, and involves a declaration of sovereignty.12 It might be said that the Son - that is, Jesus - is not yet in possession of the divine Lordship, however, Jesus' pre-existence is the pre-condition of His one day receiving that distinction, that majesty.13 Therefore, since Jesus is indeed aware of His status, His being, He is consequently also aware, as 17:5 affirms, that through His death He is returning to a state that He has temporarily left during His incarnation.14 Thus, for the Fourth Evangelist, the humiliation that Jesus was subject to was not in His crucifixion, but in fact was in the act of His 'enfleshing.'

Certainly, Jesus' death is not so much a humiliating for John, but instead is actually a 'lifting up.' While the Synoptics present Jesus as implying or perhaps even directly declaring that it is after His death that He will be exalted to the throne of power and glory, for the Gospel of John Jesus' suffering and death is in fact His glorification, and not in any way preliminary to it.15 Thus, the Synoptics present Jesus as having a sort of reversal of roles, so that the Passion and resurrection is a story of humiliation followed by exaltation, thereby subscribing to a Christology that is a combination of low and high.16 However, John's Christology is consistently high, for Jesus is never any less than the Word and the Son of God, and is constantly presented as being one with and at the side of the Father.17 Indeed, the Book of Glory, which begins with Jesus declaring that His hour has finally come, is the presentation of Jesus' triumphal procession to the Cross, the place of His royal enthronement, and not of Jesus' failure and feeble submission to the role of the Suffering Servant.18 Jesus is not resigned to His fate so that He prays for it to pass from Him like in the other Gospel accounts, but He in fact is somewhat eager to begin, having full control of each situation that comes, understanding and knowing what His fate will ultimately be, thereby facing the end with eloquence and strength. Jesus is going to return to the Father; He is to be lifted up in exaltation.

  1. Ibid., 93.
  2. Raymond E. Brown, A Crucified Christ in Holy Week: Essays on the Four Gospels' Passion Narratives (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1986), 57.
  3. Ibid., 58.
  4. Francis J. Moloney, Glory Not Dishonor: Reading John 13-21 (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1998), 129.
  5. Ibid., 131.
  6. Crane, Message, 93.
  7. Brown, Crucified Christ, 57.
  8. Crane, Message, 88.
  9. Brown, Crucified Christ, 57.
  10. Walter Kenneth, The Theology of the Resurrection (St. Louis, MS: Concordia Publishing House, 1951), 121.
  11. Ibid., 121-122.
  12. Brown, Crucified Christ, 57.
  13. Edwin Kenneth Lee, The Religious Thought of St. John (London: SPCK, 1962), 145.
  14. Crane, Message, p.108.
  15. Ibid., 108-109.
  16. Ibid., 105.