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Sermon : Sodom and Gomorrah

The Throne of the Cross: The Glorification of Jesus

John 12:32 has Jesus explaining to us a second reason for His death. That is to say, Jesus explains His exaltation as being a lifting up from the earth to draw all men to Himself. Indeed, the unknowing and unsuspecting prophet, Caiaphas, says much to this same effect in 11:51-52: Jesus will die for not only the Jews 'but also the scattered people of God, to bring them together and make them one.' For the Fourth Evangelist, the seamless garment of Jesus takes on a special significance to that effect. Most often, the words are rendered as 'tunic,' which was a long garment worn next to the skin.33 It is called a garment 'without seam, from top to bottom woven through,' would have been a highly unusual garment, or at the least one of very high quality.34 Some have said that it is the type of garment characteristic of the Galilean poor, therefore displaying Jesus' poverty; however, it may also be a reference to that of the garment of the high priest, which was an ankle length article, made from one long woven cloth.35 Most, on the other hand, propose it to be symbolic of unity, so that this garment without a seam is not torn, therefore denoting the unity among Jesus' followers.36 One might think of 1 Kings 11:30-31, where Ahijah tears his cloak into twelve pieces to represent the rending of the united kingdom from Solomon. Thus, John may be proposing the idea that the Romans could not tear apart what belonged to Jesus.

It is in the Fourth Gospel that the church is portrayed as having been born from the event of the crucifixion. To be sure, in comparison the Synoptic Gospels, there are no disciples present - that is, no disciples left - at the time of Jesus' crucifixion. However, in John there are two figures mentioned: Mary and the Beloved Disciple. While these are real people, John may be more interested in the symbolism of their presence.37 From the cross, the dying Jesus leaves His mother as the mother of the Beloved Disciple, so that the Disciple is now her son, and therefore Jesus' brother. In this way, Jesus has symbolically created a family, thereby establishing the birthplace of the church at the foot of the cross.38 As Jesus breathes His last from on His throne, He releases His spirit, and hands it over to the church in a symbolic anticipation of His first acts during His resurrection.39 In this metaphorical manner, the cross is depicted as the creating and uniting of the church which will follow after Jesus' resurrection.

The reader of the Fourth Gospel can plainly see that Jesus is not an ordinary historical figure, but indeed God's Chosen and Sent One who is to save the world from its sin and reconcile it to God. The author goes to very great and specific lengths to emphasise Jesus' authority and divinity. Unlike that of the Synoptics', Jesus' death is not one of a victim, but instead one of a triumphant king. Where the other Gospels mark Jesus' death with external signs, the death of Jesus in the Gospel of John has the signs in the body of Jesus itself, such as the pierced side.40 The death of Jesus is not seen as a pacifying of divine displeasure, but instead is the means of delivering the world from sin, looking in the last resort to God to perform this needed deliverance.41 Humanity is bound by evil, and this enslavement is to end with the 'lifting up' of Jesus, which will thereby lead all people to the Father through this crucifixion death.42

In this way, with the completion of Jesus' manifesting of God through not only His life but especially His death, the world has possibility to be reconciled to the Father. For if the world is to be gathered out of the world and brought into communion with God, this can only be accomplished by the removal of what inhibits that communion, and the death of Jesus is the glorification that demonstrates God's love for the world (John 3:16).43 This death then is the means by which Jesus enters His glory - it is the glorifying of the Son. The death was glory because it was such a majestic act of God, for it drew men in such a way that His life could not.

[by ericjordan]
  1. Brown, Death, 955.
  2. Ibid., 956.
  3. Ibid., 956-957.
  4. Ibid., 957.
  5. Brown, Crucified Christ, 64.
  6. Ibid., 65.
  7. Ibid., 66.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Lee, Religious Thought, 179.
  10. Crane, Message, 92.
  11. Lee, Religious Thought, 176.