This sermon is offered by the CRCNA as part of our Reading Sermons series.
Scripture: John 1:1-18
Sermon by Rev. Johannes Schouten
Dear people of God,
Who is Jesus? Who is Jesus to you? What words would you use to describe Jesus? Is he someone of whom you would say "he is glorious," or "he is brilliant," or "he is majestic"? Are you someone who could say, "When I see Jesus I see the glory of God"?
Those are the kinds of questions that verse 14 of John 1 is leading us to think about. But before we get to this verse, let’s ask two questions about the gospel of John.
First of all, why does John write his gospel? What’s his purpose? Toward the end of his gospel John tells us what his purpose is:
“Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31)
It is sort of like John is saying to us:
"I am working hard to write, tell, share, and show you all these things about Jesus (more could be said, of course, because Jesus did many more things than I could tell you about in one book) so that you, my readers, might come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that through believing this, you might have life through Him."
Notice the progression: (1) Telling the story of Jesus leads to (2) faith which leads to (3) eternal life.
And this is a wonderful goal. It is a wonderful goal for John’s gospel and is a great goal for a church, a marriage, a family, or even a friendship. It is a good goal for us this morning as well. We could say of this worship service: "We gathered together this morning so that having seen Jesus, we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that through believing this, we might have life in his name."
Would it not be wonderful if some us, after having heard and seen the story of Jesus, left this service with fresh faith in Jesus, the kind of faith that leads to eternal life?! Or would it not be wonderful if others of us, having heard and seen the story of Jesus, left this service strengthened and encouraged to keep on believing in Jesus with the kind of persevering faith that leads to eternal life?
A second question we want to ask this morning about the gospel of John is: How is this faith fostered? What does John do to foster this faith?
In short, John does what the other gospel writers (Matthew, Mark and Luke) do: he tells the story of Jesus. And in his telling he shows us Jesus. And as he shows us Jesus he shows us the glory of God. For example, John shows us Jesus turning water into wine (John 2:1-11). He shows us Jesus cleansing the temple (John 2:12-25). Jesus is seen healing a man born blind (John 9:1-12). John reveals that Jesus fed 5,000 (John 6:1-15). He shows us the teachings and words of Jesus, teachings and words that show us who Jesus is: "I am the bread of life" (John 6:35); "I am the good Shepherd" (John 10:11); "I am the way, the truth and the life" (John 14:6). John shows us Jesus serving his disciples as he washes their feet (John 13:1-17). He shows us the death of Jesus (John 19). He shows us the resurrection of Jesus (John 20). John also shows us people whose eyes are opened to seeing the glory of God in Jesus: the two walking to Emmaus (John 20:10-18), and the disciples huddled together at the end of the gospel (John 20:19-23), and Thomas seeing Jesus (John 20:24-31).
John tells and shares and shows this wonderful story of Jesus so that something will happen - so that people will see Jesus and they will see the glory of God in Jesus. John tells the story of Jesus so that his readers might see the glory of Jesus, the Son of God. And that through this seeing, they would believe and that through this believing they would have eternal life.
The method, and its progression - a showing which leads to faith which leads to life - is wonderful. I wonder if we could say that we are using such a method in this church? Are we, in our various ministries (e.g. Alpha, Children’s Church, Sunday morning services, Youth Ministry, Bible Studies, Small Groups, Coffee Break, etc., etc.) telling and teaching the story of Jesus so that something might be seen - namely that the glory of God might be seen?
Again, as a quick review, this is the way it happens in John’s gospel and in our lives:
(1) people are shown the glory of Jesus through the telling about Jesus. This showing of glory leads to
(2) faith in Jesus which, in turn, leads to
(3) eternal life.
This progression sums up the method of John’s gospel, the Bible and Christian ministry.
Now having looked at some general things about the gospel of John we want to focus some time on a phrase from verse 14: "…we have seen his glory…"
We should begin by noting that the "seeing" that John is talking about in this verse is not a "quick peak" or a "sneak peak." When John is talking about "seeing" the glory of Jesus he is talking about "gazing upon" Jesus. He is talking about a long, sustained look at Jesus. John has spent three or three and a half years watching and seeing Jesus. John has had time to intensely look at Jesus. He has fixed his eyes on Jesus. And as he has fixed his eyes on Jesus, something has happened. Glory has been seen.
The "glory" that John is referring to is the glory that he has seen while Jesus preached, taught, healed, served, died, rose from the dead and ascended to heaven. Some words that we might use to define this glory are words like "brilliance" or "beauty" or "majesty." The Greek work that John uses is the word "doxa" (from which we get the word "doxology"). The "doxa" or the brilliance, beauty, and majesty of God, John confesses, is found in Jesus.
And as John talks about "glory" he is evoking some strong Old Testament images. One of them is found in Exodus 33:18 when Moses asks to see the glory of God. Another reference is found in Exodus 40:34 where the glory of God, in the form of a cloud, settles on the tabernacle. This glory that Moses wants to sees and that settles on the tabernacle is the glory, or the "kavode," or God. This Hebrew word, "kavode," can be translated "glory" or "weight." In reference to John 1:14 John is making a strong link to these Old Testament passages when he says in the same verse: first Jesus "dwelt" (or "tabernacled") among us and "we have seen his glory (doxa, kavode)." As Jesus dwelt among us we have seen in him the glory of God.
And so this small phrase "we have seen his glory" is about gazing at Jesus. This phrase is about the glory God shown in Jesus. This phrase is also a statement of faith. And just like other statements of faith it is both objective and subjective. Thus, Jesus is the "glory of God." That is real, true, objective. But it also a subjective statement because it arises from John’s own experience: "we have seen his glory."
This description of faith is much different than the one we might typically think of. Sometimes we think of faith as a kind of cerebral event. We agree that certain beliefs about God and about Jesus are correct.
John’s statement in verse 14 goes a lot further than that. When John says "we have seen His glory" he is saying that Jesus is glorious. Jesus is glorious and brilliant like the sun. And just like people marvel at the sun, so those who see Jesus marvel at his majesty. And just as the sun is so strong that it is pulls in Mercury, Venus, Saturn and even the dwarf planet Pluto so the glory of Jesus is pulling John, and others, into his orbit. Jesus, the glorious Messiah, the stunning Son of God, is so brilliant, so marvelous, so beautiful, so bright, so enthralling, that John is pulled in, attracted to what, and especially, who He sees.
As we think about what John does in his gospel (just to review: (1) showing the glory of Jesus in order that (2) faith might happen in order that (3) people might have life) it is interesting to notice the relationship between glory (part 1) and faith (part 2) in the gospel of John.
First of all, in order to believe, one needs to see glory in Jesus. This is quite evident from John 2:11. This verse comes at the conclusion of the miracle of turning water into wine. As a way of concluding this miraculous story John writes, "This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him" (John 2:11).
The verse tells us that the glory of Jesus revealed in this miracle leads to faith. The glory of God is seen in the miracles, the teachings, words, and actions of Jesus. The glory of God is seen in the death and resurrection of Jesus. And all of this revealed glory is meant to lead to faith. If you are you someone who does not see something glorious in Jesus, you do not believe in Jesus. If you do not see something glorious in Jesus, and you do not believe, you will not have life.
Who, this morning, needs to hear this word? Who this morning needs to see the glory of God in Jesus, in order to believe, in order to have life?
We also we notice a second relationship between faith and glory: faith leads to seeing more glory. This is evident in the story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 11). Let us look at 6 short phrases from this story to set up the relationship of faith that leads to seeing more glory.
As the story of Lazarus begins we read that when Jesus heard about the news of his sick and dying friend "…he stayed where he was two more days..." (11:6). This is quite fascinating to read. Instead of running to the aid of His friend Jesus intentionally stays where he is two more days. In a sense Jesus wants Lazarus to die because He knows something greater than healing is going to happen.
When Jesus finally arrives on the scene in Bethany we read that both of Lazarus’ sisters, Martha and Mary, say to Jesus: "Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died" (11:21, 32). This actually sounds like faith! Both of the sisters have some faith in Jesus because they have undoubtedly seen some of Jesus’ glory. They have seen Jesus heal people and thus they have seen some glory. They believe if Jesus would have been present their brother would not have died.
In response to Martha’s statement of faith Jesus says: "I am the resurrection and the life" (11:25). By saying this it is like Jesus is "upping the ante." It is like He says: "Yes, I can heal sick people but let me tell you something even more glorious: I can raise the dead. I am the resurrection and the life!"
Then, again, in response to this statement of Jesus, Martha says: "I believe that you are the Messiah…" (11:27). I hear in these words more faith. "I believe that you are the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed," says Martha. So she, along with her sister Mary, believes in Jesus. Their faith is evident.
But as the story nears its conclusion, Jesus says to Martha and Mary: "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" (11:40). Now what do you think Jesus meant by this? It would seem that we have witnessed faith already! I think what Jesus means to say to these sisters is this: "If you continue to believe, if you persevere in your faith in me, you will see more of the glory! You will see even more of the glory of God!"
And that is exactly what happens! Jesus, with all the glorious strength and authority of the Son of God, says to the dead man: "Lazarus, come out!" (11:43). And the dead man walks.
Jesus is saying: "Yes, I can heal. Yes, I can perform miracles. Yes, I can feed 5,000+ people. But let me show you the greater glory: I can raise the dead!"
Persevering faith leads to seeing more of the glory of God in Jesus.
Who this morning needs to know this? Who this morning needs to know that more persevering faith will lead to seeing more of the glory of Jesus?
For all of us - newly believing or long believing, those struggling with faith or in a glorious season of fresh faith - let this be the cry of our lives: "We have seen His glory!"
We Come Together To Meet Our God
Call to Worship: Psalm 100
*Hymn Of Preparation: 239 “Amid The Thronging Worshipers”
*God’s Greeting: "May the grace and peace of God our Father and of our Lord Jesus Christ be on us. Amen."
*We Greet Each Other
*Hymn of Praise: 241 “This Is The Day”
We Are Reconciled With God And Each Other
Psalm of Confession: Psalm 51
Hymn of Confession: 267 “And Can It Be”
Assurance of Pardon: Psalm 32
Hymn of Assurance: 479 “I Will Sing Of My Redeemer”
How God Wants Us to Live: Hymnal, pg. 1017
Together We Hear God’s Message
*Sermon Hymn: # 183 “With Grateful Heart My Thanks I Bring”
Prayer For Illumination
Scripture: John 1:1-18
Text: John 1:14
Sermon: “We Have Seen His Glory”
We Respond To God’s Message
*Hymn of Response: #499 “My God, How Wonderful You Are”
We Support God’s Work In Our Ministries
We Are Sent To Serve God Together
*God’s Blessing: “May the Lord bless and keep us. May the Lord lift up His face to us and be gracious to us. May the Lord lift up His countenance toward us and give all of us peace. Amen”
*Closing Hymn of Praise: # 320 “Lord Dismiss Us With Your Blessing”