“We have seen his glory.” Five simple words. These five words will change our life. These five words will change our life, forever. “We have seen his glory.”
For fifty-one years, Bob Edens was blind. Bob couldn’t see a darn thing. His world was a black hole. But Bob Edens graduated from Furman University. He got married and had a daughter. He even coached little league baseball. Through it all, Bob Edens was blind. Blind as a bat. He felt his way through five decades of darkness.
And then … he could see! Bob Edens could see! You see, a surgeon repaired a detached retina and performed a corneal transplant. For the first time in his life, Bob Edens could actually see! He found it overwhelming. “I never would have dreamed that yellow is so yellow. I can see the shape of the moon. I like nothing better than seeing a jet plane flying across the sky leaving a vapor trail. And of course, sunrises and sunsets. Those are my favorite colors … the orange and red.”
Let’s be honest with ourselves tonight. We all suffer from some kind of blindness. It’s amazing, isn’t it? Just because we witness a rainbow a 1,000 times doesn’t mean we’ve seen its beauty. We can plant a garden and fail to see the splendor of its flowers. And we can attend church, sing Christmas carols, feel faithful and festive, hold our candles and still never see him. We still never see Jesus.
Tonight, God invites us to see, to really see Jesus! John saw him. He writes in our text, “We have seen his glory.” John doesn’t say, “We glanced at, or we caught a glimpse of.” John doesn’t say, “We preview or we peeked.” John doesn’t stand at the back of the room or listen to someone describe Jesus. No, John pulls out his bifocals and binoculars. John gets out his telescope and his microscope. John focuses and fixes his eyes on Jesus. John sees Jesus.
And that’s what John wants for us tonight, he wants us to see Jesus. One of the theme’s in John’s gospel is seeing Jesus. John 1:29, John the Baptist says, “See, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” In John 1:46, Philip invites Nathaniel to see Jesus with these words, “Come and see.” The Samaritan woman at the well says in John 4:29, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did.” On Palm Sunday, John 12:15 says, “See, your King comes to you seated on a donkey.” On that same day, some Greeks come to Philip and say, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” On Easter morning in John 20:18, Mary is beside herself when she says to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!” But the blind man in John 9:25 says it best. He says … “I was blind but now I see.”
Jesus, the prophet from Galilee, who spoke with such thunderous authority and who loved with childlike humility. Jesus, the one who claimed to be older than time and greater than death. Jesus, the Alpha and the Omega, the Prince of Peace, the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Jesus, our Immanuel! All the splendor of God revealed in a human body. The doors to the throne room were open and God came near! God comes near in Jesus.
“We have seen his glory.” What’s that mean? “His glory”? Just what is his glory.
It’s probably not what you’re thinking it is. When we hear the word “glory”, most often we think of the beauty and the power and the majesty and the might. We think of Jesus walking on water. We think of Jesus feeding 5,000 with a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish. We think of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus healing the sick, cleansing the lepers and making crippled people whole. Christ’s glory must mean that he was always walking just an inch above the ground, right? Christ’s glory must mean that he was always emitting a glowing heavenly light, especially while lying in the manger, right? Wrong.
Dead wrong. In John’s Gospel, Christ’s supreme and ultimate glory is found in his suffering and death. How so? On Palm Sunday, with his face set like flint towards the cross, Jesus says in John 12:23, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” In the Upper room, right after Judas Iscariot leaves to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, Jesus says, “Now is the Son of Man glorified” (John 13:31). Just before his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus says in John 17:1, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son.” Do you get it? Christ’s glory in John’s Gospel is found in his bitter suffering and God-forsaken death.
There was a legionnaire’s whip of leather strips with lead balls on each end, beating his back beyond recognition. There was a crown of thorns leaving deep gashes in his head, caking his hair with blood. There were clenched fists deforming his face. And there were nails disfiguring his body as he twists and turns, writhing in pain.
Crucifixion was the worst type of punishment and death one could experience. Crucifixion was saved for the most heinous of criminals. Melito of Sardis, who lived in the second century AD famously wrote, “He who hung the earth in its place hangs there. He who fixed the heavens is fixed there, upon a tree. The Master has been insulted. God has been murdered.”
Being honest and moral doesn’t help me see him. Being religious and devout doesn’t help me see him. Trying harder and being more sincere doesn’t help me see him. It’s only when I understand that the cradle of Christmas points to the cross of Good Friday that I see Jesus. It’s only when I understand that the cradle of Christmas points to the cross of Good Friday that I see Jesus.
That’s because Christ’s greatest glory is to love us, to forgive us, and to come to us right where we are. He is the Jesus of the dying marriage. The Jesus of the divorced and the desperate. He is the Jesus of the bitterly broken. The Jesus of the soiled and the shame. He is the Jesus of those sickened by what they see going on in their life. Do you see him? Do you see Jesus?
You know … it wasn’t enough for the shepherds to see the angels. You’d think the angels would have been enough. The night sky filled with light. Stillness erupting in song. And angels! Real angels! A myriad of angels. Angels and archangels! … But that wasn’t enough. They left their sheep behind to go and search for Jesus! The shepherds wanted to see Jesus!
It wasn’t enough for the magi to see the star. Not that the star wasn’t spectacular. Not that the star wasn’t brilliant. But the star wasn’t enough. They saw the star over Bethlehem, but the magi wanted to see Jesus.
It wasn’t enough for Simeon to see the temple. Don’t get me wrong, Jerusalem’s temple was grand and glorious. It’s the place where priests sacrificed, kings reigned, and prophets preached. But the temple wasn’t enough … Simeon wanted to see the Lord’s Messiah, Simeon wanted to see Jesus.
Please, whatever you do … don’t settle for the angels in heaven, or the stars in the sky, or a temple in Jerusalem. Don’t settle for a tree with twinkling lights, a turkey, some toys, and a little tinsel. Seek the Savior like the shepherds. Worship him like the magi. Hold him tight like Simeon.
You know, the economy doesn’t faze Jesus. Elections don’t define him. Diseases don’t derail him. Problems don’t surprise him. And death will never, death will never defeat him.
If you can’t find the power to face your problems, it’s time to face him. If you’re overwhelmed with shame and sadness, it’s time to take a look. If you need a Savior from sin, a Friend who loves you at all times, and a Redeemer who restores and renews … friends, it’s time to open your eyes this night and join the faithful in saying …
“We have seen his glory!” Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our newborn king, now and forever. Amen.