10.30am Holy Communion 15th May 2022
Now the Son of Man has been glorified
At the climax of the football season the word ‘glory’ is scattered liberally across the sports pages of the newspapers, and rightly so, since the winning of cups and titles at the highest level of the game is the result of amazing skill, single-minded commitment and teamwork over many months and even years. The winners deserve their moment of glory.
A couple of days ago there was a more modest account of a moment of glory in the Guardian, which told the story of Igor Pedin, a Ukrainian aged 61, who arrived recently in Zaporizhzhia, after walking and hitch-hiking 140 miles from his bombed-out home in Mariupol, with Zhu-Zhu his 9-year old mongrel terrier, through a war zone under Russian control. When he told his story to the volunteer in the reception tent, she shouted out: ‘this man has come from Mariupol on foot’. Everyone stopped, and Igor recalls his reaction: I suppose it was my moment of glory,
We read this morning John’s account of the moment when Jesus knew that the hour of his destiny had arrived. He saw it as his moment of glory – now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. The astonishing thing is that it was triggered not by the crowds which had cheered him on as he entered Jerusalem, but by the quiet exchange of words and gestures with Judas Iscariot, which has just taken place. Jesus knows who is poised to betray him, but he makes one last offer. It is to Judas that he hands the special piece of bread dipped in the common dish. Judas takes it, but he does not accept the offer of love and fellowship which is implicit in it. On the contrary, he gets up to leave, making for the door as he withdraws from the intimate circle of friends around the common dish, and Jesus, who knows what Judas is planning to do, asks him to do it quickly. He opens the door, and John, who was lying next to Jesus at the table, remembers seeing Judas silhouetted against the darkness outside the room, as he passes definitively from the light to the darkness, from the circle of love and friendship around Jesus into his own dark world of self-imposed isolation and despair. As John remembers the opening and closing of that door, he writes: ‘And it was night’ (John 13.30).
We might suppose that Jesus would respond to Judas’ departure with a long silence, or even a sigh of regret, anticipating the grief that he would later pour out in agonised prayer to His Father, but not a bit of it. In John’s memory of that night, this is the moment when Jesus definitively faces, affirms and embraces the glory of his destiny:
Now the Son of Man has been glorified and God has been glorified in him.
Jesus has come to Jerusalem for the Passover, knowing that his presence is likely to precipitate the crisis that will lead to his death. He may well not have known how events would unfold, but in this moment, as Judas goes out into the night, he knows that the die is cast. He knows that he will now be betrayed, arrested, and condemned to death. He faces the grim prospect of a cruel and gruesome death, yet he sees by faith the glory which will shine in the darkness as he fulfils the very purpose of his life on earth.
As Judas, consumed by the evil that has taken possession of his soul, opens the door to the dramatic final chapter, Jesus rejoices in the glory of God’s Love that is about to be revealed. He knows what it will cost him to work with his Father to deliver that glorious vision. But God’s love knows no bounds. Noone has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. And he sums up the example which he is about to set in the new commandment which he gives to his disciples. They should show the same love to one another as he has shown to them. That is how others will know that they – and of course we – are his disciples.
Usually when people speak of their moment of glory, it is their own glory that they have in mind. That is what touched Igor Pedin. He had just done, with dogged determination, what he felt he had to do. He had not thought of himself as a hero until his arrival was greeted with such enthusiasm. Only then did he experience his moment of glory, but it was his moment.
What is it that gives such moments their special aura? I think it has something to do with being caught up in a cause bigger than our own achievement. The glory of the sportsman or woman is in part at least the glory of the team and even of the sport itself. Igor’s moment of glory reflects that of the Ukrainian people who refuse to be crushed. The glory which caused Jesus to exult as he approached the culmination of his ministry on earth was not just his own glory but the glory he shared with his Father, the glory of the Divine Love which is the Light of Heaven.
Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in Him (John 13.31).
That is, I suggest, the glory of God’s love in which any one of us can be caught up. When we are challenged to embrace our destiny in God’s name, whatever that destiny may be, we too can be confident – as Jesus was, as Peter learned to be – that the glory of God will be revealed. Our destiny, like his, may not look like glory. It may wear the face of conflict, of failure or trouble or sickness. To Peter it looked like a risky abandonment of the religious rules in which he had been brought up. For those who are caught up in war, as we see every day in the news, destiny may even wear the face of death, as far too many brave men and women in Ukraine know all too well. But if our response to whatever life throws at us expresses that love for one another which God has shown to us, that love which we know in Jesus, then in our moment of destiny, our moment of glory, the glory of God will be revealed.
In that spirit, our moment of glory becomes part of the triumph which we celebrate at Easter as we proclaim with confidence, in the face of all that is evil: Christ has died but Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia.Print This Page