Worship Leads To Witness (Part 1)
Updated: Nov 15
Everyone seeks glory in something. It may be work performance, social status, our children's achievements, athletic ability, intellectual aptitude or musical skill. God seeks for us to know and share in his glory--a glory which makes all others seriously pale in comparison. The Bible is clear that the most beautiful, awesome and significant display of who God is was through the self-giving and self-emptying sacrifice of Christ on the cross. As Jesus was approaching his suffering during his passion week, he questioned the severe pain and torturous agony he would endure:
Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? "Father, save me from this hour?" (John 12:27)
He overcame the questioning with resolve:
No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name! (John 12:27-28)
Jesus reveals that his very glory--what sets him eternally apart and reveals the magnitude of his greatness over everything which exists--is displayed by his sacrifice on the cross. In the very passage surrounding this statement (John 12:20-35) we will see how this truth anchors our worship which launches witness to proclaim the sacrifice of Christ to the world. To glorify God is to worship what makes him most glorious. This worship leads to witness. This will be the first of four articles on this topic.
The Glory of Palm Sunday
Let's set the backdrop. Jesus is enjoying one of the most exhilarating moments of his life. He has just finished being hailed as the Messiah in the Palm Sunday parade. His archenemies, the Pharisees, have finally admitted defeat by momentarily throwing their hands up and complaining:
Look how the whole world has gone after him! (John 12:19)
The Glory of the Greeks
For this humble teacher from Nazareth, this is his shining hour. But the honors keep coming. We read that certain Greeks who are visitors in Jerusalem request a private audience with him. His fame is spreading to distant lands of international importance. The story continues:
Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus. (John 12:20-22)
The Glory of the Buried Seed
As these distant travelers gain an audience with Jesus, his words take a strange and puzzling turn. He gives a lesson from agriculture. Jesus says a seed has to be buried and die so there will be many seeds.
Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." (John 12:23-24)
What does this statement mean? He's talking about his soon death on the cross. He even declares this to be "the hour...for the Son of Man to be glorified." His life is like a seed that will be buried and crushed, but from it will be the multiplication of seeds leading to a harvest of those benefiting from his death. This is a harvest among the nations. The glory is not that the Greeks have come to witness the fame of Jesus, but that the nations will know the glory of God through his buried and crushed life. His mind is on the fulfillment of mission.
As the plot unfolds, a shadow now darkens the skies and the soul of the Messiah becomes darkened.
Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? (John 12:27)
The Son declares that he is "troubled." There is a scene at the end of the movie Gladiator, where it takes the Roman general turned slave about five minutes to die. As he dies it is with such peace and calm because he keeps seeing beautiful wheat fields and sunsets. In contrast, as Jesus faces his own death, he sees horror which shakes him to the core. His undiminished divinity is seen wrapped in genuine humanity.
The Glory of the Divine Conversation
Now, the apostle John opens a heavenly window for us of the only time we see a two-way dialog of the Trinity in scripture. This dialog is a uniquely never-to-be-seen-again picture into the heart of God.
No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name! Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.(John 12:27-29)
Who God is in his "glory" is a God of self-giving and self-emptying unstoppable love which will go through the horror of the cross to rescue a rebellious humanity. Every impulse in Jesus wants to cry out, "Father, save me from this hour." But he dare not because it was "for this very reason I came." Instead, he overrides his desire of self-protection for the agonizing suffering he will undergo with the declaration: "Father, glorify your name!” Jesus hears the voice of the Father returning, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” In this conversation surrounding the cross, there is the declaration of the fullness of glory shared between the Father and the Son.
Jesus adds these comments so those with him can understand what they are witnessing:
Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. (John 12:30-33)
They are given this one-time window into the divine conversation for their benefit. Of course, this is as much for our benefit. How do we benefit? This is a guide to our worship and our witness.
Our Worship and Witness
The Glory of God Leads to Worship.
We see clearly that the cross displays most beautifully and powerfully who God is. The Savior expresses what this means for the heart of worship, "when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." Jesus stated that when he is exalted or glorified for his sacrifice, he will draw people to himself. Christians are to be people who keep getting drawn back to Jesus lifted up on the cross. In our worship we should be like little kids at a fireworks display, awed by what we see. "Ooh, look at that! Ah, look at this!" We should keep returning and remembering the beauty of this glory,
"Look at God's love for us."
"Look at the significance I now see in my life because of what Jesus did."
"Look at how deceived I have been for chasing after lesser glories."
"Look at God's love for the world."
"Look at God's love for my enemies and all the people I could care less about."
Our true glory doesn't reside in us. It comes as a gift from the source, the ocean of glory in Jesus, the crucified one. Worship returns us to this.
The Glory of God Leads to Witness.
As we have seen, Jesus does not dwell on the Palm Sunday parade or his trouncing of the Pharisees or how people from distant lands have come to him. Nor does he descend into himself and enter into self-pity and depression because of the unimaginable suffering he will endure. Rather, he sees the lives to be redeemed and the harvest to be multiplied from his death. Jesus' life, like a grain of wheat, will be buried and crushed by dirt, but ultimately produce a harvest among the distant lands. This glory revealed is not about us alone, it is equally for the whole world, including those in our zip code. To properly worship God is to obey and become more sacrificially like God. We do this through the call to "go and make disciples," (Matthew 28:19) as we enter into harvest field multiplication which was won by Jesus' revealed glory. This is as much a part of our worship. As the Psalmist declares:
Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples. (Psalm 96:1-3)
You can click here to read Worship Leads to Witness (Part 2)
You can click here to read Worship Leads to Witness (Part 3)