Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.” They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.
(John 8:12-20 ESV)
Glory is a very important thing to think about. How often have I focused on the wrong things! Take this passage, for instance. When I started reviewing it this morning, the first place I wanted to go was to discuss judgment, because that is the word that comes up most often in the passage. But while that is true, that isn’t what Jesus wants us to see here. He actually goes out of his way to say, “I judge no one.”
I’m sad to say that for most of my ministry I have most certainly drawn people’s focus toward judgment and how to escape judgment rather than toward glory and how to achieve it. There’s a classic pulpit illustration I used to use that pictures we human beings as a criminals in the dock in a court of law with God on the bench. Once the judge passes sentence on us, so the illustration goes, he gets up from his bench and lays aside his robe and the bailiff leads him away to be executed. Viewed from one angle, John 8:12-20 is all judicial language. Jesus is making a very sound legal argument as to whose testimony can be admitted in a Jewish court. But if that was what he intended us to walk away with, he would have said, “I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Judge who sent me bears witness about me.” But that’s not what he says.
The legalese is all for the benefit of the Pharisees who are questioning him because that’s all they can see. But for him who has ears to hear and eyes to see, this passage is about the profound love between Father and Son, and the glory – the light, if you will – that is generated by the exchange between them. Anyone who gets sufficiently close to that light will end up ablaze because of it!
John, in his First Letter, says, “By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the Day of Judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (4:17-18)
Is there a Day of Judgment? Yes. But those who run to Jesus out of fear of punishment will never know the light. They are merely trying to save their own skin. And they may as well take shelter in the Law. It is cleaner and easier to understand. “Do this and you will live; do this and you will die.” Love is more complex and harder to grasp. And if I run to the Light simply because I love the One who has light in himself, I will become enraptured, basking in the glow of the relationship between the Father and the Son.
What greater motive can there be than to want to see another reach Glory? I can spend my days trying to keep someone from hell. I might even do it, and yet leave them living in the twilight of a dim void. But to offer a person Glory!
As C.S. Lewis said, "It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbor. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor's glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.” (from The Weight of Glory)
Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in it there is no cause for stumbling. (1 John 2:10 ESV) May you be ablaze and be found in Christ today.