In the beginning

Column: John wants us to recognize the glory of the cross

in the beginning

Father Mike Stubbs is the pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Overland Park and has a degree in Scripture from Harvard University.

by Father Mike Stubbs

Frequently, we can identify one action as a trigger which sets into motion an entire chain of events.

For example, a couple goes out on a date. They fall in love. They decide to get married. Then they have children and raise a family. Their lives are changed. And it all started with the one date.

We see something like that happening in Sunday’s Gospel reading, Jn 13:31-33a, 34-35. The disciples are gathered with Jesus around the table at the Last Supper. Judas abruptly leaves, so Jesus says: “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and God will glorify him at once.”

When Judas leaves the table, he sets into motion a series of events which leads to Jesus’ crucifixion. There are many factors involved in the final result: the hostility of Jesus’ opponents, the lack of support from the crowd, the sentence of death by Pontius Pilate.

But it all begins with Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. That is why Jesus says: “Now is the Son of Man glorified.”

In just a couple of sentences, Jesus utters the word “glorify” five times. It clearly means a lot. The repetition emphasizes its importance. But what does glory have to do with Jesus’ death?

In the view of John’s Gospel, when Jesus is lifted up on the cross, he is exalted. The cross serves as his throne because he is Christ the king, as his conversation with Pontius Pilate will point out (Jn 18:33 – 19:16).

In that sense, Jesus is glorified. That glory will reach its ultimate point when Jesus goes up to his throne in heaven. The world sees him as rejected and humiliated. But John’s Gospel sees the opposite. It recognizes the glory hidden from our eyes under the cover of suffering and humiliation. The Gospel wishes to reveal that glory to us.

In the cruelty of Jesus’ death, the tenderness of God’s love shines forth. In that sense, God is also glorified. Similarly, God is glorified through Jesus’ obedience. Consequently, both Jesus and God the Father share in the glory.

All this is happening “now,” that is to say, very soon. Judas’ departure from the dinner table has set into motion the chain of events that leads to Jesus’ death and to glory. John’s Gospel wants us to recognize that glory and to celebrate it. We do that especially now. That is what the Easter season is all about.

About the author

Fr. Mike Stubbs

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