When the angels came to the shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus, they declared, “Glory to God in the highest…for unto you is born this day…a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” From the very outset of Jesus’ advent on this earth, the declared intention of His life was to bring glory to the Father. It is something He stated regularly throughout His ministry, right up to the time of His death. Jonathan Edwards says, “It is manifest from Scripture, that God’s glory is the last end of…the work of redemption by Jesus Christ.” In other words, whatever else Jesus accomplished in His time on the earth, the highest purpose was that He glorified the Father. This is a truth that deserves our consideration, and our adoration.

As humans, we are very self-centered. We can even get the mistaken impression that our salvation is all about us. But, as we see in Psalm 79:9, salvation is to demonstrate the glory of God, and we reap the benefit of that glory: Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Your name; And deliver us, and provide atonement for our sins, for Your name’s sake! While salvation benefits us enormously, its intent is to boldly declare the wisdom, kindness, goodness, love, mercy and grace of God. Salvation shows that God is just in judging us for our violations of His holiness, but also the extent His love will go to satisfy that justice, and redeem for Himself a people—all for His glory.

There is a song I like very much, except for one line. The song is Above All, and it exalts Jesus mightily, but in the chorus it says, “You took the fall, and thought of me, above all.” It is there the glorious truth of the song comes crashing down by this one faulty piece of theology—that salvation is primarily about the ones redeemed. As great as the love of God is toward us, and as much as I don’t want to take one iota away from the splendor of that love, the object of salvation is not the redeemed, it is the Redeemer. Salvation is about the glory of God. I still like to sing the song, but I alter the line “and thought of me” to “and thought of love,” for it is much more appropriate to say that Jesus was thinking about the love of the Father—of glorifying the mutual love within the Trinity and its expression toward the redeemed—than He was thinking about us above all.

John Piper has said, “The deepest reason why we live for the glory of God is because God lives for the glory of God. We are passionate about God’s glory because God is passionate about God’s glory.” Jesus first expressed this when his parents found Him at the temple, when He was but 12 years old. He seemed surprised that they had to look around for him so long, after all, they should have known He would have been intent on His Father’s business (Luke 2:49). This quest for the glory of His Father was already in the forefront of His conscious action.

Before Jesus began His public ministry, the Holy Spirit led (some versions say “drove”) Him out into the wilderness to be tempted. These temptations included the lure of taking things into His own hands, the enticement to display His own glory, and coaxing to receiving the glories of this world through the short cut of worshiping Satan (avoiding the cross). But Jesus’ reply to this was to pass on this option entirely. His desire was only to do the Father’s will, to follow His timing, to worship Him alone—the only glory Jesus wanted was the Father’s. It is no great leap to contrast this with our own choices—to take the easy road, to seek the comfortable, to accept the short-term pleasure at the expense of the eternal glory, and to see what glory of our own we can embezzle from the Father.

The gospel of John gives us the clearest teaching on Jesus’ intent to glorify the Father. In chapter 8, Jesus states that He does not seek His own glory, rather the honor of the Father, and that He awaited the Father to honor Him in His timing. Here is the One Man who walked this planet that was worthy of glory, and yet He didn’t claim it for Himself, didn’t seek it for Himself. Every other sentient person who has walked this planet has sought his own glory, all but Jesus, who relentlessly pursued the Father’s glory, at total disregard for His own.

He even said that He came in the Father’s glory (Mark 8:38; Matt. 18:27), not in His own. His life was not about Himself, how unlike any other person who ever walked the planet. When He commanded us to pray, He assured us that what we asked in His name would be given, so that the Father would be glorified in the Son. That is a tall challenge for our prayers! Are they framed around the idea that what we are asking is for the Father’s glory? How would keeping this truth in mind change what we ask for and the passion with which we ask?

When Jesus got to the end of His earthly ministry, His resolve to glorify His Father was just as firm. “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” Even facing the cross and all that went with it, He took it on for the express purpose that the Father’s glory would be manifest. The glory of the Father always meant loss for Jesus—loss of the comfort and glories in Heaven, veiling and self-limiting of His own glories as He became man, loss of friends and reputation, loss of life…and yet He embraced these losses for the express purpose of giving fuller glory to the Father.

Even when He prayed that He Himself would be glorified, it did so in order that the Father would receive fuller glory, “Father, the hour is come. Glorify Your Son that Your Son also may glorify You.” To understand what He is saying here, we must understand that in order for Jesus to be glorified, and thereby glorify the Father, He had to be brutalized, bear our sins and our punishment, and die. So, whatever our understanding of the petition, “Glorify me,” Jesus understood it to mean His suffering and death. Yes, He looked forward to the glory on the other side of the cross, when He would be vindicated, elevated, exalted, but there was a great glory that came first, on the cross where He glorified the Father through His obedience, His trust, His submission, His full measure of His love—for the Father and for us.

The cross was an instrument of shame. It was perfected by Rome to demoralize the populace as much as it denigrated the one being executed. In the Jewish culture, anyone hung on a tree was considered cursed by God. This is part of the reason Jesus could not merely be killed, not merely be stoned—the customary form of execution among the Jews. Jesus became the curse for us, and yet this curse, this shame He bore on our behalf was also glory—for Him and for the Father. It was glory that He who knew no sin became sin for us. Around the halls of heaven a collective gasp must have gone up as they beheld this precious, beloved Son displayed the wisdom and love and grace and mercy and justice and wrath of God in Himself. How they must have echoed the words of Paul, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen. (Romans 11:33)” To Him be the glory, indeed! This was Jesus’ intent, it was the intent of the Godhead all along—to display the unsearchable truths of His judgments and His love.

by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries