The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified
Our story from Sunday focuses on one of the most commonly known sayings of Jesus, ‘Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.’ All of the gospels record this saying and we are very familiar with it, but I found myself struggling with its meaning as I prepared for sunday. What exactly is Jesus trying to say to us about the life God expects of those who would follow and be faithful? Are we expected to become martyrs? Are we encouraged to become, like Jesus, wandering impoverished preachers? Are we to live a life of sober abstinence of all things joyful? The temptation is to dumb down the implications of this saying, and then to ‘know’ that Jesus said it without really struggling with what it means for us.
I would suggest that before we can really begin to seek an answer for the question of what ‘Those who love their life lose it,’ means for us we should ask what Jesus is saying about God and what God is doing. The beginning of the journey towards the answer to this question begins in the verse highlighted today, God is glorifying the Son of Man, Jesus. God is glorifying. But what exactly does that mean? The greek word translated as ‘glorify’ is doxazo which is defined as ‘to cause the dignity and worth of some person or thing to become manifest and acknowledged.’ When God glorifies, God is treating the shamed with dignity and the ignored or despised with worth. When we look at the glory or glorify in the First Testament this gets even more interesting. The hebrew word translated at glory/glorify is ‘kabod,’ which can mean abundance, riches. While the word is used throughout the First Testament its most memorable use comes as God rescues Israel from slavery in Egypt. In Numbers, God is said to refer to His actions in Israel as ‘glory.’ God is rescuing Israel from slavery and genocide and treating them with worth and dignity. This is glory, this is God’s glory. The word glory, then reminds us of the story of God’s liberation of Israel. This is what God does, liberates the enslaved, the oppressed, the expendable from the social systems that deny them their humanity and leads them to a life of worth and dignity, a full life, eternal life.
If we pause for a moment and remember, we can think of many instances in which God ‘glorifies’ the poor and vulnerable. The institution of the Jubilee year in which the enslaved were freed and the impoverished with forgiven debts and empowered to provide for their families. The warning in Isaiah of God’s displeasure at Israel’s disregard of the dispossessed recorded in the first chapter of that book. Elijah’s miraculous rescue of the widow of Zarephath. Through the Bible we read stories in which God rescues the dispossessed and brings them to an experience of the full life of dignity and worth.
*the photo above is an image related to the good Samaritan*