April 18, 2014

Repost: What Comforts the Lord of the Universe?

by Mike Riccardi

And Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.”
- John 12:23–26 -

Jesus is acknowledging that the time for His crucifixion is near. We learn from the next verse (which we’ll look at in a minute) that He was troubled. And that’s not terribly surprising. It’s not that He’s just going to die an agonizing and ignominious death at the hands of those who have perverted His Father’s holy Law, and have subjugated His people under a yoke of slavery that no one in history has been able to bear (Ac 15:10). That would be enough to trouble any of us, certainly.

But Jesus’ trouble went deeper than that.

He was troubled at the fact that soon He would lose the delightful and exuberant fellowship that He had always enjoyed with the Father. There would, for the first time in eternity, be a horrible change in their relationship; it would go from one of perfect communion, love, blessing, joy, and delight in each other, to abandonment, hatred, cursing, wrath, and shame. On the cross, Jesus would experience the full exercise of the righteous wrath of His Father—wrath He had known objectively but never experientially. The bitter cup that He never deserved to drink would soon be pressed to His lips, and the delightful, well-pleased smile of His Father—the apple of His eye from all eternity—would be hidden from Him.

In a very real sense, Jesus is about to go through hell.   

And so He’s troubled. But even at that point (in John 12:23–26), He is comforting Himself with the His Father’s promises. He speaks of His impending death—both physical and spiritual—as being “glorified.” Rather than focus on the condemnation He will suffer for His people, He remembers that His Father will not let His Holy One undergo decay (Ps 16:10), and that as a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see and be satisfied (Isa 53:11), He will be allotted a portion with the great (Isa 53:12). And so He reminds Himself that His death will eventually mean His glorification. He reminds Himself and His disciples that it is through this kind of self-sacrifice that one doesn’t waste his life, but bears much fruit—that eternal life knowing the Father and knowing Christ (Jn 17:3) is better than a comfortable life on earth for 80 years.

And yet in the moment, He still says, “Now My soul has become troubled.”

And then He asks, “…and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.”

That’s so beautiful. “Father, I am troubled. My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death (Mt 26:38). I don’t want to leave You. I don’t want to be abandoned by You. I don’t want to lay aside the privilege of the consummate joy and love and delight that We’ve had for all eternity. I want to continue to know Your blessing and Your smile. I want to continue to be well-pleasing to You. Father, I am troubled.

“But Father I trust You. I entrust Myself wholly to You (1Pet 2:23). For I know You are in control of all things. And I know that You are most wise. And I know that at the heart of Your very Being that You are good, for I have witnessed firsthand the overflow of Your beneficence in all creation and providence. So I will not ask that You deliver me out of this trial. No, this is precisely why I have come.”

And so He doesn’t ask that His suffering be removed. But what is amazing, what is staggering, what is so refreshing, is what He does ask for.

“Father, glorify Your name.”

That’s what He wants! That’s what comforts the Savior’s soul! He wants to see His Father’s name be magnified and honored and made to look as big and as sweet and as desirable as it actually is! He wants to see His Father’s glory! The glory of the Father is so pleasing, so delightful, so enjoyable to the Son that it is what He asks for to comfort Him before the greatest trial, the greatest suffering, that anyone has endured in history.

Oh, we’ve got to see this. This is not just amazing self-sacrifice on Jesus’ part. Jesus is not merely saying, “I’ll give it all up as long as God is glorified.” He’s saying that, but that’s not nearly the whole story. He’s actually saying that what He wants to calm His troubled, deeply grieved soul is the sight of His Father’s glory! This is what reassures Him of His Father’s sovereignty, wisdom, and goodness. It is knowing that He Himself will be glorified with this glory that He so enjoys, as He enjoyed before the world was (Jn 17:5), that comforts Him and gives Him strength to do this terrible, awesome work. The Father’s glory is the joy that was set before Him for which He endured that shameful cross (Heb 12:2)!

And the Father grants His Son’s request: “Then a voice came out of heaven: ‘I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.’”

How I pray that you and I would be made to feel the weight of that interaction!

And how instructive it is for us in our Christian life, especially through the trials and sufferings that God has granted to us (Phil 1:29). In every aspect of our lives, what should be our comfort? What should be our request to God for strength to do the work He’s given us? Our request should be, “Father, glorify Your name.” Our comfort should be the seeing and savoring of the glory of God in the face of Christ (2Cor 4:6; 2Cor 3:18; Ex 33:18).

I can bear the scoffing and mocking of an unbelieving generation. I can gladly sacrifice popularity among my friends. I can endure the disowning and snubbing of my own family. I can face cancer, disease, and arduous medical procedures with joy. I can live my life with next to no money and worldly comforts for these 80 short years. I can lay down my lifeif

if my Father will glorify His name. If the name of my God would be lifted up and exalted and magnified, if I can see Him and enjoy Him in all His majesty, well then for me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Let the world despise and leave me,
They have left my Savior, too.
Human hearts and looks deceive me;
Thou art not, like them, untrue.
O while Thou dost smile upon me,
God of wisdom, love, and might,
Foes may hate and friends disown me;
Show Thy face, and all is bright.

On this Good Friday, dear friends, be instructed and be comforted by what the Lord of the universe is comforted by.

Mike Riccardi

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Mike is the Pastor of Local Outreach Ministries at Grace Community Church in Los Angeles. He also teaches Evangelism at The Master's Seminary.