James O’Leary, a listener from Georgia writes in. “Hello Pastor John! Today I came across John 8:50 where Jesus says that he is not seeking his own glory. I was surprised! Jesus goes on to say that there is one who DOES seek his glory (I think this might be a reference to the Father). So why did Jesus NOT seek his own glory, when that is what the Father is seeking? Was this refusal to seek his own glory temporary? Does he now seek his own glory? What does this teach us about Jesus?”
The heart of Christ’s redemptive work in coming to earth as the incarnate God-man in order to save sinners by dying in our place, the heart of this redemptive work is that Christ came to be inglorious for thirty years: inglorious, not glorious. Isaiah 53:2–2 says his appearance was so marred beyond human semblance and his form beyond that of the children of mankind: “He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty” — you could say glory — “that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
“The heart of Christ’s redemptive work was to save sinners by dying in our place — to be inglorious.”
Or, as Philippians 2:5–8 says, “Though he was in the form of God, [he] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant [or slave], being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death.” And then he adds, “even death” — and he means the utterly despicable, humiliating death — “on a cross,” the most inglorious experience a human could have. So, Jesus steadfastly refused earthly honors and power and prestige and wealth and glory. This was his vocation on the earth. He came to be identified with sinners, and to bear the suffering and the shame that was owing to sin.
On the other hand, he came to represent God the Father. And so John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” And he said to Philip, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). In fact, seeing this glory, this beauty of the Father’s power and goodness and wisdom and love in and through the inglorious Jesus, seeing that was necessary for anyone to be saved. That is how you get saved.
“Seeing the glory and beauty of the Father in the inglorious Jesus is necessary for anyone to be saved.”
This is what the Pharisees could not see: the glory of God in the inglorious Christ. This was the peculiar glory they couldn’t see. Seeing you do not see, Jesus said (Matthew 13:14; Mark 4:11–12). This is what Paul said Satan blinds unbelievers from seeing. He says, “The god of this world [keeps] them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4). When he says gospel — the gospel of the glory of Christ — he means the message of the horrible, horrible, horrible death of the Son of God on a despicable cross as the place where the glory of the love of God was shining most brightly.
“Jesus’s horrible death on a despicable cross is the place where the glory of God shines most brightly.”
So, Jesus came to be inglorious, and he came to be glorious. He did not seek glory. And he did seek glory (see, for instance, John 17:1). And the glory he did not come to seek and didn’t seek was the glory of this world. In Satan’s final temptation, he “took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’” And Jesus said, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve’” (Matthew 4:8–10). He said: I am not here to embrace the glory of the world. The glory Jesus did seek was the glory of his Father. John 8:49, “I honor my Father.”
“Jesus came to be identified with sinners, and to bear the suffering and the shame that was owing to sin.”
But — and this is key — he didn’t just seek the glory of his Father separate from himself. That is what we do. We seek the glory of God separate from ourselves. He sought the glory of the Father, yes, beyond himself. The Father and the Son are not the same reality. They are united in essence, but they are different persons. He sought the glory of the Father beyond himself, and he sought the glory of the Father embodied in himself. He said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). He knew that, in seeking the glory of the Father, he was seeking his own glory, but not the glory of this world. He said, “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed,” that he emptied himself of, these outward displays of beauty and glory (John 17:4–5).
What does Jesus mean in John 8:50 when he says, “I do not seek my own glory”? I think he means two things. First, he means: I do not seek the glory and wealth and power and prestige of this world. I am here to suffer and be shamed, not honored by the world. And, second, he means: The glory that I do seek is my Father’s glory, which, for those who have eyes to see, is also my glory. He does not seek his glory apart from the Father’s glory. He does not seek to be glorious with a private glory, but only with the Father’s glory embodied in his own person.
“Jesus sought the glory of the Father beyond himself and embodied in himself.”
Jesus says in John 5:22–23, “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” And again, John 17:4, “I glorified you [Father] on earth, having accomplished the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”
So, no, he does not seek worldly glory and, no, he does not seek private glory apart from the Father’s glory. But, yes, yes, he does seek his glory after his redemptive work is done, and this is the love that he pursues because this is the glory he invites us to enjoy forever. John 17:24, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.”