Three Sightings of the Glory of Jesus

Funeral Meditation for Char Ransom

What was the most ultimate thing that Jesus prayed for Char Ransom?1 Was the prayer answered? If it was, what difference would this make for you? Let’s take those one at a time.

1. What was the most ultimate thing that Jesus prayed for Char Ransom?

We know that he prayed for Char because the apostle John records his longest prayer, and in that prayer, he is praying for his disciples. He pauses at one moment to say that he’s not just praying for those who are present. John 17:20: “Father, I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word.” So, we know that if someone hears the words of the apostles in the New Testament and believes on Jesus, Jesus prayed for them because he said he was.

When Char was a teenager (an older teenager), she heard the words of the apostles in the New Testament and she saw the beauty and the truth of Jesus, and she believed. And therefore, I know that Jesus prayed for Char Ransom the night before he died. He said, “I am praying for those who will believe in me through their word.”

What was the most ultimate thing that he prayed? It’s in John 17:24 and it goes like this: “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.” Then he added, “I pray, that the love with which you love me might be in them” (John 17:26).

The most ultimate prayer that Jesus prayed for Char — and that he could pray for anybody — was that she would see the glory of Christ — glory of the risen Christ — and that should would love him with the very love that the Father had for him. That is, with the love of immeasurably and all-satisfying joy.

There isn’t anything greater than to see the Son of God in his beauty, in his radiance, in his perfection, and to be satisfied with him the way his Father is satisfied with him. There isn’t anything greater, and therefore, that’s the most ultimate thing that he prayed for Char Ransom.

2. Was the prayer answered?

It was in three stages.

Stage One. At first, like all of us, Char saw his glory and did not see it as glorious. She didn’t see it as true. She didn’t see it as beautiful. She didn’t see it as compelling or satisfying. The apostle John wrote, “The Word became flesh [that is, the Son of God became the incarnate as the God-man, Jesus Christ] and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

Did Judas see it? He looked on it every day for three years, and he didn’t. Jesus described people like that (Matthew 13:13): “Seeing they do not see.” He sold Jesus for thirty pieces of silver after looking on his glory for three years. And so it was with Char Ransom and all of us. It’s a frightening place to be.

Stage Two. Something happened. Char saw the glory of Jesus in a new way. She saw it as beautiful and compelling and satisfying and true. What happened to Char is described by Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:4–6: “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light . . . of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God.”

God opened Char Ransom's eyes to look upon the glory of Christ in the gospel and see it for what it really is — beautiful, compelling, true, all-satisfying — and she believed. Nine days before she died, we were talking. She had just received her diagnosis. She knew what was happening. We exalted together and we reveled together in the gospel from 1 Thessalonians 5:9–10. I told her, “Char, this is the word of God that got me through my little bout with cancer and it will get you all the way home. It goes like this, Char:

‘God has not destined you, Char Ransom, for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, you and me, so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.’

She looked into that gospel and saw the glory of Jesus, and she knew this is true.

Stage Three. To our amazement, before we had the chance to even accustom ourselves to the fact that she was sick, let alone that she would die, she was gone. I received the call about an hour after she died from Keith. Two hours later, I was recording online an answer to a question that went like this:

Where in the Bible can I be more confident of what happens to me or to someone I love when they die?

I looked at my watch and I said, “As I speak, I have a friend who for 3 hours and 16 minutes has been in the presence of Jesus.” That was an overwhelming thought to me. Three hours and 16 minutes in the presence of Jesus.

She is not unconscious. She is not in a kind of soul-sleep awaiting the resurrection, which will come. Her body is at the university — in one last act of love and service — but her soul is alive and is with Jesus.

We know this because the apostle Paul said: “To be away from the body is to be at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). And “to depart and be with Christ, is far better” than remaining here (Philippians 1:23). Why is it better?

It’s better because of what Jesus prayed: “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory” (John 17:24). “With me to see my glory!” Not at a distance. Not like these seventy years of Christian life as in a mirror darkly (1 Corinthians 13:12). “With me!” Seeing the glory of Jesus face to face.

The apostle John wrote, “We [beheld] his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father,” in John 1:14. But when he was granted to see the glory of the risen Christ in Revelation 1, he fell down as though dead (Revelation 1:17). I'm sure the Lord Jesus caught Char. Some glory is so wonderful, its beauty is almost overwhelming and unbearable.

So stage three, yes. He answered her prayer. “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory” (John 17:24). Which leaves one last question.

3. What difference does that make for you?

The answer is this: If you turn away from your own glory as the quest of your life, and set your heart on the glory, the beauty, the majesty, the radiance of Jesus Christ, you will see — you will know — he’s real. You will with him have complete and everlasting satisfaction because there isn't anything greater. Now, I know that Char would want me to say to you all, Please, join me here.

  1. Char Ransom was unmarried all her life. I know this was by choice because I recall one very eligible suitor in the 1980s who wanted very much to win her. She joked that no man deserved to be as happy as she could make him. I take that to be a true and Calvinistic assessment of male human nature, and a sober judgment of her own joy. 

    The reason it is worth mentioning Char’s unmarried life is that no one in all my experience modeled better how to live an outgoing, engaged, hope-filled life of ministry as an unmarried person. She was in the lives of hundreds of people. She walked toward relationships, not away from them. She walked into ministry opportunities, not out of them. She brought strength to her single friends, and to her happily married friends. She acted against self-pity, not under it. She leaned into public opportunities, not as a wall-flower, but as a full partner in life, indeed, as a leader. She embraced modest, stylish attractiveness — never out of fashion, and never too in. She turned sixty somewhere along the way and stayed there all her life.

    She risked. Ten times she went to Africa. And the latter trips were at an age when most people have their aging feet up. She aggressively read the Bible and promoted Bible memory. Year after year she was the primary fixture — emcee, writer, humorist, director, champion — in the January mid-week service that called the whole church to memorize the Bible together.

    She was loyal to her friends, even when those friends were torn asunder. She was a very precious friend to me. We talked often of racing to heaven. On my last phone call, she said, “I’m going to beat you.” I conceded. The second week of January she found out she had lung cancer. In less than two weeks she was gone. The Lord stepped in with astonishing decisiveness — and gentleness.

    I am sure that if it had not been for Char Ransom I would not have been a pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church, and my life would have been incalculably different. I say that because Char’s influence was such that a veto from her on the Pastoral Search Committee that recommended me to the church would have ended my candidacy. She did not veto me. She loved me — for 36 years. And everything in my life as been different because of her. I am thankful.