Contemplation on John 17, Part I
by H.H. Pope Shenouda III
The Lord Christ - at the end of His Incarnation period on the earth - presented to the Father a report on His ministry, saying, “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.” (Jn. 17:4)
Here, we would like to ask a question: what does it mean, from the theological point of view, that someone glorifies God?
Certainly, when you glorify God you do not bestow on Him some glory, because God does not lack glory nor need to receive glory from you. The Lord Christ Himself says, “I do not receive honor from men.” (Jn. 5:41)
This brings to mind that which some people say, that God created humans to glorify Him! Certainly not! For God is not in need for such glory to receive from humans. And before making man, He was glorified by His angels. Even before creating the angels He had been glorified, but how?
God is glorified in His Godhead attributes.
God is glorified in His eternity, in His omnipotence, in His limitlessness as He is not limited by time or place. He is glorified in His greatness, in His indescribable beauty, in His holiness, in His wisdom, in His unlimited knowledge, and in His power to create. In short, God's Glory lies in His Godhead.
What then is the meaning of the words, “I have glorified You on the earth”? They mean revealing His glory to the people. The words mean: I made the people know about Your glory. On the other hand, the words cannot mean giving Him, or bestowing upon Him some glory.
This may lead to another question: Does glorifying someone mean giving him some glory not his own? The answer expressly is nay. Unless a person has glory of his own, any glory given him by others will be nothing. Therefore, truly said the Psalmist, “The royal daughter is all glorious within.” (Ps. 45: 13) though the royal daughter's clothing is woven with gold and her robes of many colors.
Here we ask for example: What does it mean that someone is granted an academic degree? Does it mean that the faculty or the university grants him something not his own? It rather means that the faculty or the university testifies to his academic capability, whether for the BA, MA, or PhD. That is why it is called a certificate, as it certifies the level of knowledge a person has.
If this is the case with humans, what can be said about God, blessed be His name? We glorify Him, or rather acknowledge His glory. This is probably what the Jews meant when they said to the man born blind: “Give God the glory.”(Jn.9: 24) They wanted to say to him: acknowledge God's glory, and do not deny it or blaspheme against Him.
The same applies when we say in the Psalm: “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to Your name give glory.”(Ps.115: 1) It means: reveal Your glory to the people. This meaning is clear in the Psalm: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handwork.” (Ps.19:1) In this way the heavens and the firmament glorify God by declaring it, showing His handwork. We likewise, when we glorify God, we declare His glory and tell the people about it, revealing it.
Thus we understand the words of the Lord Christ to God the Father, “I have glorified You”, to mean: I have revealed Your glory to the people. I talked to them about You and made them know You. That is why He said, “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world” ( Jn.17 : 6 ), in other words:
I have manifested to them a new name for You, that You are the Father, their heavenly Father who loves them. Their previous knowledge of You was not like Mine. Probably their relationship with You was one of fear since their father Adam hid himself from Your sight, saying, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked” (Gen.3: 10). But I let them know Your name “God is love” (1 Jn. 4: 16). I let them know that You are their Father, and that You dwell in them with Your Holy Spirit.
“And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” (Jn.17: 26) Yes, that was the way the Lord Christ glorified God the Father, by making the people know Him as they had not known Him the true knowledge. Therefore He said, “O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You” (Jn. 17:25). To glorify You, O Father, is to let them know You because, “This is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God…”( Jn.17: 3) It is Your message, brother minister, to let your disciples and all around you know God.
Let them know God, not only God who is in the books, but also He who is in life, He who is in them. Let them know God who is with them though they see Him not, nor recognize His presence, as St. Augustine said, “You were with me, but, for my deep misery, I was not with You.” Let them know God of whom is written in the gospel according to John, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it” (Jn.1: 5), and who was preached by the Baptist, saying, “there stands One among you whom you do not know” (Jn.1: 26)
Thus we glorify God by making people know Him, so they love Him as the Lord Christ has done:
The Lord Christ said, “I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it” (Jn.17: 26). You are the loving Father who knows all that they know and give them without their request, “For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things”, “and all these things shall be added to you” (Mt.6: 32,33). Yes, Father, You are the heavenly Father on whose heavenly door is written, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Mt.7: 7). Yes, Father, You care for the birds of the air and feed them, though they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns! You, Father, care for the lilies of the field and clothe them more beautifully than Solomon in all his glory was arrayed (Mt.6: 26-29)!
You, heavenly Father, had so loved the world that You gave Your only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (Jn.3: 16). I know, brother minister, that you make people know God, but who is that God who You make them know?
Certainly You make them know the image of God which you have in your mind. Would that it is the true image, because if you give them a wrong image of God, you will not be glorifying God through your ministry. Therefore, you have first to know Him, that you may let others know Him as the Lord Christ has said, “I have known You…… and I have declared to them Your name” (Jn.17:25,26). Have you known Him yet, brother? Many are those ministers who have not yet known God, however, they try to make people know Him!
What about you? Have you known God yet before making people know Him? Have you known Him the true profound knowledge that makes you love Him and dwell in Him? Have you said with St. Paul the apostle, “What things were again to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil.3: 7,8). Yea, have you experienced this inner deep knowledge of the Lord?
Is the knowledge you give to people about Him of the kind that leads to His love? Or is it mere mental knowledge not extending to the heart or leading to life with God? If it is so, know that the ministry is not mere knowledge, for mere knowledge does not glorify God. Hearken to what the Lord says to the Father, “I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them” (Jn.17: 26)
By this love, they enter God's kingdom as God reigns over their hearts and is glorified in them: By love they live with God, and their lives reveal God's work in them. The others see their good works and glorify their Father who is in heaven (Mt.5: 16). Does this apply to your life and your ministry? Is God glorified in your life? Is He glorified in your ministry?
Is God the core of your ministry? Do you reveal His name to the people in whatever you say or do? Do you attach them to His love, and make them long to Him and rejoice in His communion? Or is it that your ministry is separate from God; mere information and knowledge, mere activities and meetings, mere gatherings, culture and study, and still you call it ministry? Those you minister to, do they have the love with which He loved you and them? Dare you, in all this, say to the Father with Christ, “I have glorified You on the earth”?
Ask yourself: In what is God glorified in you? Is His kingdom spread through you? Or through you people have known God, loved Him, and abode in Him? Were you the vessel with which God worked, or the mouth by which God's Spirit spoke? Here we wonder: How could Christ glorify the Father?
As we have said, He made people know and love Him; what else? He presented to the people the beautiful image of God, being Himself. “The image of the invisible God” (Col.1: 15), “The brightness of His glory and the express image of His person” (Heb.1: 3). “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him” (Jn.1: 18) In Him people saw all holiness?
In Him they saw God the Father: As He said expressly, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (Jn.14: 9). Yea, they saw in Him God's beautiful image with all its perfection and beauty, so they loved God in Him. They loved the Holy who is, “separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens” (Heb.7: 26). They loved Him who challenged His enemies, saying, “Which of you convicts Me of sin?” (Jn.8: 46)
So, is your life that image of God, by which He is glorified? Is God glorified by your life as He is by your words? Or you are a stumbling block to others, and because of you people blaspheme God's name as St. Paul said to the Romans, “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you” (Rom.2: 24)
How beautiful it is that God's children be a cause for glorifying His holy name through their ideal life which people admire! In this way they give the others a beautiful image of the sublimity of their religious doctrines. It is the way the Lord Christ glorified the Father, that is introducing Him in such a beautiful image.
The Lord Christ glorified the Father with His preaching, and also with the miracles He worked: He revealed to the people God's power, being Himself “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1Cor.1: 24). He manifested to them God the Almighty who does works which no one else has ever done or can do (Jn.15: 24). He ascribed these works to the Father, “the Father who dwells in Me does the works” (Jn.14: 10), “the works which the Father has given Me to finish” (Jn.5: 36).
Through His works the Lord Christ manifested to the people the power of the Father, so the Father was glorified in Him. You are not requested to be like Christ, miracle worker; for not all people are workers of miracles (1 Cor.12: 29). But I merely say that God is glorified in a minister whose prayers find response! … How further can the Father be glorified?
The Lord Christ glorified the Father on the cross. He glorified the Father by paying off the wages of sin to the Divine Justice, when He became a sacrifice of sin, a burnt offering, and a pass over, when He presented the most glorified image of love, sacrifice, and redemption, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (Jn.3: 16). Not the Father alone was glorified on the cross, but the Son also. He showed us that suffering is the way to glory, as the apostle said in (Rom.8: 17).
“If indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together”. The Lord Christ has been glorified through suffering, and the most glorious image of Him is His image on the cross. It is the image of love, representing the farthest glory. St. Paul the apostle loved this image, and said, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal.2: 20)
The Lord Christ glorified the Father on the cross by His obedience, for He has become: “obedient to the point of death even the death of the cross” (Phil.2: 8) We also can glorify the Father by obedience; by love, and by sacrificing like the image of Christ on the cross. We can glorify Him by our ministry, by the edification of His kingdom, by making people know Him and be attracted to His love, and by introducing a live picture of Him to people.
However, the worst thing in ministry is when a minister tries to glorify Himself rather than God!
In this case, the ministry will not be a true ministry, since God is no more the goal, but is replaced by the ego! In this case the minister shows off and seeks to be exalted and glorified by others. He becomes no more last of all and servant of all as the Lord Christ said in (Mk.9: 35). The Lord Christ Himself did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many (Mt. 20: 26-28). And John Baptist gave us a noble example of how the ego should disappear so that glory be to God alone, he said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (Jn.3: 30) Hearken to what St. Paul the apostle says, “that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” (2Cor.4: 7) And in the story of healing the lame man, who was laid at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, when the people were amazed, St. Peter turned their sight to the Lord Christ, saying that they had not made that man walk by their own power or godliness (Acts 3:12-15). The contrary happened on the part of King Herod who accepted the words of praise, not giving glory to God, so an angel of the Lord struck him, and he was eaten by worms and died (Acts 12:21-23)
Lastly, we conclude with the following: If we glorify God on the earth, God will glorify us in heaven and here as well. “ For whom He foreknew, He also predestined… these He also glorified” (Rom. 8:29,30); “ If indeed we suffer with Him… we may also be glorified together” (Rom. 8:17) God even called us to His eternal glory (1 Pet.5: 10), so that we may be partakers of the glory that will be revealed, and receive the crown of glory that does not fade away (1 Pet. 5: 1,4), “bringing many sons to glory” (Heb. 2: 10). Yea, indeed, much glory has been, and is still, given us by God.
Do we then glorify God on the earth as He has glorified us who are dust and ash when He made us in His image after His likeness, and made us temples of His Holy Spirit, giving us the gifts of the Spirit?
*Edited from the original for translation purposes.
Other Articles by H.H. Pope Shenouda III
- The Feast of the Pentecost by H.H. Pope Shenouda III
- The Joy of the Resurrection by H.H. Pope Shenouda III
- It is Finished by H.H. Pope Shenouda III
- Contemplation the Pascha Hymn "Thine is the Power" by H.H. Pope Shenouda III
- How to Benefit Spiritually from Pascha Week by H.H. Pope Shenouda III
Popular Articles in the Bible Studies Section
- Jonah: When All Things Work Together for Good by H.H. Pope Shenouda III
- The Samaritan Woman - Part III by Saint John Chrysostom
- Contemplation on Holy Tuesday of Pascha by Saint Augustine
- I am the Way by H.H. Pope Kyrillos (Cyril) VI
- Contemplation on John 17, Part I by H.H. Pope Shenouda III
Coptic Articles by Category
- Modern Social Issues
- Papal Messages
- The Jesus Prayer by Fr. Lev Gillet
- Youth and Family Life
- The Lamp that Lights the Darkness
- Abomination of Desolation
- Practical Spirituality
- The Mystery of Godliness
- Bible Studies
- The Coptic Orthodox Church
- Church History
- Synexarium and Stories of the Saints
- Coptic Music and Rites
- Coptic Hymnology
- Study in the Tunes of the Liturgy of Saint Cyril
- Coptic Hymns Text
- Liturgical Texts of Rites and Prayers
- Coptic Rites Information
- The Deaconate
- The Spirituality of the Rites of the Holy Liturgy
- Understanding the Liturgy
- Sunday School Servants and Lessons
- Spiritual Song Archive
Most Popular Articles
The Holy Spirit in the Church of the Apostles
by H.H. Pope Shenouda III
Beware of False Humility
by H.H. Pope Shenouda III
The Blessings of Christmas
by Father Shenouda Anba Bishoy
Kiahk is Here!
by coptichymns.net Community
The Joy of the Resurrection
by H.H. Pope Shenouda III