November 12, 2008

The Hour and the Glory

2008 1531 page14 capransfixed with wonder, I stand watching the cascading torrent of water. Swollen by recent rains, the creek flows recklessly over rocks, sand beds, mosses, and fallen tree limbs. Gazing in amazement at the rushing stream, I know this water has careened around uncounted twists and turns and past mammoth rocks and logjams sitting here and there along the way. Now as it surges over a rocky slope, it will drop abruptly onto more rocks and on down the stream bed, foaming and spraying, as it rushes toward the river and the sea.
As I gaze upon the scene, I think of the beautiful words of Christ’s prayer recorded in John 17. And the rushing water in that lonely forest becomes a picture in my heart of the mighty torrent of love and grace being poured out upon us through the gift of Christ.
The Critical Moment Had Arrived
The opening words of Christ’s prayer give us a glimpse into the depths of both His and the Father’s love. Christ spoke these precious words while here among us, His human knees pressed against our own familiar soil.
“Father,” He prayed, “the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You” (John 17:1).*
“The hour has come.” It is the hour of the long-promised rescue mission. As Ellen White observed, “God’s purposes know no haste and no delay.”1 At the time of His prayer, Christ is poised at the closing hours of His earth-life, at the brink of His ultimate sacrifice. For millennia before Christ was born on earth, the Father and the Son had watched—sadly, painfully—the cruel results of sin as it affected Their beautiful creation and brought untold grief to humanity.

2008 1531 page14But as revealed in the pillar of cloud that accompanied the Israelites in their desert wanderings, God was always with His people in their joys and sorrows. “In all their affliction 
He was afflicted, and the Angel of His Presence saved them; in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; and He bore them and carried them all the days of old” (Isa. 63:9).
In keeping with God’s plan, the hour came when Christ was born into the human family. The hour came when He made His way to the Jordan River to be baptized by His cousin John. Patiently, Christ waited and prayed through the trying time in the wilderness, but the hour came when He began His public ministry.
Throughout that ministry He faithfully fulfilled the plan for revealing the truth about God, and gave a marvelous revelation of saving, healing grace. Untiringly He instructed a nucleus of disciples, patiently teaching them the nature of the kingdom, showing them the character of the Father, and equipping them to be His personal representatives on earth.
But now the hour has come for the conclusion, the final moments, the sin-bearing and the sacrifice, the ultimate revelation of God’s character and love. After ages of waiting, after the years in Nazareth, after the wilderness hunger and temptation, after three and a half years of loving ministry in the face of human conflict and satanic opposition, Christ now says—with great meaning: “Father, the hour has come.”
Can you imagine something of the Father’s depth of emotion at this development? “Yes, Son,” I imagine Him saying, “the hour has come.”
What It Meant
And what an hour it was! “Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You.” Of course, we do not yet see the outward, shining glory, the throbbing light, the homage of the angels, the joy of heaven. No, the glory is to be revealed first in the most unfathomable, unthinkable humiliation, pain, and grief. The glory was to be revealed in separation—unspeakably painful separation—from the One whom He was seeking to glorify. A separation caused by sin.
The eternal God delights in bringing His created beings ever nearer to Himself, in their truest advancement and development. When sin appeared, the rift it made between God and His creatures caused the most intense pain to God’s heart of love. “The cross is a revelation to our dull senses of the pain that, from its very inception, sin has brought to the heart of God.”2 Sin did not change God; rather, it constituted a circumstance that called forth a demonstration of a love that could not otherwise have been given.
It is in a crisis that our character emerges. One cannot remain neutral in real crisis. It demands action and response. And the greater the crisis, the more certainly it reveals the character, either as one that stands firm and strong or one that crumbles under pressure.
The crisis brought about by sin threatened an unfathomably valuable gift. The whole of life and existence was threatened, and with it joy, relationship, beauty, opportunity for pleasure and development. Because of sin, all that had been given freely to created beings was put in peril.

Sin posed the twisted accusation that the Creator, who had provided this precious gift, was Himself driven by selfish motives, rather than love. And thus was planted a question in hearts that had before known only loyalty, joyful allegiance, and the willing cooperation with God’s laws—laws so inherently protective that adherence to them came without a thought. According to Ellen White, “When Satan rebelled against the law of Jehovah, the thought that there was a law came to the angels almost as an awakening to something unthought of.”
God did not change. But His response to the crisis revealed His character. The hour to which Christ had come during His passion was the culmination of the revelation of God’s character in response to sin.
Nor was it a contrived revelation. In keeping with His character of love, the Son of God was to become the Sin-bearer, the Victim of the broken law, in order to redeem the human race. In His ultimate humiliation to redeem sinners from the destructive effects of sin, Jesus revealed beyond doubt the true nature of the character that had been under attack for so long. The pain of being the Sin-bearer was beyond human comprehension. Yet the healing of the rift caused by sin, causing created beings to come back into fellowship with the Creator, brought fulfillment and satisfaction to this divine-human person. It was through this humiliation, this rescue mission, that God would be glorified. And the hour had now come.
An Awesome Revelation
The coming of the critical hour revealed Deity to us as one who cares for us beyond our wildest imagination. When the hour came, Jesus was ready. He had weighed the pain, the shame, and the loss against the fulfillment of His deepest desire to bring His beloved creation back into harmony with Himself and in tune with life, with joy, with happiness. It was His glory to show that a Divine heart throbs in sympathy with our sorrow. Through this revelation of the divine character in response to the sin crisis, Jesus glorified the Father. The Father was shown to be in league with the One who had stooped to take our humanity and our grief, plumbing the depths of human despair even unto death.
In keeping with the commitment of that hour, a divine hand rests even now upon our shoulder; and a loving voice whispers: “Don’t be afraid; I’ve carried all the guilt and died to bring resolution to your sorrow. Be at peace; you are safe in the hands of the One who died for you. The hour came, and I was there; I counted it the fulfillment of My joy and the glory of My Father to rescue you. I loved you then; I love you now. You are safe with Me.”
The stream I’d seen out in the woods rushes without reservation over the mossy stones, onward down the creek channel, flowing lavishly and joyfully singing a song uniquely its own. Meanwhile, the channel behind it is ever being replenished by more and more water. In the same way the abundant love of God flows unreservedly into the hearts and lives of those open to it.
In the acceptance of this magnificent and boundless love, it is our privilege also to bring glory to Christ and the Father, as well as find our own truest fulfillment in yielding ourselves to be transformed by the power of that gift.
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:31, 32). 
*All Scripture references are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
1Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 32.
2White, Education, p. 263.
3White, Maranatha, p. 79.
Elaine Hayden is a retired educator who writes from Dalton, Georgia.