Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.
The DEEP

No Plastic Jesus

An American alligator watches silently over his watery domain An American alligator watches silently over his watery domain Matt Richardson

Seeing Christ in His full glory

John 17:24-26 

24 “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. 26 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.”

 

I will readily admit that I live in paradise. My home is in the Lowcountry, the traditional nickname of the coastal region of South Carolina. Here, the Atlantic Ocean gleams beyond the beaches of hundreds of “sea islands” that have been developed as seaside resorts or as wildlife preserves. The sea extends landward with tidal creeks and rivers that empty great watersheds such as the ACE Basin. It is a vacation destination for thousands of people every year who come to enjoy fishing, boating, and all the other amenities offered by the “Salt Life.”

For me, I greatly enjoy kayaking in the Lowcountry with my family and friends. The stunning beauty of the region never fails to impress me. Even a short journey on the water usually provides an encounter with dolphins or flocks of graceful shorebirds like the great blue heron.

There is a monster living in the Lowcountry, however. The region is home to the American alligator–a denizen of the deep that is to be feared and respected by all who encounter it.

Recently, some friends and I paddled the Ashepoo River and encountered such a beast. I had been warned by a local resident that a large alligator lived at a remote bend in the narrow, swampy river, and I took note as we embarked. Sure enough, we spotted the dinosaur-like creature at the appointed place.

Alligators are fiercely territorial and can be aggressive if provoked or crowded. We kayakers, in our tiny boats, were determined to do neither and quickly planned our approach. The ‘gator was barely visible, with only his small black eyes and rounded snout above the surface of the water, like a menacing U-boat about to strike.

The boldest member of the group–not yours truly–moved to the opposite bank and began to swiftly paddle past the watching eyes. We held our breath as he went past, but the creature did not attack. He swirled the black water with his tail and a loud exhale of breath announced his displeasure, but he did not strike.

One by one, the half-dozen members of my kayak group paddled quickly past the alligator, and each time, the water churned a bit more and the noises increased. Finally, as the last member of the group scooted by, a gout of foam erupted from the water. With a massive twist of his body and pounding of his tail, the alligator created a huge splash and a wave that rocked our boats.

At that moment we saw the power and might of a creature from another age. This alligator was no small fry, but was at least fifteen feet of prehistoric fury–a refugee from the dawn of creation.

It was then that I realized just how small I and my little boat seemed in comparison.

Do you ever consider the full majesty and glory of Jesus? Here in John 17, we find Him coming to the end of His “high priestly prayer.” Through the eyewitness of the Apostle John, you and I get to overhear these wonderful words of a Son to His Father–and encounter a picture of Jesus’s full glory.

In the final hours before the cross, Jesus and His disciples have finished the Passover meal and He has shared last-minute instructions with the eleven remaining disciples. Now, as Jesus prepares to lead them into the Garden of Gethsemane, the “place of crushing,” He prays to His Father. His prays for three relationships:

Jesus prays for Himself and His relationship with His Father. He prays for His disciples, those whom the Father has given him–the eleven men gathered around Him in stunned silence as the events of the past week and what lies ahead begin to dawn on them.

Finally, here at the end of the chapter, Jesus prays for believers yet to come:

20 “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word;–John 17:20

In other words, Jesus prays for you and me.

In His prayer for Himself, Jesus asks the Father to glorify Him–to restore Him to the role He held since before creation. Jesus was preparing to take His place with the Father once this earthly life was over and the promise of the cross was fulfilled.

In His prayer for His disciples Jesus asks that they be prepared for the work ahead: the continuation of His ministry, the foundations of the early church–and the certain death that they faced.

Now, as Jesus prays for you and me, He is revealing the hope of the future and the final victory–as well as an assurance to you and me that His presence with us will never end.

Jesus, just hours before the cross, was even then praying for you.

Jesus’s prayer reveals a lot about Himself. More than an encouraging word for His disciples to overhear, Jesus is praying directly to God that this is His desire as the Son.

Listen to how Jesus prays: 

24 “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.–John 17:24

Sinclair Ferguson points out that when you and I pray to our Heavenly Father, we use phrases like “if it be thy will” or “thy will be done.”

Augustine of Hippo, one of the early church fathers and bishop in the early church, lay on his deathbed as his city–a once-proud Roman stronghold–was besieged by invading barbarians in the year 431. Augustine makes an impassioned plea to God for his city’s deliverance and the sparing of the people.

Possidius, in his Life of Augustine, records his words:

I would have you know that in this time of our misfortune I ask this of God: either that He may be pleased to free this city which is surrounded by the foe, or if something else seems good in His sight, that He make His servants brave for enduring His will, or at least that He may take me from this world unto Himself. 

Augustine, servant of God, asks God to spare the city...if it be the Father’s will. 

Jesus, here before the Garden, prays directly to the Father and tells Him, Father, I desire… 

The Son, as He stands on the threshold of glory, the fulfillment of the promise of Eden, and the victory over sin and death, grasps His place with God the Father to petition what He desires.

What does Jesus desire? Jesus desires that:

 ...they also whom You gave Me may be with Me.–John 17:24b

In other words, He knows that future believers are not the result of random acts of sharing the Gospel, but have been given to Jesus by God. God has given you to Jesus and He prays for you even then.

Do you see the value you have in the sight of God? Jesus did not say “those who will behave well enough, live sinless lives, or avoid bad influences” will be given to Him. You, little old you, with all of your faults and sins but who believe in Jesus–will be His.

Now the big question is why. Why does Jesus do this? Because He knows that deep down you are a good person? Because you have been a Sunday school teacher, head of the deacons–or even a pastor for twenty years?

No. Jesus does this specifically:

…that they may behold My glory which You have given Me;–John 17:24c

Jesus’s desire is that His people, the ones given to Him by the Father, will see His glory–that you will see and know that He is God and that His kingdom lives in you.

Music artist Michael Card, in recounting these events in John and the inspiration behind his music, tells us that here Jesus is introducing new things. Jesus is showing us how He prays directly to the Father and revealing that you have been given to Him for all eternity.

Eternal life is not about quantity, life that never ends.  Eternal life is knowing God.–Michael Card

We think of Jesus and His glory when we think of Him in the future victory of His triumphant return. We hearken to the words of Daniel and his vision of Christ in the night, echoed later by Jesus in Luke 21:

13 
“I was watching in the night visions,
And behold, One like the Son of Man,
Coming with the clouds of heaven!
He came to the Ancient of Days,
And they brought Him near before Him.–Daniel 7:13

Do you see the full glory of Jesus in your life? If Jesus is saying that you experience His glory in the here and now, as eternal life already begun, do you see Him?  Is the Jesus you worship, know, and love the Son of Man in His full glory or a smaller version that is somehow easier for you to imagine or manage? 

It is tempting to forget that one of the roles of Jesus as prophet, priest, and king is to be that mighty warrior leader of an eternal kingdom. Jesus fulfills that role in your life today as He subdues you to Him in His power and stands mightily over all of the problems, pain, and the troubles you face in this world.

The 1967 classic movie “Cool Hand Luke” follows the inmates of a rural chain gang and the harsh realities of prison life. Paul Newman, in the stellar lead role of prisoner Lucas “Luke” Jackson, is a polarizing figure that recklessly challenges the establishment and seems hell-bent on destroying his life. In one scene, after being informed that his mother has passed away, Luke sings a mournful, irreverent folk song called “Plastic Jesus:”


I don't care if it rains or freezes
Long as I got my Plastic Jesus
Sittin' on the dashboard of my car
Comes in colors, pink and pleasant
Glows in the dark, it's iridescent
Take it with ya' when you travel far
      –Ed Rush “Plastic Jesus” (1957) 

Jesus, to "Cool Hand" Luke, is but a plastic dashboard decoration or good luck charm that has little impact on his life. A Jesus without glory.

Can you see Jesus’s full glory in your life? Does His glory and majesty as the King of Kings rule in your heart, subduing your sinful self to Him and leading you to the Father for refuge? Jesus, in His glory is mightier than the works of governments, the trends of society, and the folly of man. The glory of your King is greater than the troubles at your job, with your children, or in your marriage. Jesus, even in His place of power, still intercedes for you.

Think of that alligator for a moment and how one moment the calm, small-seeming thing suddenly exhibited its ancient power and total dominion over his world. He revealed a message of apex authority over all in his realm–including men in plastic boats! 

Look to Jesus and behold Him raised to His full height in unparalleled glory in your life. In Him is the One who has covered all your sins, broken the hold of the enemy, and now presents you blameless to the Father.

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The Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay and this Saturday Deep is written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/community

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/itemlist/category/91-deep-studies

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

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