We Have Seen His Glory
Primary Truth Taught- God the Son becomes human without ceasing to be God
I suppose that if you were to ask Christians whether or not they would like to “see” God, most would say “yes.” Human curiosity often wins out over our knowledge of biblical passages such as Hebrews 12:29, which informs us that “our God is a consuming fire.” While Scripture promises that the pure in heart will see God (Matt. 5:8), Paul makes it clear that such sight cannot come until death, when believers enter God’s presence. It is God alone who “has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see” (1 Tim. 6:16). But one day — at the appearing of Jesus Christ — Paul says we will see that which our sin and finitude currently prevents us from seeing (6:14–15).
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes that the beatific vision (to see God as He is) is promised to Christians when Jesus returns at the end of the age: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12). In Paul’s day, a mirror was formed from polished metal, usually bronze, tin, or silver. One’s reflection in such an object was dim at best. Yet Paul promises that the dim image reflecting back from polished metal will give way to a face-to-face encounter. When Jesus comes back, we will see Him with our own eyes. On that day, our imperfect knowledge will give way to sight. We will know, even as we are fully known.
Seeing God as He really is has been John’s quest as he writes his Gospel.
My grandmother works a lot of puzzles. I think one of the fun things about a puzzle is that you don’t really see the full picture until all the pieces find their right spots. Once they’re in place we behold the full picture. That is exactly what John is doing for us in this Gospel. He is putting the pieces together. He’s placing each piece in place one by one throughout the book.
So far we’ve discovered the truth about who Jesus is…we’ve learned that He is the Word, He is God the Son, He is the Creator. Today we’re going to learn two more things or get two more puzzle pieces to click into place.
– Jesus is our Tabernacle
-Jesus is the grandest manifestation of God’s glory
Because we’re not Hebrews, nor are we experts in Jewish law, I want to take a few minutes to look at a couple of things that will help us piece together today’s passage because our verse today is one verse we must fully comprehend.
The first piece of the redemptive puzzle is found as we consider the OT Tabernacle.
When referring to the Tabernacle in the Greek OT (LXX), the writers use the noun Skene. Normally, the word skene is translated tent. In the context of a specific tent, namely, the Tabernacle, it is translated, of course, Tabernacle.
We find the beginning of the Tabernacle or Tent of Meeting, as it was called in the Book of Exodus, immediately following the Mount Sinai episode.
Exodus 33:7–11 (ESV)
7 Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp. 8 Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise up, and each would stand at his tent door, and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent. 9 When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the Lord would speak with Moses. 10 And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, each at his tent door. 11 Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.
So, Moses would go outside the camp and enter into this special tent and when he entered God’s glory would descend upon the tent and God would speak with Moses as friends speak together.
There were a lot of things that took place in the Tabernacle but when God spoke to Moses as a friend talks to his friend something was different. This was like how God spoke to Adam before the fall. This was how God spoke to Noah. This was how God spoke to Enoch before He took him to heaven. This is the most amazing thing and the most profound to imagine God speaking to a human as His friend.
The purpose of the Tabernacle was to provide a place where God could come to meet with His people.
Exodus 25:8 (ESV)
8 And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst.
The second foundational consideration for today is the idea of God’s glory.
When God met with His people at the Tent of meeting and they saw the cloud of God’s presence, what they saw was God’s glory. I want to refer back to the Greek word skene. This word comes from the root word shaken (shekine). Later this word would come to us as Shekinah or as we may know it, shekinah glory. So, the Tabernacle (skene) or tent was the place where the people could look out from their tents and visibly see the glory of God or the shekinah of God. Remember, all these words come from the same root or the same family of words. So, what the point is with the tent of meeting (skene) was that it was the place where God and His glory (shekinah) could meet with His people. One could call it the shekinah glory tent.
So powerful is this image that we read in Leviticus…
Now with that background, let’s jump to the NT…
The Israelites had a wonderful and biblical expectation that when Messiah comes, God’s glory would once again be seen by those in Jerusalem (Isa.4:5). Just like Moses beheld God’s glory in the wilderness and then, also, as the people saw the cloud of God’s glory hovering over the tent of meeting, so too when Messiah came God’s glory would come back as well.
Human Need Met
This verse shows us that when Jesus came to this world at His incarnation He brought God’s glory with Him. He came and set up His tent, as it were, right among His people. When they saw Jesus and heard Him teach, they were seeing God and His glory.
John 1:14 (ESV)
14 And 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.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,
John 1:1–2 (ESV)
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God.
God the Son, as much God as the Father is, came to planet earth 2000 years ago and was incarnate or literally took on flesh. God the Son did not cease being God but, as it were, added flesh to God.
The Word, God became a man, still fully God, for some 33 years and dwelt among us. Fulfilling,
Leviticus 26:11–12 (ESV)
11 I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. 12 And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people.
Now remember the Greek word skene, which means tent? Now John intentionally uses the verb form to make a wonderful point. In Jesus, God came to pitch His tent and live among us for a time. And the Word became flesh and dwelt (skenoo) with us. So, the Tabernacle and later the Temple were just temporary shadows because Jesus Christ is the reality. He is the One the Tabernacle prophetically pointed to and John wants to make sure we get it.
When Jesus came, God came.
Matthew 1:21–23 (ESV)
21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us).
God, pitched His tent and lived with us, He showed that He is for us and loves us and believe it or not, wants to live with us.
and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
As we consider How John brings to light the language of the Tabernacle in describing Jesus’ dwelling with us as a literal NT Tabernacle or the place where we can meet with God, he also looks to the Glory of God.
Moses went out to the tent of meeting and there, God’s glory descended. There were times when light so filled the Tabernacle that Moses could not see anything else, everything was white with the radiance of God’s glory. At times even the Tabernacle could not contain the glory of God.
My question for God this week has been, how and when did the disciples see Your glory in the Gospels?
In the OT Moses saw the glory of God as the pillar of smoke descending upon the Tabernacle. Before that, he asked God to show him His glory up on Mount Sinai, there God made His glory pass by as He placed Moses in the cleft of the rock (Ex 33:17ff).
Now jumping to the NT, in the Synoptic Gospels (Matt, Mark, Luke) we read of the account of the transfiguration. There was one time when the human tent or flesh of Jesus, much like the Tabernacle, could no longer contain God’s glory.
Exodus 24 tells us that when the Israelites were at the base of Mount Sinai God’s glory was present on the mountain for 6 days and on the 7th day God summons Moses to ascend the mountain to meet with Him. Many scholars see Jesus taking His chosen disciples up onto the high mountain after six days to see His glory as a connection to Moses seeing God’s glory on the seventh day as well.
Matthew 17:1–13 (ESV)
17 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. 3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” 8 And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.
9 And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.” 10 And the disciples asked him, “Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” 11 He answered, “Elijah does come, and he will restore all things. 12 But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.
So bright was the glory of Jesus that day that even His clothing was a brilliant bright white.
After the incident on Mount Sinai when Moses saw the back of God’s glory, his face glowed from the glory he saw. Coming down the Mountain the people were afraid because of the shining face of Moses. Moses’ glow was nothing like the glory the apostles saw that day as they looked at the transfigured Jesus Christ. That’s why the writer of Hebrews could say…
Hebrews 3:3 (ESV)
3 For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself.
No doubt John had in mind the transfiguration of Jesus as a time when they saw His glory.
For John, every event in the life of Jesus, every teaching, healing, miracle and every time He spoke words of encouragement they beheld His glory.
God told Moses you cannot see My face without a smoke cloud of glory and live so, I’ll have My goodness and My mercy and My love and My character pass before you and in this you will see all the glory you need to see.
That is why John could conclude verse 14 by writing…
and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
If you think you’d like to see God…look to Jesus.
John 14:8–9 (ESV)
8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
Because Jesus is the Word of God incarnate. Because He is the Son of God who took on flesh. Because He is Immanuel, God with us. To reject Jesus is to reject God. To embrace and receive Jesus is to receive God.
We learn that to follow Christ is to follow God and to obey Him is to obey God. No where is God’s glory seen more clearly than in the character and goodness of Jesus Christ and we too can behold God’s glory on the pages of the Bible as we read about and see Jesus through the eyes of faith.
The Apostle Peter was also up on the mountain that day with Jesus. He too beheld the glory of God as Jesus’ body and clothing became as bright as the sun. I want to conclude with Peter’s conclusion…
2 Peter 1:16–21 (ESV)
16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
John 1:14-18…How has Jesus made God known to us? Give two examples
Declaration of Grace
In the mercy and grace of Almighty God, Jesus Christ was given to die for us, and for His sake God forgives us all our sins. To those who believe in Jesus Christ He gives the power to become the children of God and gives to them the Holy Spirit. May the Lord, who has begun this good work in us, bring it to completion in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen