John 17; John 17:5 (NKJV): “And now, Father, glorify Me in Your presence with the glory I had with You before the world began.”
1) Truly God and truly man
Jesus, being fully God, left the glory that He had from all eternity, and stepped down into our fallen world. John 17:5 provides us with such an incredibly powerful picture: Jesus--who existed with God before the world began--left His glory to dwell among us. And, at the same time, we also know that God alone is God and that there is no other; “The Lord our God, the Lord is One.” (Deuteronomy 6:4). There are not multiple gods to be worshiped--there is only One. And to be God means one is absolutely outside all bounds of confinement--that there is nothing that can inhibit or restrict one’s power.
We can make ourselves the god of our own lives if we want to, but, in the end, we cannot prolong our life more than what we are due. Thus, such a definition of Godhood cannot apply to ourselves. But such a definition is evidenced by the God of the Bible, who is stated to be entirely holy. God’s power is directly tied to His holiness because there is nothing that can prevent Him from doing good--not even death. The Living God is entirely out of the grasp of the chains of sin, making Him the definition of goodness and perfection. He is newness-incarnate. The perfection of God’s nature is what makes Him the only One who is truly worthy of being glorified.
And it’s in this untouchable realm that Jesus shared glory with God before the world began. Christ simply says that He had glory with the Father before creation, implying that this had been their eternal state of existence. God did not, does not, and never will, need our worship of Him, or anything we or this world could ever offer. We define this as God’s aseity; “the quality or state of being self-derived or self-originated; the absolute self-sufficiency, independence, and autonomy of God” (Merriam-Webster). If God was perfect and entirely glorified before our existence, what makes us think that changes when we enter the picture?
2) Infinite love in an infinite sacrifice
Despite God not needing us in any way, He still wants us. God’s love is so great and good, that He has committed the greatest act of love that one can comprehend: “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.” (1 John 4:9 NKJV). God has demonstrated His infinite love by giving up His infinite life for us, so that we may live through Him, and that He would be infinitely glorified. Not that we can add anything to who God is, but that for our sakes God created us so that we may know Him. For if God has paid for each of us with His own life, then truly He has given infinite meaning to each life He has created.
This can be paired with the verse from Hebrews 12:2, “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (NKJV). Jesus stepped down from His glory and looked forward to the joy that was set before Him. Christ, who was entirely God, looked forward to the greater joy that was to come once He fulfilled His assignment at the cross, and returned to the full glory He had in union with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Jesus lived about 33 years of mortal, human existence--yet still remained fully God.
3) We are all fish out of water
To imagine God leaving the glory He existed in, we can use the image of a fish out of water. Simply to provide an analogy (and not to equate God to a fish); a fish, when it is stranded out of the water, dies. The fish lacks all the necessary components it needs to survive when on land, thus it dies if it does not receive said components. In much of the same way, we are all fish stranded on land in need of the water of life. Jesus came from the water, but, unlike us, is not affected by land in terms of death (the lack of water)--He is one and the same as the water. But, nonetheless, He was still out of the water from where He came, and--for a fish--the only place that feels truly at home is back in the water. Thus, when Jesus went to the cross, He brought with Him the water of life so that any fish on land that wants the water can have it, and once received, will have access to the ocean when the time comes.
What I am trying to illustrate here is the dichotomy of Jesus’s God and human nature; both entirely true and evident in Jesus to the fullest degree, yet He was entirely without sin. This, I believe, is so important for us to remember as Christians because we cannot discount Jesus’s humanity. Christ longed to return to the glory that He had before coming to earth. He wept when He was entering Jerusalem, knowing He would be killed by the very people His hands formed--by the people He loved. And for the joy that was set before Him, Christ endured the cross and the consequence of our sin. God’s great compassion moved Him to take our burdens upon Himself, all for the joy of having a living and active relationship with His creation. God didn’t need to do anything, but He did all that He did--and will do all that He will do--because He is God and has chosen to do so, according to His will that is good.
If God is as perfect and good as He says He is, then to live this one life where we have the chance of getting to know Him (though I do not believe in chance), is worth more than the most valuable things this world can offer; just the opportunity itself to know God is too valuable because God is simply too valuable. If we had a free offer to enter for a chance to win ________ (enter an incredibly valuable asset/thing/dream here), wouldn’t we all sign up to do it--especially considering it’s free? So why is it that when God offers eternal life in Him--a Being worth more than everything--some won’t even consider it (a guaranteed gift [salvation] through faith)? We, humans, are so quick to want the good things that represent God--love, joy, peace, and prosperity--but then are just as quick to walk our own way when the path of following Him becomes burdensome. We can easily lose track of where we are going.
4) Jesus is the river home
For us Christians who are currently living in this temporal world, we must look to Jesus as our living hope. Just as Christ looked to the glory that awaited Him, so too do we look to Jesus and the promise of His return. God is entirely present with us in this very moment, and we know that He does not withhold any good gift that we ask of Him (James 1:17; Psalm 84:11). Therefore, we have access to the riches of heaven through Christ Jesus right now. While we continually grow in the joy and the life that the Holy Spirit raises up within us in this present moment, we also look to the hope that is the promise of life in the time to come--that, having fought the good fight, we can put down our weapons and go home.
This is God’s glory: that He is life, and life abundantly. We all are fish out of water, and we all are not meant to stay in this world forever; Jesus went to the cross to give us the way back to our true home. Is it a coincidence that blood and water came out of Christ’s side when He was stabbed on the cross? The Bible says, “And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.” (Revelation 22:1 NKJV). Jesus is the river of life, and it’s by His currents that we will be taken back to the ocean that is God’s glory. [Of course, this implies that we are euryhaline fish (fish that can survive in freshwater and saltwater conditions--like Salmon--in case you were getting hung up on the analogy.). Or you could imagine we get raised up as new fish that can survive saltwater haha, to still use the analogy.]
Christ humbled Himself to exist as we exist, choosing to live like one of us, with a physical body and with the limitations we humans currently endure. However, when He overcame sin and death by giving up His life and then taking it back, He returned to the power He had always known. When Christ was made flesh, He was tempted just like we are but did not sin: “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15 NASB). Jesus is no longer tempted, but He still underwent temptation “in all things,” making Him the perfect empathizer that we need for all of our troubles, but also the perfect solution to all of our sin--Christ is with us in it all, and all He is looking for is faith.
Despite our abundant shortcomings, God gives us His Spirit in exchange for our sin; He gives us His divinity for our humanity. Only through Jesus is this transaction made, because He alone is the One who has reconciled the two opposing natures: God’s holiness and man’s sinfulness. In Jesus, all things have been reconciled, this is why it is written, “For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through the blood of His cross.” (Colossians 1:20 BSB). The living hope that we all seek and long for is found in Jesus, and because of Him and through Him, we have a way to get back home.