Scripture: “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” John 5:44 ESV
Observation: Having healed a paralytic man on the Sabbath, John tells us the Jewish leaders were seeking all the more to kill Jesus because his actions (by exercising authority over the Sabbath) implied that he was equal to God (verse 18). Jesus then engages in a heated discussion with the religious leaders regarding his authority to do the works of the Father (verse 19-29). Following Jewish law, he then offers proof of his headship by appealing to four witnesses: John the Baptist, the Father’s voice thundered from heaven, the works the Father assigned to him, and the Scriptures which point to him as the Messiah (verses 30-40). Jesus then confronts them about their closed minds that blind them to the truth.
Why were the Pharisees so hardened to Jesus’ testimony? Because they were self-seeking. They sought glory from one another rather than the only true glory that comes from God (verse 44). But Jesus’ indictment runs much deeper than self-aggrandizing. The religious leaders had rebuffed the love of God (verse 42). They had set their hope on what they could control: observance of the Law of Moses (verse 45). Yet, ironically, as Jesus points out, the Mosaic law reveals Jesus as the Messiah (verse 46).
Takeaway: We are not far from the folly of the Pharisees. That’s why Paul had much to say about salvation through grace, not by works. But this life of grace can be difficult to grasp. All of us are prone to taking control of our faith journeys. And in many subtle ways, we seek the glory of others over that of Christ. We want others to think well of us, to notice our pious practices (as did the religious leaders). And unwittingly, we can set our hope on becoming good enough by obeying Jesus’ commands.
The antidote? Fall in love with the One who co-created you and who died for you. How? With the help of the Holy Spirit, we seek his glory: we marvel over the works of Christ, culminating at the Cross, that testify that he is the Son of God. Then we ponder the extent of his love for us that deepens our understanding of his grace and inspires us to obey his commands—resulting in good works that glorify him. And this rhythm of life will bring us sustaining joy. Indeed, this is our chief aim (according to the Shorter Catechism): to glorify God and enjoy him forever.
Prayer: Father God, thank you for your Son who revealed your glory during his life here on earth. Would you please help us to follow in his footsteps and seek your glory, that it might shine in and through us as we learn to live a life of grace founded in our love for you and your Son? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling