Threefold Glory (John 13:31-33)


Last words. Last words can be significant, not always but sometimes. The sweet story is told of Richard Mellon, a multimillionaire and president of Alcoa, who played a game of tag with his brother that spanned seven decades. When Richard was on his deathbed, he called his brother over and whispered, “Last tag.” Poor Andrew remained “It” for four years, until he died.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who wrote the Sherlock Holmes stories, died at age 71 in his garden. He turned to his wife and said, “You are wonderful,” then clutched his chest and died.

McIntyre, an American reporter, died at age 53, and spoke his last words to his wife Maybelle: “Snooks, will you please turn this way. I like to look at your face.”[1]

When people know that they are approaching their death, they commonly say something of importance to those who they care for most. We see this tendency throughout the scriptures as well. (1) Moses shares his heart with Joshua and Israel shortly before his death (Deut 31-32). (2) In the first chapter of 1 Kings, David addresses the tumult in his family and calls for Bathsheba, Nathan, and others to anoint Solomon as King of Israel. David then offers final instructions to Solomon and dies (1 Kings 2:10). (3) Solomon dedicates the entire book of Ecclesiastes to young people. Solomon shares all his life lessons and then calls the young to learn these “in the days of your youth” (Ecc 12:1).

Similarly, Christ exhibits the same desire in John 13 and following. Judas just left, solidifying his soon betrayal. Only the true disciples of Jesus remain. Jesus desires to share with them some final words. Christ desires to convey to his disciples two important final truths. (1) Christ’s departure results in the Father and Son being glorified, and (2) Christ’s departure places an emphasis on the need for love. We will consider each of these points individually over the next couple weeks.

Defining glorified.[2]  The meaning of glory hinges on both the participants and their positions.  First, God glorifies people by lifting them up and in so doing “manifesting His approval of them and His interest in them.”[3] For example, Isaiah writes of how God glorifies the people of Israel (Isa 55:5)[4]. God took a small and insignificant nation, a nation that was not known, and he glorified them. He exalted them. He lifted them from a place of lowliness to a place of honor. In Romans 8:30, Paul writes of how God glorifies those he has predestined. Paul writes, “those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Rom 8:30). God has taken people of lowly position and raised them (glorified them) to a position of honor.

Secondly, people are as well to glorify God, but God is already infinitely lifted up or glorious. Man cannot lift God up. In this case, man glorifies God, not by exalting him but by personally acknowledging God’s position of glory and declaring and reflecting that position of glory.

We find both contexts for glorify in John 13:31-32.

In these two verses, John unfolds a threefold glory. (1) In the first half of verse 31, the Son of Man is glorified, (2) in the second half of verse 31, the Father is glorified through the Son of Man, and (3) in verse 32, the Father glorifies the Son of Man.

The First of Three Glories:
Christ glorified through his glorious work.

Glorified through the salvation extended by his death. In this first glory, Christ, the Son of Man, does a glorious work and is revealed as glorious. In the high priestly prayer of Jesus in John 17, John offers us more information as to how Christ is specifically glorified.

Jesus . . . lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent (Jn 17:1–4).

Jesus, as a perfect sacrifice, suffered and died for the sins of mankind. In so doing, he defeated sin and death, and eternal life was extended to lost mankind. This death-defeating, life-giving, sin-destroying, wrath-appeasing work was glorious! And in it, the Son of Man was glorified.

Glorified through the events of His death. Not only was Christ’s death, itself, a glorious work, but the events that immediately surrounded his death displayed and affirmed the Son of Man’s glorious work. Matthew writes, in his gospel, that “the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised” (Matt 27:51–53).

These additional glorious events display God’s affirmation and acceptance of Christ’s work. Up to this point, Israel offered sacrifice upon sacrifice, and none of these sacrifices sufficiently resolved the conflict between God and man due to man’s sin. “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, [This sacrifice was accepted by God, and] he sat down at the right hand of God . . . For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Heb 10:8–14).

The Second of Three Glories:
Christ glorified (exalted, lifted up) by the Father due his glorious work.

So then, in verse 31a, the Son of Man is revealed as glorious. However, in verse 32, God the Father glorifies (lifts up, exalts) the Son of Man.

Christ’s lowly position. For Christ to be lifted up, he must have first been placed in a lowly position. Your mind likely recalls Paul’s statements in Philippians 2. Christ emptied himself. He took the form of a servant and was born in the likeness of men. He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death. (Phil 2:7-8). In his incarnation, his physical birth, Christ willingly lowered himself.

Christ lifted from his lowly position. And because of his glorious work in which he offers salvation to the world through his death, the Father glorified him. The Father lifted him from his lowly position of a servant, his lowly position of humanity, his lowly act of death and resulting burial, and the Father “exalted him [beginning with his resurrection] and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:9-10).[5]

Connect to Son of Man in Daniel. You’ll notice in verse 31, Christ refers to himself as the Son of Man. In so doing, he draws our attention to Daniel’s description or concept of the glorious Son of Man in Daniel 7:13-14. By means of a vision, Daniel paints a portrait of the Son of Man, one who is given “dominion and glory, and a kingdom” and “his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed” (Dan 7:13–14).

Christ exalted immediately. At the end of verse 32, Jesus tells us that he will be glorified “at once.” Jesus knew that when he glorified the Father through his death, the Father would in turn glorify him immediately. God the Father did so by means of Christ’s resurrection and ascension.

The Third of Three Glories:
God the Father glorified through the glorious work of the Son.

Now we’ve already acknowledged that God the Father cannot be glorified in the sense of being lifted up to an exalted position because he has never been lowly and already resides in the extreme exalted position. However, as God’s character and attributes are revealed, God is revealed as glorious. So then, let me point out just a few of God’s attributes revealed in the death and resurrection of Christ.

God reveals His Power. Through this moment, God display’s his power by defeating sin and death, specifically and most vividly displayed through both the resurrection of Christ and the future resurrection of believers. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians, “For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. [Paul continues and encourages us as he writes] For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God” (2 Cor 13:4, cf. Col 2:12).

God reveals His justice, righteousness, and holiness. Sin required the payment of death. Paul makes this point in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death.” We deserve death for our sin. Yet, Christ died for us. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa 53:6). The author of Hebrews as well tells us that Christ was “offered once to bear the sins of many” (Heb 9:28).

In dying for us, Christ met the just requirements of God. God’s justice was appeased, and we were declared righteous, “through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus . . . This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Rom 3:26).

God reveals His faithfulness. In Genesis 3, man sins and as a result, death and corruption spread to all creation and mankind. Yet, in the middle of this chaos, God promises that he will one day provide a Savior through the offspring of the woman (Gen 3:15, cf. Matt 1:21 “She will bear a Son . . . and he will save his people from their sins.”). The rest of Scripture tells the story of how God accomplished that promise, culminating in God fulfilling his Word as Christ came to the cross and died for sin. God is faithful. He does all that he promises to do. The cross most vividly reveals God’s faithfulness to his promises.

God reveals His love. In Romans 5, Paul describes us as enemies to God. In Colossians 1, he says we were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds. God the Son, chose to humble himself, sacrifice himself for sinful humanity, when sinful humanity was hostile to him and was actively rejecting him. Amid that context, Christ paid our penalty, and in so doing, exhibited the most extreme and beautiful act of love. Paul writes, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).

Concluding Implications

Satan was defeated. The Father and Son being glorified implies a suppression or defeat of Satan. The Father and the Son won! Satan was defeated and receives no glory. He continues to annoy, like the snake slithering in the garden, but the seed of woman has come and crushed his head. Christ defeated Satan.

We are glorified in the Son. Just a moment ago I drew your attention to Romans 8:29-30. Paul informs us that all those God predestined he will also call, justify, and eventually glorify. A wonderful byproduct of God the Father and God the Son being glorified is that those who are in Christ are as well glorified. (1) This implies our inherent lowliness. We have no inherent attributes that would reveal us to be glorious, therefore, the only way we are glorified is in being brought from a position of lowliness and being placed in a position of prominence and honor. (2) Our glory is derivative of Christ’s glory. Our glory is not original glory but reflected glory. Christ is glorious. The Spirit conforms us to the image of Christ, and thereby we reflect his character. In that reflection we receive glory.

Greatest tragedies result in the greatest glory. For just a moment, let me connect this passage to the odd and unique situation we presently find ourselves in. In the eve of Christ’s greatest suffering and death, in the eve of the greatest evil, Christ determined that it was important to assure his disciples that through this evil and suffering and death, both God the Father and the Son of Man would be glorified. Christ could have communicated or affirmed so many other truths, yet he determined that this truth was the most significant.

Christ realizes that amid the greatest affliction we often wonder if God has lost control. In the moments following John 13, the disciples would likely have wondered, “Has everything been lost? Did Jesus fail?” Christ affirms that God’s plan would not fail. God the Father would accomplish His task, and the Son of Man would as well be glorified.

In so doing, Christ affirms for believers today that God will be victorious and in control of any affliction through which they may pass.

And often, not only is God most glorified through these most dramatic moments, but as well his people are most transformed. Be encouraged that amid the greatest suffering, God is immensely glorified. And, when he is glorified, his people are as well glorified.

Our present circumstances pale in comparison to the Christ’s suffering and death. Yet, we can know that the same God who was glorified through the suffering of His Son, will be glorified through the trauma of Covid-19.

God is doing a good work in his church. I obviously do not know what He is doing, but I’m excited to see what comes of it. I think we are reprioritizing what is important to us – or at least we can meditate on what should be our priorities.

Nothing will defeat the purposes of God. Amid the greatest suffering, affliction, and evil, God will be victorious and unhindered in his plan.



[2] Friberg, et al.  Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, 120. “(1) as giving or sharing a high status glorify, make great (RO 8:30); (2) as enhancing the reputation of God or man praise, honor, magnify (MK 2:12); (3) as putting into a position of power and great honor, especially in the future life glorify (JN 7:39); (4) passive; (a) of things greatly valued and excellent be wonderful, be glorious (1P 1:8); (b) of persons receiving great honor be glorified, be praised (LU 4:15)”

[3] Walter R. Betteridge, “Glorify,” ed. James Orr et al., The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia (Chicago: The Howard-Severance Company, 1915), 1235.

[4] Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know, and a nation that did not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, and of the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you. (Isaiah 55:5).

[5] Barnes, Notes on the New Testament: Luke & John, 322. “The last deed is done that was necessary to secure the death of the Son of man, the glory that shall result to him from that death, the wonderful success of the gospel, the exaltation of the Messiah, and the public and striking attestation of God to him in the view of the universe.”