Let’s face it, glory is a strange word. It’s something that can be talked a lot about within the church, but hardly ever mentioned outside of it. It would be pretty unusual for someone to use ‘glory’ frequently in their everyday life. Glory is a rare and unusual thing. Indeed, when it comes to life outside Christian circles, there are two main areas where we might possibly talk about glory: sport, and antiques.
In sport, you might think about the glory of victory. Athletes might talk about “going for glory” in their latest competition. Football crowds might sing “glory, glory Man United” if they are so inclined (and not so much at the moment). Commentators might talk about olympic sports men and women pursuing “gold medal glory.” All of these mentions of glory have to do with the glory of victory.
Alternatively, we might turn to the world of antiques. There we talk about the glory of restoration. There might be a particular object, painting, or even a historic building that is “restored to its former glory.” We might refer to something that had been damaged or neglected as having “lost its glory,” but when it is mended its glory is restored. Or if someone is feeling a bit of an antique themselves, they might talk about their “glory days,” which is really hankering for youthful vigour and excitement to be restored.
Here are two ways of thinking about glory – victory and restoration. And they actually fit rather well into the Bible’s picture of glory. Because what they have in common is that the character of something is being made known. In sporting victory the power, strength and commitment of an athlete is shown. The gleaming glory of a gold medal is the visible sign of the sportspersons’ skill. Alternatively, through restoration, the beauty, artistry and creativity of a work of art is made visible. Restoration brings the glory of that object back into the light.
When the Bible talks about God’s glory, it talks about much the same thing. The glory of God is about taking the characteristics of God – his wonder, power, majesty and greatness – and making them known. God’s glory is about making God visible.
Human beings reflect the glory of God therefore, as we are made in the image of God and show something of his character and nature. But the pinnacle of God’s glory is the person and work of Jesus Christ. He makes God visible to us. He takes the power, majesty and wonder of God and makes it known. Jesus is truly and rightly glorious.
And the pinnacle of Jesus’ glory is his death and resurrection. What seems shameful and horrific on Good Friday is transformed in to glory on Easter Sunday. God’s glory is seen through Jesus’ glory revealed in his obedience to death. Not only that, but Jesus invites us to share in his glory.
Through his death, Jesus wins for us the glory of victory. He conquered sin and death; he overcame the grave; he runs the race for us, so that we can join in his victory. He also achieves for us the glory of restoration. He makes broken people new again, sinful people clean again, turns enemies into friends and family. He is glorious and gives us glory in victory and restoration.