"31 The time for judging this world has come, when Satan, the ruler of this world, will be cast out. 32 And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” - John 12:31-32
Suffering is inevitable and unavoidable. Surrounded by cancer, mental illness, infertility, depression, loss, and ultimately death, we ask how God’s glory could shine through such tragic circumstances. For most of us, glory and suffering seem incompatible, just like something cannot be simultaneously hot and cold, wet and dry. But Christ’s journey from the cradle to the grave reveals a pattern that is stitched throughout the fabric of Scripture. For Christ, Christians, and all creation, the way of glory is the way of the Cross.
As Jesus approached his death, he said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32). At first, it seems that Jesus is talking about his coming entrance into heaven. But the following verse explains that Jesus is referring to his crucifixion: “He said this to show what kind of death he was going to die.” John’s gospel builds toward the climactic hour when Jesus’ being “lifted up” on the cross is the moment he is enthroned in glory (John 12:23–32; 3:14; 8:28). From the bruised heel of Genesis 3:15 to the reigning lamb of Revelation 22, the Bible tells the story of a crucified Messiah who is glorified through suffering.
As Jonathan Edwards taught, glory is not merely another one of God’s attributes or characteristics (along with his holiness, love, power, and so forth). Rather, it is the “admirable conjunction of diverse excellencies.” Glory is the dazzling, jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring showcase of God’s character to a world darkened by sin. It is the explosive radiance produced by his holiness, love, mercy, justice, wisdom, and power—all of which come together in the most fitting way in the death of Christ.
At the Cross, we see God’s justice through the judgment of sin, God’s love through the forgiveness of sinners, God’s power through his defeat of Satan, and God’s wisdom in his upholding of holiness yet making a way for sinners. Christ’s death is the ultimate, “Thus sayeth the Lord.” It reveals the glorious harmony of God’s multifaceted character. The Cross is the crossroads of everything we know about God.
By Jeremy Treat, adjunct professor at Biola University in La Mirada, California and author of The Crucified King.