The Gospel of John was written by the Apostle John near the end of his life. Most scholars assign a date of about A.D. 90 to its writing. John was a disciple of Jesus and a witness of His death and resurrection (1 John 1:1-2; Acts 1:1-3). Following Christ’s ascension into heaven (Acts 1:9) John served in a foundational role in the establishment of the church (Acts 3:1; 4:19). He faithfully served as a leader in the church for the remainder of his life and suffered persecution for the witness he maintained (Revelation 1:9).
What motivated John to devote his life to serving Jesus Christ and bearing witness of Him? No doubt it was his love for the One who had so loved him, but rooted in that love was his understanding of the truth about Jesus. He had personally walked with Jesus. He had personally witnessed the truth about Him. In his gospel, he wrote, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). John beheld Jesus. He saw for Himself the glory of the person of Jesus Christ. But what did John mean when he said, “We beheld His glory.”? The term “glory” is a “weighty” word, reserved for extraordinary things. We use it in describing such things as a beautiful sunrise or sunset, or a majestic mountain, or of the birth of a newborn baby. The Greek term forms the first part of our word “doxology,” and means, according to Vine’s Expository Dictionary, “the honor resulting from a good opinion.” But then Vine’s goes on to explain how the term also speaks to “what God essentially is and does, as exhibited in whatever way he reveals Himself in these respects, and particularly in the person of Jesus Christ.”
God is “glorious” in who He is and whatever He does. He is glorious in His nature and in all His ways. Whenever we see God unveiled to us, in whatever way, we behold His glory. In this respect, He is transcendent and extraordinary, for mere men all fall short of His glory (Romans 3:23). But God is always glorious, for that is who He is.
So John’s inspired testimony was that he and his companions, beheld in Jesus, the glory which is intrinsic to the person of God Himself. His glory manifested Him to be the “only Son from the Father” (John 1:14), unveiling the truth of which the hymn speaks, “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, hail the incarnate deity, pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel” (“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”). The immediate context focuses on Jesus’ character (John 1:14-18), but His glory was unveiled to John in other ways too.
John beheld the glory of Jesus’ person and character. He was “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). John and his companions received from Jesus “grace upon grace” (John 1:16). In contrast to the law given by Moses, “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:18). The term “grace” speaks to “graciousness, loving-kindness, goodwill” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary). God is a God who is rich in grace and mercy. Jesus unveiled this aspect of God’s essential nature to us. When Jesus appeared it was as if the “grace of God” and the “goodness and loving kindness of God” appeared, because they did (Titus 2:11, 3:4). These characteristics of God, intrinsic to His very nature, were unveiled to man in Jesus. And so that is what John saw in the life of Jesus. He was full of truth, embodying truth itself, but He was full of grace, “grace upon grace,” too. He was always gracious, always kind, always putting the needs of others ahead of His own. He was never selfish or demanding. So gracious in His ways that He willingly gave up His own life for us (2 Corinthians 8:9). And even while dying on the cross He would only speak gracious words. Jesus was glorious in His grace and glorious in every other virtuous way. But of sin He had neither part nor practice. Never, either before or after, has the world witnessed anyone like Him!
John witnessed the numerous and remarkable miracles that attested to Jesus’ glory. While Jesus performed countless miracles (Cf. John 21:25), John focused on seven in his gospel account: Jesus turned water into wine (John 2:1-12); healed a nobleman’s son (John 4:46-54); healed a lame man (John 5:1-17); fed the 5000 (John 6:1-14); walked on water (John 6:15-21); healed the man born blind (John 9:1-41); and raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:17-45). These miracles attested to the truth about Jesus’ identity as the Divine Son of God. The miracle of turning the water into wine “manifested his glory” (John 2:11). Likewise, the resurrection of Lazarus was described as an opportunity to “see the glory of God” (John 11:40). His miracles all attested to the truth of who Jesus is. John’s very purpose in writing the gospel was to speak to this: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which were not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God, and that by believing you may have eternal life in his name” (John 20:30-31). John beheld the glory of Jesus in the miracles that Jesus did!
John beheld the glory of Jesus in another way too. He was there, with Peter and James, when Jesus was suddenly gloriously transfigured on the mountain, His garments becoming white as light (Cf. Matthew 17:1-2). The event left a deep impression on Peter, who later wrote of the experience, saying, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice of was borne to him by the Majestic Glory,’ ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,’ we ourselves heard this very voice from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain” (2 Peter 1:16-18). Notably, Peter spoke to his readers of how they possessed, in the Word of God, something of even greater value—for it speaks to us from God, leading us through this dark place onward to the future unveiling of the glory of Jesus in our very hearts (2 Peter 1:20-21). But as with Peter, the experience undoubtedly left a deep and lasting impression on John
He also beheld Jesus’ glory as it was unveiled in His willing sacrifice for sins and resurrection from the dead. He stood with Jesus’ mother when Jesus hung on a cross and later beheld Him after He rose from the dead (John 19:26; Matthew 28:8-9). The glory of God was unveiled to mankind in Jesus in those events. It was the “Lord of glory” that was crucified and who rose again (1 Corinthians 2:9). The “power of God and the wisdom of God” was revealed (1 Corinthians 1:24). As was His love, grace, and mercy (Titus 2:11; 3:4-5). A strong case could be made that all of the attributes of God were put on display for all to see in Christ’s death and resurrection. The death of Christ for sins and resurrection from the dead also constitute “the gospel of the glory of the blessed God,” the good news of the salvation provided when “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:11,15). The Apostle John saw the message unfold, was commissioned to spread it, and devoted his life to it. The message itself speaks to the glory of God and of the Son who died and rose again.
Behold His glory! The eternal Son of God was born of a virgin and dwelt among men (John 1:14). The disciples walked with Him. They heard Him speak as no man had ever spoke before. They saw Him do things that no mere man could ever do. His miraculous deeds testified to His true identity (John 20:30-31). He was full of grace and truth and empty of sin. In His love, and to fulfill the Father’s will, He purposed to die on a cross for our sins. Though He had done nothing wrong, He was tried and convicted and then nailed to a cruel and pain- inflicting cross. The Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world bore our sins on Calvary (John 1:29; 1 Peter 3:18). Death could not hold Him; He rose from the grave (Acts 2:24). Having made payment for sin, He won the victory over sin and death and the Devil (Colossians 2:13-15; Hebrews 2:14-15). He appeared to His disciples and others (1 Corinthians 15:5-8) and commissioned them to share the good news of His death and resurrection (Acts 1:8). That message, His glorious gospel, is the truth of salvation by grace through faith in Him (1 Timothy 1:11; Ephesians 2:8-9).
He is a glorious Savior and His gospel is a glorious truth. His disciples beheld His glory when He walked with them, but the Spirit is able to open blind eyes, in salvation, to the truth of it still (2 Corinthians 4:4-6). The Spirit works henceforth to progressively unveil the glory of Jesus to His own (2 Corinthians 3:18; John 16:14). In His first advent He came in humility, but in His second it will be in glory–for all to see. Every knee will bow to Him and every tongue will confess Him as Lord (Philippians 2:10-11). Some, having never trusted in Him, will be banished from His presence to an eternal destruction (2 Thessalonians 1:9). But on that day, He will be “marveled at among all who believed” (2 Thessalonians 1:10). They will all behold His glory, face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12; John 3:2). Will you be amongst them?
“More about Jesus would I know,
More of His grace to others show,
More of His saving fullness see,
More of His love who died for me.
More about Jesus on His throne,
Riches in glory all His own,
More of His kingdom’s sure increase,
More of His coming—Prince of Peace.“
“More About Jesus”; Text: Eliza E. Hewitt; Music: John R. Sweney