Caesar Augustus is remembered as the first and greatest of the Roman emperors. By political skill and military power he eliminated his enemies, expanded the empire, and lifted Rome from the clutter of rundown neighborhoods into a city of marble statues and temples. Adoring Roman citizens referred to Augustus as the divine father and savior of the human race. As his forty-year reign came to an end, his official last words were, “I found Rome a city of clay but left it a city of marble.” According to his wife, however, his last words were actually, “Have I played the part well? Then applaud as I exit.”
What Augustus didn’t know is that he’d been given a supporting role in a bigger story. In the shadow of his reign, the son of a carpenter was born to reveal something far greater than any Roman military victory, temple, stadium, or palace (Luke 2:1).
But who could have understood the glory Jesus prayed for on the night His countrymen demanded His crucifixion by Roman executioners? (John 17:4–5). Who could have foreseen the hidden wonder of a sacrifice that would be forever applauded in heaven and earth?
It’s quite a story. Our God found us chasing foolish dreams and fighting among ourselves. He left us singing together about an old rugged cross.
Father in heaven, please help us to see through and beyond the passing glory of everything but Your love.
The glory we need is the glory of the cross.
The word glory (or glorify) is very prominent in John’s gospel. In John 17 alone it’s used nine times. It’s derived from the base word doxa, which means “glory,” “honor,” or “praise.” Our word doxology (a short hymn of worship) comes from this term. In John, the word glory surfaces first in chapter 1, verse 14. The second time is in John 2:11 where at Cana we read that Jesus “revealed his glory” by turning water into wine. Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, God was and is honored or glorified.