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An AD 30 view of the distant future (3)

As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him [Jesus, c. AD 30] privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” And Jesus answered them,….. “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” Matthew 25: 31-40 
“What a glorious day.” You’ve probably heard those words several times so far this week. Glorious weather. Glorious sunrise. What is it that makes something or someone glorious? What is the glory of Jersey? What’s the glory of the European Union? Of Kenya? Is there an alternative word for “glory”?

Back in AD 30 in Jerusalem in the week before Jesus died and rose again he spoke with his disciples about “glory”. He said that when he would come back after a very long time away, it would be “in his glory”. He added that he would then sit on “his glorious throne”. What did he mean? Same problem. Difficult, isn’t it? What is glory? What is his glory?


‘God’s greatest glory is his grace.’ (Donald Grey Barnhouse, pastor, 1895-1960) 
Matthew wrote his eye-witness biography of Jesus in Greek. The Greek word he used is doxa translated into the English glory. It’s from that Greek word that we get our English word “doxology” – a song or statement of praise.

Substituting “praiseworthy” for “glory” in Jesus’ words recorded by Matthew, those words could be, “When the Son of Man comes in all that is praiseworthy about him, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on that throne which displays all that is praiseworthy about him.”

What then is really, really praiseworthy about Jesus? Is it that he suffered and died on a criminal’s cross to take the place of some of his greatest enemies in order to forgive them for ever and bring them home and into his family?

If that’s what’s glorious about Jesus then, when he returns, it will be like seeing the Son of Man who had given his all for others seated on a throne which somehow proclaims his rule through self-sacrificial love of the unlovely.

Matthew records that Jesus went on to say this: Before him will be assembled all the nations, and he will separate people one from another like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, and the goats on the left.

It’s rather intriguing, isn’t it, that Jesus actually said that nations – the political and other groupings - would be assembled in front of him when he returned. Then, when all nations are in front of him, he’ll divide the people – individuals - into sheep and goats. Why did Jesus mention national and other groupings of people when it was each person who was later assessed?

What do you think the glory of the nations will look like alongside the glory of Jesus on that throne of his glory? More to the point, what precisely is the glory of today’s nations? What is really praiseworthy about Saudi Arabia? And Britain? And the EU? After all, the overarching attribute of all of these is intense self-interest – as the Brexit negotiations illustrate very clearly.

Maybe like me you’re beginning to get the feeling that there’s a huge contrast here. If the nations are far, far less praiseworthy, less glorious, than the totally self-giving Jesus, what about individual people? 


‘A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.’ (C S Lewis, academic and writer, 1898-1963) 
Aren’t we highly privileged in Jersey to perceive such a contrast between the Son of Man when he comes in his self-giving glory – and the self-seeking glory of the nations around us? Aren’t we even more highly privileged because we can see this before the Son of Man, this Jesus of Bethlehem and Nazareth, does actually return.

Sinner Syvret

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