What comes to mind when you hear about a homecoming? In September and October people, towns, and schools across the United States celebrate a time to welcome back former alumni and residents. Heartwarming experiences are shared when public servants and military personnel are reunited with loved ones after extended deployments. Missionaries returning from our Lord’s work in foreign lands enjoy hearing, “Welcome home!” and receive love from family and friends. Enthusiastic feelings of joy and peace begin to bridge the gap of despair we experience when we are away from family and friends.
Did Jesus have these thoughts and feelings? I believe so. We get a peek into His feelings as we look at His prayer, which the apostle John records for us in chapter 17:
When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” John 17:1-5 (ESV)
These verses are the first part of Jesus’ prayer to His Father before the events that led to His crucifixion. He acknowledges His deployment on Earth as a man is nearing completion. He asks to be glorified by means of the cross. Ray Stedman writes “Throughout John’s gospel, we have seen Jesus moving deliberately toward this hour – an hour of crisis and conflict in which Jesus goes alone into battle with the powers of darkness.” This is not a selfish prayer for glorification because He is asking in the context of bringing glory to His Father.
Then in verse 5 Jesus prays to be glorified by returning to heaven: “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” John 17:5. Jesus is looking beyond the cross to the restoration of the glory He had to set aside when He became human at the moment of the Incarnation.
So what is glory? The Greek word ‘doxa’ is used in Biblical writings to translate a Hebrew word, ‘Kabhod’ which had a sense of “brightness, splendor, magnificence, majesty, and honor.” In a sense it means to reveal hidden riches. When Jesus was sacrificed on the cross, the hidden riches and radiance of God’s love became visible to the world.
God answered His Son’s prayer beginning at His resurrection and fully restored Jesus’ glory on the heavenly side of the ascension. We get a peek into what this looked like in Revelation 5:
And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”
Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped. Revelation 5:9-14 (ESV)
Can you imagine how the apostle John reacted to this? He was a witness to both the Earthly and Heavenly sides of Jesus’ ascension. He was shown Jesus’ homecoming. Time was not relevant. John was shown this by God’s angel (Rev 1:1-2) while he was in exile on the Island of Patmos.
Verses 1-8 of this chapter describe the despair in heaven because no one was worthy to take the scroll from the right hand of God. Then Jesus arrives – the Lion of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, the Lamb of God – and all of heaven shouts praise and gives glory to the Father and the Son. All of heaven experiences joy, peace and relief when the Son of the Most High God comes home.
Jesus’ victory over sin lovingly opens the door for all who believe in Him to join in this heavenly homecoming. Jesus promised this to us when he told Nicodemus about the plan of salvation during their late-night conversation;
“For God so loved the world, that he gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” John 3:16-17 (ESV)