Admit it. You like getting some recognition for the good things you do. A little praise can go a long way in boosting our esteem. No one likes to feel that they’ve added no value to the world (sadly, those who truly feel they have no value to add often commit suicide). That’s not to say you are a vain person who seeks attention, but it is within all of us to need affirmation, and affirmation is a form of glorification. We have a desire for glorification, and that drive isn’t inherently wrong (Jn. 7:18).
God’s goal since Adam and Eve were kicked out of the garden has been to exalt mankind to our proper place in the cosmos. We often refer to Adam and Eve’s sin as “the fall,” and rightfully so. We fell from our glorious, valuable place by trying to usurp God’s place in the world. Since then we’ve been concerned with regaining that glory, but without God we seek it in a very different, selfish way that can’t transcend the world. Is it now even possible for us to be glorified? If so, how?
“Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die. The crowd then answered Him, “We have heard out of the Law that the Christ is to remain forever; and how can You say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this Son of Man?” (John 12:27-34).
We cannot lift ourselves up. We must be exalted through Christ. Any other effort at glorification leaves us stuck on the earthly plane only.
I recently explored how the “Son of Man” in Daniel 7 represents true humanity in its rightful, glorified place in the cosmos. Jesus appropriates the term “Son of Man” because he himself is the representative of the new humanity. Paul affirms Jesus’ representative role for humanity, but in different terms. Paul describes Jesus as a “new Adam.” Adam is also representative of the human race, but in its fallen form (Rom. 5:17). As Adam represents mankind’s fallen nature, Jesus represents its exalted form.
Given Jesus is representative, his exaltation is therefore a new pattern for all humans who wish to be a part of the glorified humanity. We don’t have to live Adam’s story anymore. And what does the new story of exalted humanity look like? Crucifixion.
It appears that one of the many reasons God chose to have Jesus crucified was to illustrate mankind’s exalted place in the order of the cosmos. I’ve noted in recent posts that humans are supposed to be above the world, yet below heaven. Man’s place is in between. Humanity connects the two realms, since humans are both heavenly (spiritual) and earthly (physical). We are conduits made to be a living connection between the two realms, but before Jesus came we had lost our connection to the heavenly realm. The cross represents the path to mankind’s re-exaltation to its proper place. What happens when Jesus is lifted up on the cross? He is physically placed in between heaven and earth in all his glory, where mankind belongs!
This is, of course, the last way we would expect exaltation. The glory of the new humanity looks like a shamed and powerless person. More than just torture, the Romans displayed their enemies and criminals on a cross in public as a symbol of their own power and glory. Their ability to strip power and glory from others supposedly displayed how glorious and powerful they were. But God turned the message of the cross upside down by using it as a symbol of his power and glory through a new humanity. The man on the cross is the most powerful and glorious, exalted above the earth.
If we want to share in Christ’s glory, we must share in his story as well: “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one” (Jn. 17:22). We are invited to partake of Jesus’ glory by partaking of the cross ourselves (Mt. 16:24).
Jesus’ crucifixion is a story we never would have guessed on our own. By the grace of God we now know that our path to glory looks completely backwards. Anyone wishing to partake of the new glorious humanity must do so in the same way Jesus did. The Son of Man (i.e. humanity) is the most valuable part of God’s creation and he’s shown us the way to be glorified again. Praise God!