The Selfishness of God
One of the objections people sometimes have to becoming Christians is the arrogance and selfishness of God. He seems to think “it’s all about Him.” Throughout the Bible, He is always talking about His glory, increasing and magnifying it, not sharing it with others and demanding that others surrender theirs to Him. Even Jesus gets in the act at the beginning of His prayer in John 17, shortly before His crucifixion:
“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.”
It’s as if He’s telling God the Father that it is time for Him to be rewarded for all the humiliation He’s lived with for 33 years. “Come on, Father, I put aside all the perks I’ve had for eternity and made myself comparatively lower than an ant, living with these hard headed rebellious folks. I’m ready to show them who’s Boss, sling some fire and brimstone. That’ll get their attention, the miserable louts.”
Fortunately, Jesus is not the spoiled brat portrayed in that ‘paraphrase.’ What does He really say in His prayer?
“The hour has come.” Throughout John’s Gospel, Jesus has been pushing people off, saying “My hour has not yet come.” Now, He’s saying it has come. It is time. For what? For the Father to glorify Him.
How does the Father glorify His only begotten Son? He forsakes Him on the cross. He blames His Son for all of the crap the humans have done. He turns away while His Son dies, leaving Him cold in a cave.
That’s a pretty twisted way to glorify someone…or would be if the story ended there. Earlier, Jesus taught His disciples that He is the way, the truth and the life; that He has the authority and ability to lay down His life and pick it back up again; that He has Life within Himself—He gets or owes His existence to no one else—He is self-existent.
These are bold claims and until He actually puts action to His words, they are just claims. By willingly allowing others to kill Him and through His own subsequent action in raising Himself, He demonstrates that His words were no idle boast, and He is Who He claims to Be. It shouts of His glory as God. The Father’s condemnation and abandonment actually glorified Christ by freeing Him to fulfill or demonstrated His divinity and glory in Himself.
Jesus’ enemies mocked Him while He hung on the cross, asking each other where was God in this. If this Jesus was so holy and close to God, surely God would deliver Him. “He saved others, why can’t He save Himself?”
If the Father miraculously saved Jesus, it would not demonstrate His divinity. Neither would it if Jesus saved Himself before death. Only by going all the way, beyond all reasonable doubt, beyond all shadow of a doubt, would Jesus regain and display the true extent of the glory He had with the Father before the world began.
But if we only went this deep, it would still be little more than an extreme publicity stunt, a moment of “Look ma, no hands!” Skeptics would still have the appearance of some justification of seeing God as having a glory fixation. (I say ‘appearance’ because it isn’t arrogant to say you’re the best if you really are. It can be said with arrogance, and it can also be said humbly, but if it is true, it is true. Similarly, if others are trying to take credit for your work and usurp your legitimate roles, it can also be appropriate to remind them who you are and what you’ve done, and snap them back into place. The grasshopper has no business telling the lion where to get off.)
To remove all doubt, Christ went through all of this for a Purpose. Rather than showing off, Jesus was paying off. By dying as a morally innocent, morally perfect victim and still raising Himself, He not only proved His divinity, not only proved His power over Death, He proved His power over Sin, by absorbing all of the wages, the cost of all sin in Himself and still having Life remaining to live again. It is sort of like pouring a bucket of water on a campfire, and having the fire go out, then springing instantly back to full strength on its own.
It would never have diminished God’s glory to never have died and risen. He has had that ability for eternity. It is like having a fortune in the bank and never spending it. One doesn’t have to spend money to prove the money is there. But, to go ahead and spend it all, not on oneself, but to pay the global debt off completely, then still show the fortune remains somehow, that’s a good trick.
And it’s not in the least ways selfish.
Day 21 Praise: see above.