John 19. 17 - 30|
It is finished. Christ’s last words as he hung on the cross didn’t mark the end of the chronicle of the man Jesus Christ. It was the beginning. The second Adam had done what the first Adam was unable to do. Christ’s duty was done. By the cross he made possible our entry into God’s grace. This son of Abraham-- this son of David, in God’s time will sit down in the kingdom promised to Abraham and his seed. (Gen. 12. 1 - 3). The apostle Paul said For the hope of Israel he would be bound with this chain because of the action of Christ, the first fruit of them that sleep. Christ’s resurrection validates his declaration: Salvation is of the Jews.
Our faith is tested daily 2,000 years later. The Lord delays his coming. Human suffering continues unabated–the Ebola virus, AIDS, famine, pestilence continue. How can we say that God is good? That God is love? When He stays His hand, it’s easy for us to feel that God is not performing correctly–in the way we want. We wish to serve God, the trouble is we want to act as His advisor. But we forget that we see through a glass darkly. We don’t know God, Paul said, rather we are known of Him. What we have to do is seek Him diligently even though His light will remain unseen until the day He reveals Himself and we see His face. (Rev 22. 4) Meanwhile doubts will fade if we can satisfy ourselves that Jesus rose from the dead. This explosion in the 1st century, miraculously made Jews into proselytizers, cowards into heroes. Paul gave up everything. James, the Lord’s brother, changed from antipathy to apostle. Josephus wrote of it. Circumstantial evidence is often more convincing than that of eyewitnesses, but in this case we have both.
Today it’s not my purpose to prove the resurrection–plenty of books on the subject endure. The question is, when we believe it, what shall we do about it? In the book of Romans we read Paul’s observations:
Know ye not that so many of us
as were baptized into Jesus Christ
were baptized into his death?
Therefore, we are buried with him by baptism
into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead
by the glory of the Father, even so we also
should walk in newness of life.
For if we have been planted together
in the likeness of his death,
we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection. (Rom 6. 3 - 5)
Obviously this has not happened except in a figure. But we ought to reckon that it has happened. What is the evidence that you are metaphorically a new creation? Does it show in your life? Do others notice? Christ said, by their fruits ye shall know them. What are your fruits? It’s possible that your fruit is seen only by Christ. As in the parable of the talents where each recipient had to plead his case, and each was judged accordingly. It’s also possible your fruit will astonish others, as in the exposure of a spy, when those fruits come to light. As he went about preaching, Christ saw the faith in those who were despised: the Canaanite woman in the house of Simon (Luke 7. 44 - 47) who washed his feet and anointed him with oil, or the woman with an issue of blood who had only to touch his garment to be healed (Luke 8. 44 - 45). The Roman centurion mentioned in Luke 7, who begged Christ not to trouble himself to come to his house to heal his servant, Just say the word and my servant shall be healed. Christ’s reply? I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. The point is, when you begin a new life, it is not something you shout from the rooftop or put in the newspaper. The change comes in your heart. Paul says in the inner man.
Why change? Why do we have to change? We’re all nice, respectable people. How about from fear, or greed? Does that sum you up? Our drab, ordinary lives may not be so dramatic, but how much time do you spend being afraid, worried, fearful? How much time do you spend wanting something? A change is necessary; a change inside that the master will notice. You must have enough insight to see that a change is needed–not because of what’s in it for you, but because you want to be like him. After all, the story of Christ’s life and sacrifice is not some primitive tribal ritual. It is the ultimate example of the only life worth living: not my will, but Thine be done. Expressed denial of self for others–this continues to remain the world’s crying need. Keep in mind, a false balance is an abomination to the Lord.
A certain family once set out to a nearby state river to ‘ride the rapids’ in rented canoes. One scared child hesitated to make the move-- frozen in space-- one foot on a slippery, muddy slope, the other in the canoe. Arms flailing , fearing to make the leap, family members helped her gain her balance in the wobbling canoe, and she was made good to go. The word of God will help you if you will stick with your goals–through all the hard stuff–til you see its constancy. Leave the bank, step into the boat, and take that exhilarating ride down to that peaceful sea–a beautiful metaphor for the ‘returned’ in the kingdom of God. There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God. (Ps 46. 4)
Forgetting those things which are behind
And reaching forth to things which are before,
I press toward the mark for the prize
Of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus