PREPARATION FOR EASTER — PART 2
Scripture focus- “The Son of Man must be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” [John 3:14,15.]
The world today is in many ways an ugly place. Hate, war, violence of all kinds justified in the name of religion or sport…. There seems to be a fundamental ‘rot’ in society…. Nature seems to be reacting with catastrophe after catastrophe…. Rust, and decay, disintegration, and obsolescence have made our planet a difficult place to live. The ‘Psych’ wards are full, and there are not enough counselors and psychiatrists to meet all of the desperate needs of our disintegrating world.
Many people live in small communities like ours to avoid the “big cities” and all the crime, etc. And then we have a murder! We concern ourselves about health, and eat right and exercise, and someone gets leukæmia and dies. Worry and fear tie us up in knots; we don’t know what to do. We hope against hope that we will survive, but suicide ‘dogs’ our circle of friends, relatives, and acquaintances.
Our Scriptures today have been directing our attention to a feature figure from ‘yesteryear’. A man who lived in an ungodly setting, but came to stand out as different.
The man Abram was seemingly a little shy and bashful, and very respectful of his family, and by the look of it did not push himself forward in society. But he was a man who had put his faith and trust in God — Jehovah. It would seem from his actions that he followed the ancient custom of recognizing the “Living God” in worship. And so God came to him and invited Abram to join Him in His work, and His plan, a plan to provide a rescue for mankind in fulfillment of His promise to Adam and Eve after their sin. [“Abraham entered into what God was doing for him and that was the turning point. He trusted God to set him right.” Romans 4:3 MSG]
God’s original plan was to create mankind to communicate with them and have a relationship with them as they enjoyed His creation. But God is also Holy, and can only remain in a relationship where there is the capacity for a reciprocal, sinless, relationship. Sin fundamentally changed all that: we now need someone to provide a way for us to get reconciled with God, in order to re-establish a relationship with him.
God provided that way in Jesus Christ. His death cancelled the debt of sin we owe. His resurrection is the basis for a life in relationship, both now and beyond this existence.
What then can we learn from Abraham’s experience? Abraham survived the hardships, the famine, and the separation from his birthplace because he had hope. He believed that God’s promises for an effective future were legitimate, whether he saw or understood it or not. And of course God gave the ultimate test when He asked Abraham to give up his son, Isaac: the son of the Promise. [Gen. 22, and condensed in Hebrews 11:17-19 “By faith Abraham… offered Isaac… Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.”] It was that model of faith that provided the Psalmist in Psalm 33 with the courage to express his confidence that God could be trusted in spite of circumstances.
Jesus’ disciples followed “The Messiah”, but were not always convinced that they were doing the right thing. So once in a while God would encourage them. One of those times was the incident mentioned on our Gospel reading: Matt 17:1-9. Jesus was revealed to them in His radiance and Moses and Elijah as well. Peter was “blown away” with it all. But I believe it was one of the things that helped them to “hang in there” when it really got tough.
Jesus gave Nicodemus the strategy for having that kind of hope and trust and faith for himself — and it is for us as well. Jesus said:
“In the same way Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert1 so people could have something to see and then believe, it is necessary for the Son of Man to be lifted up– and everyone who looks up to him, trusting and expectant, will gain a real life, eternal life… God didn’t do to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again, anyone who trusts in him is acquitted.”[John 3:14-18 MSG]
Let’s look at Romans 4:13-16:
“That famous promise God gave Abraham– that he and his children would possess the earth– was not given because of something Abraham did or would do. It was based on God’s decision to put everything together for him, which Abraham then entered when he believed. If those who get what God gives them only get it by doing everything they are told to do and filling out all the right forms properly signed, that eliminates personal trust completely and turns the promise into an ironclad contract! That’s not a holy promise; that’s a business deal. A contract drawn up by a hard-nosed lawyer and with plenty of fine print only makes sure that you will never collect. But if there is no contract in the first place, simply a promise– and God’s promise at that– you can’t break it. This is why the fulfillment of God’s promise depends entirely on trusting God and his way, and then simply embracing him and what he does.”[MSG]
Eternal life comes by faith- not based on our achievements but on His GRACE: the free gift of unmerited forgiveness.
Eternal life is real and it is for us to take by faith — despite the fact that we don’t have any ‘rights’ to it. So we need to:
- Admit that we need it. [See Hebrews 11:6; I John 1:9]
- Believe God and trust him that what Christ did on the cross was adequate for everyone and for every sin and wrong. [See Heb 7:25; John 3:17; I John 2:2]
- Commit ourselves to him completely leaving the results and consequences to him. [Proverbs 3:5,6; Hebrews 4:14-16; I John 2:15-17]
- And enjoy an abundant, full, complete life here and eternal life in the ‘here-after’. [See John 10:10]
© 2000 D. H. Friesen