Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Concrete Hope

This Sunday, the sermon at Good Shepherd was from John 14:15-21.  Earlier in John 14, Jesus makes an incredible claim, namely, that He is "the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one comes to the Father except through [Him]."  (John 14:6)  In order to back this claim, Jesus offers three things as evidence:  His words (v. 10), his works (v. 11), and, surprisingly, the Church, that is, God's work among those who are his disciples (vv.12-15).  

Jesus's plan is to have his Church following his commandments in such a way that we will truly be the light of the world (Matt 5:14-16).  

But when we look at the Church, both past and present, we may question whether Jesus's third piece of evidence is helping at all.  We might say to Jesus, "Yes, everyone who reads your teachings finds them compelling, and yes, your miracles are clear testimony that you are the God of the Old Testament.  But Jesus, have you ever read Church history?  I'm not sure we are helping out that much." 

And yet, this is indeed Jesus plan.  God is so great, so powerful, that in his hand the humblest instrument can play the greatest music ever heard.  God can even use us to be evidence of the gospel.

In John 14:16-21, Jesus lays out HOW this great miracle can be accomplished.  How is it that sinful, broken people can be transformed to the point that the world would look at them and say: "Yes, because of the way these people live, I am compelled to follow Jesus.". 

Jesus gives three things in this passage that make this possible:
  1. The indwelling power of the Holy Spirit (v. 15-17)
  2. The tangible hope of our own resurrection (vv. 18-20)
  3. The life-giving relationship we have with the Father (vv. 21) 

On Sunday, we looked at the first of these three: the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.  And in “From Fr. Tom” for this week and next we will look at the latter two: the objection reality of Christ's Resurrection and how impacts the way we live now, and the life-giving relationship Christians can have with God, and how that relationship transforms us for the better.  

Concrete Hope

In (vv. 18-19), Jesus says: ““I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.” (John 14:18–19) 

While some scholars see Jesus making a reference to the coming of the Holy Spirit here, I think that this is a reference to Jesus upcoming resurrection.  Yes, it is true that the Holy Spirit (sometimes called the Spirit of Christ, e.g. Romans 8:9) is Jesus’s presence among us (thus fulfilling Matthew 28:20).  And it is true that because of the Holy Spirit in us, we have new life (See Rom 8:11).  And so if we took the passage that way, we would not be too far off base.  

However, the logic of Jesus’s statement “Because I live, you will also live” makes more sense in light of the Resurrection way.  Here’s why…

Because we are in union with Christ through faith and the waters of baptism (Rom 6:1-10), everything that happens to Him happens to us:
    • Since Jesus died, so do we - “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (Rom 6:3)
    • Since Jesus rose from the dead, so do we - We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Rom 6:4, see also 1 Cor 15:20–22; Phil 3:20-21; Col 3:4)
When we look at the Resurrection of Jesus, the historical fact that it is, we have great confidence that we too, though we may die for a while, whether in suffering for the gospel, working hard to live holy lives or even physically dying, in the end we will have life.  

Proof of Life

Indeed, it is the resurrection of Jesus that is our hope that God will complete the work he started with us. Not only does Jesus’s resurrection itself provide grounds for faith in his claims (See John 14:11, 20), but it also provides great hope for his people.  

It is worth asking this question:  Why did Jesus make you his in the first place?  Was it so you could endless fall back into sin forever?  NO!  As we strive with God to become his faithful witnesses (see Phil 2:12-16), we have confidence that God Himself will complete the work.  (Phil 1:6)  Though we may fail, though we may lose strength, God will not fail.  Though the battle with sin in our hearts can seem hopeless, in reality, it is not.  If God can raise Christ from death itself, and if he promises to raise YOU to that same kind of holy life, then He will see you to then.  “The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Tim 2:11–13)