Saturday 17 March 2012

Has the God revealed in Jesus made his home in you? 2 Chr 36:14-17, 19-23; Eph 2:4-10; Jn 3: 14-21

“God made us in his image and likeness and we have been repaying the compliment ever since.” This statement of a wit is not far from the truth. We continue to fashion God according to the smallness of our minds. The great mystics of many religions realized this and so their discourse about God was tempered with cautions. This means that when they speak of God, they realize that, even after all is said, there will still be much left to be said. John does the same in his Gospel. He cautions the readers of his Gospel, in 21:25: “But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” Yet, he does speak of the revelation that God makes in Jesus, and of the blessing we have received in this revelation, because it gives us insight into who God is.

The text of today begins with what is regarded as the first of the three passion, resurrection, and ascension predictions in the Gospel of John. Jesus will be lifted up/exalted, just as Moses lifted up/exalted the bronze serpent in the wilderness. The term “hupsoo” can mean “lift up” or exalt”.  Although the word might indicate the physical act of “lifting up” the cross beam at the time of his crucifixion, it might also mean his “exaltation into glory”.  Thus, in his crucifixion, Jesus will also be exalted, yet there is no exaltation apart from the crucifixion. The consequence of believing in Jesus lifted up/exalted is eternal life, which here means a life lived in the constant presence of God. It is significant that, for the Gospel of John, the very act of the crucifixion is also seen as the act of the resurrection and the act of the ascension. Jesus dies, but only to be raised to life and ascend to the Father.

This unconditional love of God was made visible and tangible in Jesus, God’s Son come into the world. The Son, given as a gift of God, was accepted by some but rejected by others. God sent his Son so that all may have eternal life. The primary purpose of sending the Son was to save, not to condemn. Yet, every person is free to decide whether he/she wants to accept this free gift.  Acceptance of the gift of the Son of God means salvation; rejection means that one condemns oneself.

The people of Israel were freed from exile in Babylon, by Cyrus, the Persian king.  After being freed, they became bound again, bound by their own desires and selfishness.  They have in Jesus salvation in every sense of the word. It is a salvation that is shown through the example of the self sacrifice of Jesus, the only Son of God. Because of this, all people everywhere can have an even better life than the Israelites had under David and under Solomon.  The Lord’s song can continue to be sung in this new land and this new life. People will not need to remember the past glory. They will not need to remember Zion. There will no longer be any exile or captivity.  There will no longer be any mourning, weeping, or sorrow.  The coming of God’s Son has turned all sorrow into joy and every tear has been wiped away.

This insight is extremely important for our lives as well, because it means that, if we accept it, our lives will never be the same again. It is unthinkable that God would choose the manner of salvation that he did when he sent his Son to save. God could have, like in the past, sent yet another messenger or even another message. Yet, he opted for the most extreme of measures when he sent a part of himself. It is even more stunning that this Son was sent, not to judge, but to draw people to God through love and forgiveness. The primary task of Jesus, as his name suggests, was to be salvation to all. The all inclusive nature of this salvation, and its availability to the whole human race, is something that is possible only for God.

Though the light has come, and people should normally have opted for it, some preferred the dark. The reason why they preferred the dark is because they did not want either their deeds or their person to be exposed. Fear ruled their hearts. Those who opted for the light opted for freedom and love.

This idea is reiterated in the second reading of today in which the Christians at Ephesus are given insight into the unconditional love of God which, because it came when they were sinners, proves that God’s love is a gift and not something earned. To show that the gift has been received and not spurned, they are called to live lives worthy of the gift of God’s love.

The texts of today give us an insight into who God is in Jesus. They state simply that God is, and will always be, unconditional, magnanimous, and bountiful love. This calls us to a new hope and a new courage. They say to us that, even when we are in extremely difficult situations and there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel, God continues to be there with us, walking ahead of us, guiding our path and lighting our way. They say to us that, at moments when we think all is lost and we have no hope, we must not give up or give in. They say to us that, even at those times when we cannot fully understand why things happen the way they do and we are tempted to throw in the towel, God continues to offer hope and consolation.

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