Ok, my suggestion is let’s calm down a bit. If you’re a believer in Christ Jesus, you’re in good hands. Not to panic. Oh, I know it looks bad, it sounds bad and actually it’s pretty tough. And perhaps you’d think that it’s over. But don’t be discouraged. Maybe the world’s given up on Him, but God has not given up on the world. He’s determined. He’s proclaimed a loving heart for His creation. He’s never leaving or forsaking. He’s in this for the long haul. If you believe that He is and that He’s a rewarder of those that seek Him, Father, Son and Spirit are calm, confident and excited about you.
I’m going to write about something in this month’s letter that I’m not completely finished thinking about for myself. I’ll kind of be thinking out loud as I write this note. It’s a thought that’s been rattling around my head for a few years now. As I write, I’m just going to see ‘how it goes’. When I say I haven’t finished thinking about it, it’s something that’s a bit bigger than my brain can squeeze out into one simple picture. It’s an image that I would like to see in its entirety because of its perspective about Jesus’ mission to come to earth.
Let me start by saying a few things about him coming to live within Israel. Now think about this, Jesus physically stepped inside Israel and he lived there. He did! God of the Universe somehow squeezed the Holy Potter into an earth suit to live slap dab right in the middle of Israel. How ’bout this, similarly Jesus by His Spirit stepped inside you. He did– slap dab within you. And, seems to me that that first appearing in them was related to, and much of it applies to, his second appearing in us. What I’ve been thinking about for a few years is that what Israel did in the flesh to Jesus then is very much the same story as what the world is doing to him spiritually today. Seems the world as a whole is determined to crucify him again. His presence in Israel and his devotion to his Father only seemed to intensify the rebellion against him. His grace/forgiveness and patience was met with their fear and legalism. His relationship with Father and Spirit only seemed to remind them of their embarrassment at having been a chosen people but also a rebellious people. That was personified in Peter’s call for Jesus to ‘depart from me Lord for I am a sinful man.’ Of course he would not depart; actually, in essence he moved closer than ever before, and in doing so, their rebellion was revealed and exposed even more. So much more, to the point that the Creator of the very breath they breathed was crucified in a horrible death at the hands of the humanity that he created.
When Jesus showed up in his earthly ministry, Israel, just like Adam in the Garden of Eden, preferred to hide in the bushes of their religion. Distant and bone-headed, hard-hearted and stubborn all fit the bill. Rather than accepting the closeness of his presence, they, like the children of Israel ages previous, preferred to stand back at a distance. Preferred to send someone else to meet God much like they’d sent Moses up the mountain to be in His presence. The revelation of Christ came slowly if at all, with only a few followers in the end. Israel had hung a ‘do not disturb’ sign on their door, no Saviors needed sign, at least a Savior of this kind. The fear and ignorance of an up close and personal God only increased their desire to separate themselves from Him, even to the point that the religious leaders, the very people He had come to offer relationship, killed him. The Creator of hands was killed by the same hands He had created. This Jesus, offering Peace and Grace, was met with the same stone-heartedness that Moses encountered with Pharaoh.
At a time when Israel was hoping, believing, trusting, praying for Messiah, their Messiah came. What did they do? They accused him of being delusional, demon possessed, a child of an unwed mother, criticized his grace toward sinners, deserted him, lied about him, called him names, exchanged his wisdom sayings for legal arguments supported by the letter of the scripture, ignoring the spirit of the Word. They dismissed all evidence, signs and miracles Jesus said and did. They conspired in his death, the condemnation of the most innocent at the hands of criminals and atheists. We’re repeating that story today. ‘Get out of our schools, our market place, our politics’. ‘Get out, and shut the door on your way out’, ‘be gone’ is the world’s statement to a God that has come not only offering but doing reconciliation.
Here’s that good news I was mentioning at the beginning of this letter: this did not and will not divert God from His standing offer of Grace. This isn’t a new story, it’s not the first time, it’s generational in some sense. God had determined from the very first rebellion in Adam’s Garden to look His creation in the eye and say, ‘No’. He will not let us go so easily. Instead of scrapping the whole thing, God stepped right smack dab in the middle of the violence, muck, heart-ache, filth, evil, rebellion, all the slime and rolled up His sleeves and went to work on our behalf. This story began with God searching for and finding the first rebeller (Adam) and giving a firm ‘I will not give up on you!’ I will not give up on establishing a relationship with my beloved. He did not give up then, He’s not giving up now. Just because it’s tough doesn’t mean it’s over.
Here’s an important thing to remember about His first coming. True Reconciliation came at the world’s most rebellious, most ill-conceived time. It came at the same time that evil men killed the Son. The Cross of Jesus represented a moment where the Grace and Love of God was rejected the most. The very evil that had grown into a roaring furnace of hate and rejection was used by God to be the moment of His Reconciliation. Hate and fear had reached the boiling point as Jesus stepped into our world, sought us out, came to our little corner of the Universe. Astonishingly, that fervor to run God out of town, out of the world, was used to accomplish reconciliation between their fallen mind and His Embrace. A first apostasy savagely crucified Jesus. On that Cross, Jesus overwhelmed the spirit of anti-Christ in His ‘No, I will not let my people perish.’
Our generation is backing away again. And, while that reconciliation gave people a way to enter into a personal relationship with God, not everyone will do that. Some will do as men have always done, turn away. For the umpteenth time a generation pushes against the closeness that God provided, having drawn near to us in the incarnation of Christ Jesus. Look, I don’t know how, don’t know when, but I have a confidence that the Gospel of Grace, like a cactus in a dry desert, will bloom again. The Word has been through Adam’s fall, Pharaohs, 400 years of Babylon, slavery in Egypt, Roman rule, the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 a. d., the Dark Ages, the Holocaust, wars, persecution, secularism, and much more. In Jesus, the Father, Son and Spirit submitted themselves to our violence, anger and smear. They permitted us to crucify the Son of Glory in a most unjust way. Innocent, real blood was shed by hateful humanity. But, the tread of the Gospel has survived it all. This Word is not going away. The world with its attitude and systems is not going to put out this Light. It’s been tried many times before and has failed each time. It will fail again. It cannot be captured by Satan and his angels, no world power will possess it. Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega. The Father, Son and Spirit, this Gospel, will be standing after all else has fallen. He is and will always be the same yesterday and forever. We live in terrible times but there have been other terrible times. The Gospel that was set in motion by God ages ago continues to be offered to whosoever will. Not all will but enough will. This Gospel is not subject to the world’s judgment or its political powers. It may look like it’s over, may feel like it’s over…but whether we are seeing it or not, whether feeling it or not with our emotions, it ain’t over!