March 21, 2015

Life Through Death - the Paradox of Christianity (Lent 5 Readings)

A paradox is when a statement that seems to contradict itself is in fact a profound truth. To understand the profound truth of Jesus teaching we need to examine it in the context of both Biblical Prophecy and the dramatic events preceding the teaching. Daniel and the Book of Enoch had prophesied a “Son of Man” would be sent by God to intervene in history and restore the world domination of Israel. The Gospel Reading follows the stories of the Raising of Lazarus, the Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem and the Cleansing of the Temple. This is the last week of Jesus ministry and things are moving to a dramatic conclusion.

·         Jesus is not saying we have to die completely to self / self-love

·         Is saying that by spending or giving up our lives in serving others our life becomes richer – have more love, joy and peace in our life

·         Is teaching that by seeking to protect our life we may become self-centred and less loving – and have less joy in our life

·         Jesus was teaching a new definition of life as love relationship

1. Jeremiah prophesied a New Covenant of Life (Jer. 31.31-34)
“The days are coming, declares the Lord when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and the people of Judah..”

·         Not like the old covenant of the Law of Moses that they broke

·         I will put my law in their minds, hearts – their spirits

·         No need to teach each other – i.e. gift of Holy Spirit

·         They will all know me

·         I will forgive their wickedness and forget their sins

·         Individual responsibility replaced National responsibility

 2. Jesus modeled a new definition of “life”
We tend to think of “life” primarily as physical life. The goal then is to have a long life and measure this in terms of happiness. We tend to be self-centred. This leads to finding ways of protecting our life by striving for more security, more power, more control and more materialism. Our goal is to get and preserve “happiness”. 

·         Striving for “happiness” often puts us into conflict with others.

·         Competition for security and comfort leads to conflict

·         Conflict leads to stress and a loss of our “happiness”

·         Loss of “Happiness” is in a sense - losing our life

·         By holding on to our life we in a sense loose it

 Jesus defines ‘life’ differently. The goal of life is not happiness but a relationships of love, Joy and peace. Love is > a good feeling:

·         Scott Peck defined love as “extending yourself for the other”

·         Love is intense emotional caring for the other person

·         Love is measured in personal sacrifice – not intentions

·         Love is like dying to  “what i want”, my happiness

·         Jesus modeled this new sacrificial life of love on the Cross

·         The need of the many was greater than the need of the one

3. Jesus was revealing Himself as the expected Son of Man
In the 500 years between the Old and New Testament there was great speculation on how God would intervene to rescue His people from the many nations oppressing them. The natural assumption was that God would send a Son of Man with overwhelming military power.  They hoped this Messiah would defeat all the nations that had been oppressing the Hebrews and restore the historical greatness of Israel. God had a bigger idea:

·         By including the Greeks Jesus taught that God was expanding “his people” to include all nations and peoples in His Kingdom

·         By His sacrificial death on the Cross Jesus defeated the power of Satan who was the real oppressor of all people on Earth

When Jesus talks of being “glorified” it was assumed He meant military glory.  Again God had a bigger plan. God was about to destroy the power of sin and spiritual death on the Cross. Jesus obedience in the face of death glorified God – and glorified Jesus

The glory of God is man fully spiritually alive – Jesus was most alive in His death on the Cross. Jesus showed us how to have a rich, meaningful life of love, joy and peace with God by devoting himself completely to the loving service of others.

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