Sunday, February 15, 2015

What does Jesus Have to Do with Me?


When we want to know what makes life worth living, trouble worth enduring, even death worth dying, we must turn to the one reliable, permanent witness, the Holy Scriptures given to make us wise unto salvation.  That‘s the first step.  Then you have to use the Scriptures properly; you must interpret them according to their heart and center, that is the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth who was God Incarnate.  Two millennia later we look back to His time, we count our years from the time of His birth, we gather every week to attend the history of His life and death, because nothing before or since is so important.  St. John in his First Letter testifies: this is true God and eternal life.  Notice John does not say that Jesus “might be” true God, or that He is “like true God.”  The apostle uses the verb “is.”  Politicians might not know what that word means, but St. John certainly did.  He tells us that Jesus is the one, true God.  In the Nicene Creed we confirm this when we confess him to be very God of very God.

The prophets of Israel proclaimed Him true God with such titles as The Lord, Our Righteousness, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, even as The Lord whom ye seek.  Thomas, once his doubts had been set aside, confessed with heart and soul My Lord and my God.  At His Baptism the Voice called out This is my beloved Son. Neither was it only the good guys who bore such witness.  The spiritual enemies of God and man called Him Jesus, Son of the Most High.  Anyone who denies that Jesus is true God is not a Christian.  Did He claim divinity for Himself?  Every time He used the expression “I am.”  He was referring to what God told Moses at the burning bush.  So Jesus claims before the crowd in Jerusalem, "Before Abraham was I AM."  He was claiming to be the One who brought them out of Egypt and gave them Commandments.  If you call upon His name only to swear, if you try to make Him into a mere human, no matter how good, no matter how wise, if you present Him as anything less than true God you are not preaching the Christian Gospel.  If you hold back from calling Mary the Mother of God, then you are making too little of her Son.  Our Nicene Creed repeats the affirmation three times: God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God.  If He is anything less, then all the fuss is about nothing.

Therefore let us humble ourselves with the apostles who were privileged to follow Jesus up the mountain where they saw the reality of the Incarnation.  Behold the shining face and clothes, the cloud, the resurrected prophets, the Voice identifying Jesus as my beloved Son. Ah, but the cynic sees all this and asks, “So what?”  You don’t see what this has to do with you?  Maybe your life has been too good, maybe you can’t see because you haven’t been afflicted enough, maybe you’ve forgotten that you’re mortal.  The same Jesus who was transfigured on the mountain is the One who says, "All authority in heaven and earth is given to me."   Over all things visible and invisible, over all the armies of men and angels, over all the storms and floods, wars and insurrections, droughts and famines, diseases and plagues stands the One with the keys.  What does that have to do with you?  If nothing else, when your life is over you will have to give an account of it to Him.  If that doesn’t get your attention, then you don’t need to listen to me.

The age in which we live is deluded.  It believes that mankind can overcome the troubles that follow from the Fall, that today we are enlightened enough that with ingenuity, planning, and technology we can make the world better.  That is foolishness!  People cannot recover without true liberty, liberty from the passions of the flesh, liberty from the vanities of the world, liberty from the cowardice that keeps us from practicing the virtues which we agree are good.  On that mountaintop is our Liberator.  The Voice urges us to listen to Him.

St. John adds that Jesus is eternal life.  He not only gives life, He is eternal, infinite Being.  Together with the Father and the Holy Spirit He created us.  He came into our own existence because of His great love for us, but there is only one way to the life He would give us.  There is no short-cut.  When the three disciples tried to make the mountaintop experience permanent Jesus told them that was impossible, so we might be tempted to hang onto some symbol that held meaning for us.  Jesus calls instead to follow him down to the valley, knowing that there is trouble there.  Jesus calls us to the cross.  Does that have anything to do with us?  Certainly.  The cure for mortality is the power of the resurrection.  Jesus promises a blessed eternity to those who are His by faith.  The heartache and tears of the funeral parlor, the quiet dust of the cemetery will give way to gladness and rejoicing.  We have only vague images of that existence now.  We know this; the King of Glory is 100% sin free.  That is why there is no short-cut.  Jesus dealt with sin.  One can only get there in the retinue of Him who holds the keys of death and hell, and He had access to those by the cross.

Jesus accepted death without the guilt of sin.  He transferred our guilt to Himself.  He transferred His perfect life and merit, His total righteousness to us.  He suffered our penalty.  We will enjoy His reward.  He was very God Incarnate, in the flesh, accepting our human mortality to taste the death that follows from sin.  In the Creed we say and was made man.  At Christmas we celebrated His birth as a baby. A week later we celebrate His human name, Jesus, or in Hebrew Joshua, “He will deliver.”  During Lent we will celebrate His Passion, which proves the height of His love.  At Easter we will celebrate His coming forth from the grave.

Still, you can’t see what that has to do with you?  Try these on.  Some day you will die.  Your body will be disposed of, it matters not how.  God will watch over it until it is needed again.  You will not remain in death.  He who loved you is eternal life, who will bring you together with your loved ones again.  You will stand in His presence in indescribable glory because you will finally be the creature you were meant to be.  Cleansed from sin by the blood of Jesus, you will have nothing to fear.  You are going ahead of those you love to wait for them, and at Jesus’ reappearing, you will be completely redeemed, body and soul, the creature you were meant to be forever and ever.  Does that have anything to do with you? I think so. AMEN.

~ Rev. Lloyd E. Gross

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