Monday, November 9, 2015

A taste of the New Creation


And the man believed the word Jesus spoke to him, and went on his way.  As he was returning home his servants met him and announced to him, "Your son lives."  John 4:51

AS THE CHRISTIAN YEAR comes to an end mother church directs our thoughts to the end of all things, when Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead.  At that time, in the words of our Lord, "all who are in the tombs will hear the voice of the Son of Man and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment."

There are only two ways to deal with that day, dear Christians:  one works and the other does not.  A person can deny it, diminish it or invent distractions for it -- reincarnation being the current rage -- or he can do what the government official did in today's gospel lesson.  He can believe the word of Jesus; the word of the one who made the ultimate sacrifice to save men from the judgment their sins incur, and who distributes blood-bought salvation to us here and now in the church by the Word spoken and the means of salvation administered.  Therefore let us take a closer look at today's gospel so that we can better understand what the Lord gives us here today.

St. John first notes the Lord's  movements.  He makes a point to tell us that Jesus came from Judea where he went to be baptized by John to fulfill all righteousness for us and to underwrite the sacrament He instituted for us, so that the baptism the church administers still today is not an empty ritual, but the holy sacrament that delivers from death and the devil and gives eternal salvation to all who believe, even as the words and promises of God declare.

St. John; further notes that Jesus returned to Cana where He earlier changed the water into wine.  While many take this first of the Lord's miracles as a teaching on holy communion it can be better understood as teaching baptism.  As ordinary water became wine, which stands for the gladness of salvation in Scripture, even so ordinary water combined with the word and institution of Jesus becomes a  washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit:  our entrance into the New Creation that Christ is and accomplishes for us.  By it we can say to all parents:  Your son lives!

Note too. the drama when Jesus is flagged down by a government official -- a representative of King Herod or maybe of Caesar -- scripture does not say.  In any case he is a man who wielded great power over the lives of other people;  a man who was used to speaking and it was done, but who is now helpless in the face of illness and death, yet he is a man who is wise enough to come to the place where true grace is found; to Jesus who is the King of kings, whose power is unlimited, and whose mercy is legendary.  This mighty man could not save what was most precious to him, but Jesus could.  Jesus did, and He does the same for you!

Our Lord says to this father, unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.  It sounds like a rebuke, and if it were it would not be out of place, but we need not take it that way.  Rather take it as a fact.  We learn from St. Paul that humanity is blinded by the "god of this world," so if the Gospel of salvation is ever to pierce the spiritually blind heart of man, it will require mighty signs and Jesus is happy to provide them.  Yet they should not be interpreted as mere attention grabbers or public relation stunts.  They are much different than that.  A sign points us to something real, in this case, to the One who is the Resurrection and the Life, the One who has power over the wind and the waves, and who bestows salvation upon us by His blood.

What Jesus does here is but one of many signs indicating that the age of darkness is over, and the new era of Light and Life in Christ is begun.  Though the End had not yet come, our Lord is already on scene, already undoing the damage of sin and bestowing tomorrow's gifts today as He scatters illness, fear, pain and death for this  man and for his son with a word:  Your son lives!

We should not be surprised at this.  In today's Old Testament lesson we read, "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth," but when St. John takes up his inspired pen he writes what we could think of as a New book of Genesis, only this time Adam who failed is not at the center, but Jesus.  "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth."  This is a New Creation Narrative that cannot fail.  In Genesis 1:3 God says, "let there be light," but in John 1:9 we find that Jesus IS the light; the Sun of Righteousness that enlightens every man who enters the New Creation by the Jordan River of holy baptism.

What was lost by Adam is regained by Christ.  What Satan destroyed Jesus reclaims and makes new, but He does not merely restore Eden; He gives us something magnitudes greater of which Eden was but a dim reflection.  He restores us to the true image and the true likeness of our Father by cleansing us from our sins by His blood.  He shows us signs and wonders in the church that change our status before God from lost sinner to glorious saint.  We see them with our eyes, hear them with our ears, we perceive them in our healthy and higher emotions, and taste them on our tongue in the holy Eucharist.

What you are experiencing here today is Jesus at work healing your sin sick soul and raising the dead to incorruptible life.  In Him you live.  Your son lives.  Your daughter lives.  Amen

Rev. Dean Kavouras

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