Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Today’s text

John 3:14-16

As Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so must the Son of man be lifted up so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. For this is how God loved the world: he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.


And what does this mean?

As I was a child, the meaning was clear. To believe was to accept that Jesus died for my sins. He was lifted up on the cross to bear my punishment and free me from God’s righteous condemnation.

This didn’t make sense to me, and I never really accepted it. My reasons varied through the years. I didn’t like the idea that God needed to kill Jesus to forgive me. Doesn’t that mean I am more loving than God since I can forgive--and sometimes do--without a lot of blood being spilled? I need no pound of flesh; why should God?

Did Jesus really die thinking he was paying God back for the world’s offenses?

My childhood understanding, still held my millions today, also put all the emphasis on one aspect of Jesus: the crucifixion, but without giving thought to why he was crucified.

Those who killed him cared not a wit about me and my sins. They just wanted him dead.

Why? What was so wrong with Jesus that they should go to the trouble and mess of executing him? Was the reason connected with who he was, what he said and how he lived?

Perhaps he was killed because of the sins of the world: because those in power recognized that the kingdom of God he preached was a threat to their own kingdoms and privileges. Perhaps his idea of a kingdom of love and justice, where the broken and lost are worth as much or more than billionaires, seemed crazy.

Perhaps he was disturbing because he wanted to turn the world upside down with his vision of divine love embracing everyone and all that is. Perhaps everything he was and all he stood for contradicted the way powerful people think, the way society is arranged for their benefit.

I can’t grasp all the reasons the powerful wanted to kill Jesus except that he was a threat to them, which means that the all-embracing love of God was a threat to them. His hungry love and burning hope for a kingdom from God knocked the foundation from beneath their ordered world.

So what does it mean to believe in Jesus?

It means believing into the world, the kingdom, the vision that filled and animated him. It means seeing and imagining that world and giving yourself to it--surrendering to divine love and grace, acceptance and justice, compassion and yearning--even when the wisdom of self-interest, consolidating your power and protecting your comfort contradict it.

Jesus way, the way of divine love, his vision of a kingdom of compassion, was so radical that the powers of his age, and ours, wanted to sweep it away.

To believe in Jesus means holding his vision in our hearts and living, as best we can, the love that was in him, even when it leads to crosses of our own sorrow.

Pr. David L. Miller

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