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“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.” — King David (Psalm 23)
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” — Jesus (John 10)
“Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” — Jesus (John 4:14)
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty — Jesus (John 6:35)
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” — Jesus (John 10:27-28)
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
— Paul (Ephesians 3)
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. — John, (Revelation 21:1-7)
Billions of people in the last 2,000 years have thrown their lot in with this one man.
What is it that makes Jesus so compelling for so many people?
Is it the example he gives humanity of sacrificial love — his death at the hands of the powerful Roman Empire and the religious establishment he called out for hypocrisy? His death offered on behalf — so it’s said — of others?
Is it caught up with the way the cross has become a symbol — one carried into battle by soldiers in some dark periods in human history, but also worn by medics who brave crossfire to care for the wounded from both sides of a conflict, or used to mark hospitals that care for the sick without favouring the wealthy or those likely to be cured — hospitals that emerged from history because people took the life of Jesus and his interactions with the sick, the socially marginalised, and the poor seriously?
Well. Sure. But perhaps it is more than that? More than that to Jesus and more than that to the cross as a symbol of his life and love…
FORGIVENESS AND MERCY
Is it forgiveness and mercy?
Is it that if there’s a God who orchestrated this life we live in this universe; who spread out the heavens and established the earth (Job 9); whose hands flung stars into space (Psalm 8); who unrolled the sky and its features ‘like a blanket’ (Psalm 104); who is also the very definition of goodness and purity — whose absolute (infinite) standards leave all of us feeling worthless not worthy, ashamed not glorious —and so aware of our failings and limits… the idea that this God would reach out to us so that we might find him (Acts 17), but more than that, to call us his children — no matter how messy our lives are or how much we know we stuff things up… is it that?
The idea that those hands — the hands that hold the universe together (Colossians 1) — would surrender themselves to being pierced by horrid spikes; made to destroy life, that they would be hung above that head to drag the last breath from that body; a body beaten and stripped naked… an innocent tortured to death in our place… is it the idea that somehow in that event, this God-man, the word that made the world in the flesh (John 1), this man Jesus died in our place to take whatever justice looks like for the times we know we’ve failed. Is it that in this event — in that symbol of the Cross — we understand not just sacrifice and love, but also experience mercy and forgiveness from the God who made the universe?
Again. Yeah. But perhaps it is more than that too?
GOOD V EVIL
Is it that in the story of Jesus ‘good’ ultimately wins the fight against evil; and this gives us hope in our experience of a world where evil so obviously exists? There’s some comfort in the idea of a loving and just God standing ready to judge the world and punish evildoers — including the architect of evil, the Devil, if he’s real like the Bible says he is…
Almost every story we humans create to entertain ourselves with grapples with the question of evil and leaves us hoping it might be overcome; the Bible shows us the unexpected way Jesus overcomes it, and invites us to break the cycle that perpetuates evil in this world.
Is it hope? The hope of life beyond death? The promise of immortality? The discovery of real life? Abundant life? The ‘flourishing’ life we were made for? Life that stretches beyond death and into eternity?
This sounds crazy but it is exactly what Jesus promises — he talks about this promise as a gift of water that quenches our thirst and bread that satisfies our hunger — and about this being an overflowing or abundant life — and his promises didn’t come out of a vacuum.
These promises point right back to the start of the Bible’s story, where people lived with God and enjoyed the life he gave them through the tree of life, in the paradise the Bible calls ‘Eden’, and point forward to the final picture the Bible paints of this new life in a new world, where God makes ‘All things new’ — including us!
It’s all these things. And more. It’s that as people experience things that are good, true, and beautiful these experiences — and so our lives — become richer and more satisfying when connected to this story; God’s story; the story of Jesus. It’s also that as we experience things that are ugly, broken, and evil we have the story of a God who does not stand apart from the suffering of the world, but offers a solution, and an invitation to come into his family forever.
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