“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation." (2 Cor 5:17-18)
This is one of my favourite sections of the Bible because it sums up so much about who we are and what we are here for. If we’re truly to understand it, we have to understand who Jesus was: why He lived, died and was resurrected.
The life of Jesus was both ordinary and incredible! Ordinary in as much as He didn’t appear to achieve much: no books, no wealth, not many followers and no obvious kingdom. Incredible because of what He did and said: the sick were healed, the dead were raised, lepers were cleansed, demons and even storms obeyed Him. Not only that, but all were welcomed by Him, the sinner and the saint, the oppressor and the downtrodden, the wealthy and the poor, the Jew and the Gentile, young and old, men and women. He revealed the Father’s heart, not to judge, but to save, not to restrict, but to set free, not to smite, but to heal and not for a few, but for all! Few, if any, understood Him, but many listened to and wondered at Him. His life represented nice ideas, but are they true and could we trust Him?
It has often been noted that the crucifixion of Jesus, His death, without the resurrection, would simply have been a failure, just one more movement that promised much only to end in disappointment. It would have been just one more story of the powerful crushing those who resist them. The end of the dream His followers had of justice, that the oppressive kingdoms of the world would end and the Kingdom of God be established.
But have you ever wondered what the resurrection without the life and death of Jesus would have meant? It would certainly have been weird, a story to entertain, a mystery to be explored or an interesting piece of gossip, but it would probably have been quickly forgotten and would not have been world changing.
Combined, they represent a tremendously powerful story! The life, death and resurrection of Jesus are the fulfilment of two thousand year old promises made by God to Abraham and his descendants. Despite man’s rebellion, our insistence on independence from the one who made us, and the tragic results that ensued (the story of Genesis 1-11), God would find a way of blessing every family on earth. This blessing would come through Abraham, because he trusted God. It would come through one of his descendants, who would trust God to the utmost and would turn out to be God Himself bringing salvation! That was the beginning of the kingdom of God on earth, which grows as His followers are empowered by the Spirit of Jesus to live free and represent heaven in begging others to be reconciled to God. It comes through those who show themselves to be Abraham’s seed by also choosing to trust God and this kingdom will continue to grow until it fills the earth! (Isaiah 9:7, Daniel 2:44)
I’m excited about the forthcoming week of prayer, Thy Kingdom Come for a few reasons. Firstly, it is leading reconciliation by bringing churches together who have been separated. Incredibly, the church streams involved represent about 1000 years of church splits! It’s exciting because Jesus said that when we accept and honour one another, it would be a sign to the world that God sent Him. Secondly, it is a call for us to be bold and to invite/plead/beg others to be reconciled to God, the way we work with God to bring His kingdom and salvation to the earth.
Donald Trump may build walls to separate nations, Nicola Sturgeon may attempt to break up the United Kingdom, Theresa May may be taking the UK out of Europe, but God’s kingdom will continue to grow, He will continue to work, tearing down the walls that divide and bringing all things together under Christ (Ephesians 1:10), and that fills me with great hope!