Easter 2011: Torn Glory
Topic: Stand Alone Passage: John 1:1–1:5
Relationship & Incarnation
Good Morning! Today, we’re continuing our 4 part Easter series, Torn. Last week we looked at how God created man, Adam then Eve, in his image as an outpouring of his creativity, personality, and attributes. Humanity was created Holy/Good with a right relationship with both its Creator and the creation around it. All man knew of was good, holy, right, and just, until the serpent/satan engaged with Eve, lying about God’s character and His command to not eat of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. Rather than boldly speaking truth in the face of a lie, Adam silently approved and willingly participated in disobeying the one prohibition God had given him; a prohibition given out of love so Adam/Eve could have the freedom to choose to actively worship God and be kept from evil. Where man had only known and experienced good, through the rebellion in the Garden, he now also knew and had experienced evil. Sin, brokenness, death, had entered into a good creation and the relationship between God and all humanity moving forward was mortally torn apart. An angry, yet just, God, could have ended humanity at that point, possibly started over, and yet he didn’t. Jim ended last week with a quote from an old pastor, J Gresham Machen, essentially saying that while the story of sin and the fall of man is terrible and tragic, it’s the beginning and not the end of the Bible. The Bible tells us not only of man’s sin; it also tells us of something greater still; it tells us of the grace of the offended God.
And so the story continues… God makes a promise to Abraham that through his family, one will come that will bless the world by providing a way for the broken relationship between man and God to be restored. Abraham’s family becomes a nation, Israel, in slavery in Egypt. As a church we’ve spent well over a year looking at the story of God redeeming His people from Egypt and giving them the promised land, in Exodus and Joshua, with the charge to remain faithful, and yet God’s chosen people continue a cycle of rebellion against God, experiencing His grace, turning back in repentance, only to see the next generation go through the same cycle. This goes on for the entirety of the Old Testament until the last prophet, Malachi, tells of a coming day when God’s representative will come like a refining fire to purify humanity, have victory over sin, and restore the torn relationship between man and his Creator. For the next 450 years God’s word is silent while the world and God’s people are continuing to be torn, falling further into darkness, until the Creator comes in the flesh to engage with His creation on a mission so sew the torn relationship back together.
Jesus In the Beginning
Genesis starts with the “In the beginning” miracle of God creating the universe and all life, the Gospel of John starts with the “In the beginning” miracle of God sending his only son Jesus to as a God-Man to shine a light into the dark fallen world.
John 1:1-5 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
So as we’re introduced to Jesus part in this story of redemption we first learn that he is not a new character, he has been part of the entire story from the beginning. Jesus is not just an exceptional distant descendent of Adam, or the finished product of thousands of years of societal and human evolution. John briefly takes us back to the beginning of the story to show Jesus has eternally been in existence in a way unique to the one true God. Jesus not only has existed in the beginning with God, but in the divine mystery of the trinity, he is the word of God, the son of God, He is God. The Creator that shaped depths of the oceans and the heights of the mountains was Jesus. He was the voice of God that spoke humpback whale, the dung beetle, and the Gazelle into existence. He is the God that made humanity in His image, male and female. Through him and his divine creativity all aspects of life we enjoy are his design. It was his idea that salsa and ice cream taste great and entirely different. Still waters reflect brilliant sunsets because Jesus made it so. Yet as we know through sin, our world has darkness, pain and death, as what was created good was torn from the source of goodness. It is not a total darkness because there has always been the light and life of the grace of God. Where ever there is life, goodness, light, Jesus is there as the source. For countless generations the world, like our own hearts, has expelled great effort to attempt to extinguish the light of God and yet has not prevailed. God responds to the growing darkness and resistance by sending the source of light and life to engage with humanity in a form it could we can more easily interact with.
John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the father, full of grace and truth.
This is the miracle of the Incarnation. Literally God becoming flesh (Carne=Meat) The eternal Jesus enters into human history as a man in on a mission to display the life changing/giving grace of God; while also proclaiming the truth of the glory and holiness of that same God. It is both awesome and puzzling.
It is by far the most amazing miracle of the entire Bible, far more amazing than the resurrection and a more amazing event than the creation of the universe. The fact that the infinite, omnipotent, eternal Son of God could become a man and join himself to a human nature forever, so that the infinite God became one person with finite man, will remain for eternity the most profound miracle and the most profound mystery in all the universe. Wayne Grudem
Jesus is Preeminent
To better understand how amazing it is that God would come as a man into His creation we need to have some sense of who Jesus is in Glory before he came in humility as a baby in first century rural Israel. We can’t grasp the significance of the incarnation unless we get a glimpse of the glory Jesus comes from.
Colossians 1:15-20 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, andthrough him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
Keywords there are firstborn and preeminent; Firstborn not as the first creation, but a position of honor, of inheritance, of authority, and preeminent meaning first in ALL things, these are terms denoting rank. Jesus is the king/prince of all creation. Paul is saying Jesus comes from the throne of all heaven and earth on a mission to restore peace through victory over the darkness. After years of sending subordinate angels and prophets as messengers, ambassadors, and heralds, the King himself steps down from the comfort, majesty, and perfection of His heavenly kingdom to get into the mess of world with the express intention of sewing the torn relationship between God and man with the blood of his cross. While he could have come down with a royal procession, or with all overwhelming power and glory you would imagine the God of the universe to possess. He willingly chose to be torn from His glory to come to earth with “no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. Isaiah 53:2. He came as a man, more accurately he arrived as small baby from a nobody family, far from the cultural center of the region, let alone the world; as humble an entrance as imaginable.
Let there be no question that Jesus is fully God, and yet he is also fully man. We can’t understand the incarnation without knowing Jesus as THE God. We can’t understand the incarnation with knowing Jesus as A man. He is the God-Man. It’s called:
Hypostatic Union: The union of Christ’s human and diving natures in one person (Greek Hypostasis, “being”)
Jesus is Human
After looking at the infinite heights of glory Jesus is torn from we need to see the depths of finite humanity Jesus experiences. Christians spend so much time talking about the death and resurrection of Jesus (There will be time for that on Good Friday and Easter) that we often minimize the life he lived leading up to the cross. Jesus didn’t just endure suffering, pain, and trials at the cross, but like us, he endured both great and small trials and limitation throughout his life. Specifically:
- § Jesus had a human body that experienced fatigue, thirst, hunger, weakness, that was ultimately able to experience real physical death. Was not particularly attractive (Isaiah 53: 2-3)
- § Jesus had a human mind that was inquisitive and learned as he grew.
- o Born as baby, grew as a boy into a man, with maturity, wisdom and favor.
- § Jesus had a human soul and emotions. Marveled over the centurian’s faith , wept over his friend Lazarus. He was surprised by danger, anxious of trials to come, with lacking faithfulness or sinning. He was troubled but still obeyed.
- § Worked a lower class, blue collar job with few resources.
- o Homeless even during “Mega – Church” stage of ministry
- o Didn’t have enough money to pay taxes.
- § He had challenges in personal and family relationships.
- o Brothers/sisters didn’t worship him as God until after resurrection
- o Likely didn’t have Joseph around as a “dad” for many years.
- o People in his home town doubted his call to ministry. (Those that know us the longest/best are usually the first to doubt the authenticity of our transformation. )
- o Had many enemies, friends that often acted like idiots and some who were disloyal betraying them for their own benefit.
- § He wasn’t isolated from the challenges of the world. He lived in a difficult and tumultuous time and place as part of subordinate, repressed society.
While Jesus experienced life as a finite human, he didn’t cease to be God. While not displaying his full glory he didn’t lose his divinity, he added humanity to it. He came, as Paul said “in the likeness of sinful flesh. Rom 8:3.”
Christ added to himself which he was not, he did not lose what he was. Augustine
Jesus lived as a man in history not to only represent himself, his family, or even his nation/race. Jesus come it history as the prefect representative for how humanity is intended to be. Imperfection of man is the abnormal state not the normal. Jesus as sinless in the “normal” God intended.
Jesus as Sinless Second Adam
Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned-
19 For as by one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.
Representative: Jesus life was one of representative obedience. Where Adam failed in the garden to resist even one form of temptation in Genesis 3, Jesus displayed perfect obedience in the face of unparalleled and comprehensive temptation.
Adam quickly failed in comfort and abundance of the lush garden. Jesus succeeded in resisting temptation being constantly attacked in any way imaginable, while weak, hungry, and deprived in a barren desert. The battle to resist temptation grows fiercer the longer temptation is resisted. It’s easy to deny temptation from a safe distance or for a short/insignificant time. It’s quite another to experience close, constant, conniving temptation, knowing you have the power to end the temptation at any moment, and succeed in enduring in perfect humility and obedience.
Example: As much as we need Jesus to die the penalty of our sins we need him to live sinless and perfect life to be an example and pattern to follow. If we didn’t need Jesus to suffer, endure, and succeed where Adam, humanity, and we fail, he could have simply been born and been killed by Herod as an infant. We need Jesus sinless life to be reminded how our lives are supposed to look like. We may often fail, but we don’t stop actively striving, knowing when we do experience successes it is because of Him.
1 John 2:6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
Mediator and Substitute: As both fully God and fully man Jesus is able to represent both the offender (man) and the offended (God). He is able pull both torn sides together by simultaneously displaying the grace of God while paying the penalty of man’s sin.
1Tim 2:5-6 For there is one God and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.
Because Jesus is both our mediator and substitute we’re able to look to him to both take on our sin and also be our source of righteousness. When we see our relationship with the Creator has been torn and we are now living in a state of conflict our response should be to look to Jesus as our divine peace maker petitioning God on our behalf taking our sin and rebellion on Himself and offering His death as our peace offering to fulfill the justice our sin requires. In exchange for taking on our sin we get the gift of his righteousness before God.
Learn Christ and him crucified. Learn to sing to him and, despairing of yourself, say, “Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, just as I am your sin. You have taken upon yourself what is mine and have given me what is yours. You have taken upon yourself what you were not and have given to me what I was not.” –Martin Luther
We all have an account of sin to settle. By God’s overwhelming grace, we can all run to His throne with confidence; if we call on Jesus as our Priest.
High Priest: Regardless of our temptation, Jesus can empathize. Regardless of the length, depth, or flavor of sin, because Jesus was without sin we can be restored.
Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
This is personally one of the most moving aspects of Christ humanity, his ability to sympathize with our weakness and restore us through his sinless example and sacrifice. He truly can walk with us, showing us both grace and truth. When we forget Jesus full humanity we forget he has the ability to sympathize with our weakness and accept us as sinners. We run from him when we should be running to him.
When I was in college, rebelling from all I had been raised in righteousness/holiness I attempted a few times to engage with local churches, and Christians I had grown up with. Each time I had a strong sense of my own sinfulness but where I struggled was feeling safe to share what I was dealing with. Everyone in the group would talk about “struggling” but it was in the context “not praying or reading their Bible enough” or something that seemed abstract like “I am just not being humble enough”. Right or wrong, I had an understanding that these people were not struggling with the same temptations and sin I was. These were varsity Christians that somehow must have moved passed being tempted by things like sex, alcohol, lust, open rebellion to God. I knew if I opened up to them I would be no longer be accepted and would likely be rejected for not being holy. My shame and belief that I had sinned too much to be accepted by God or His people kept me from engaging in with the very community that existed to help me battle with sin.
Damascus Road, the Church, needs to be a place gracious enough where it “ok, to not be ok” but loving and holy enough to encourage each other to not let us stay that way. We need to be Gospel community where it’s safe to confess our sin with each other. I say a Gospel community because it’s not the simple support groups of the secular world where by just having other people around us with the same issues is the answer. Paring sinners with other sinners doesn’t begin to fix us in any sort of real and lasting way unless as sinners we’re pointing each other to the one who has been tempted in every way we are and yet is without sin. We point each other to Jesus. We point each other to Jesus because as the God-Man he lived the perfect sinless life we were intended to live.
Jesus Humbled yet Glorified
I was also convicted this week of what can happen when forget Jesus full divinity. We fail to consider how much Jesus gave up to meet us, so we have little compassion or desire to engage with others we might find messy.
While in San Francisco this week for work I went from my hotel in the business/convention district for run along the water, after several miles I decided to run back through the main part of the city. I ascended a steep 300’ hill in a little over a quarter mile and came to the top of an amazing vista that gave me a panoramic view of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, downtown, and San Francisco Bay. I was surrounded by nice houses and the fresh smell of salt water from the bay. As I descended the other side of the hill into the neighborhood away from the water and the views, the houses quickly went from fancy to rundown. The lower on the hill and father from the water I ran the worse the neighborhood got. Soon every window was barred every wall had graffiti, and nearly every doorway had someone sleeping it. The smell of the bay was replaced with the smell of urine. Eventually I came to a block with literally hundreds of homeless men waiting in line for a shelter or soup kitchen. My mind cognitively told me that the circumstances these men were in were for some a consequence of their own doing while others were victims of a broken world. I would love to stand here and tell you my heart broke for each of them but my gut reaction was to want to run faster to return to comfort of my hotel with it’s buffet and omelet bar to avoid being around the decay, disrepair, and suffering. I was barely in the mess for 10-15 minutes before I saw a Crate & Barrel and a Starbucks a few blocks away and I knew I was home.
I praise God he has more compassion and humility than I do. By his love, grace, humility, and desire to see our torn relationship restored He was willingly torn from all the glory of heaven. Jesus humbly walked in the mess of the world for over 30 years, knowing at the end of his life of consistent trial and struggle on earth would be met with ultimate rejection and the literally excruciating suffering Cross, all to return sinners, like me, to their Creator.
Oh think, that he who was master of all heaven’s majesty came down to be victim of all man’s misery! – Spurgeon
Philippians 2 tells us, He stepped down came from the throne of heaven, lived as a servant, died the death of a criminal on the Cross, was raised as a victor, and will reign in Glory over all the universe, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven, and on earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the Glory of God the Father.
We are going to pray to God, knowing we have Jesus as our High Priest.
We’re going to take communion remembering Jesus as our sinless substitute and sacrifice.
We’re going to give our tithe and offering remember that Jesus gave up all the riches of heaven to live a life of humble obedience on our behalf.
And as Luther said, we’re going to sing because, “Lord Jesus is our righteousness”
Benediction 1 Peter 5:6-11