The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

John 4: 25, 26

It is very likely that you have known someone who acted as if they did truly know it all. This is the sort of claim that is very hard to sustain. Most people who act as if this were true for themselves are portraying a form of arrogance that is often mixed with some strong internal doubts. I would guess that this Samaritan woman had encountered a few people during her life-time who had acted in this manner, but this encounter with the Jewish stranger was different. He knew things about her that were not His to know, and He spoke with a form of authority that pierced through her protective outer shields in a way that allowed His words to penetrate to the center of her heart. This man knew her in a way that was both terrifying and exhilarating. A simple and routine action of going out to the community well to draw water had become the point at which her entire life was being transformed.

This woman had encountered a very practical and direct form of knowledge that Jesus had regarding her, for He knew all about the rather sordid and difficult life that she had lived up until this time. He both knew and understood why she was out at that well when no one else from her community was there. Jesus understood the hurt and the pain that filled her days as He also recognized her heart’s yearning for salvation from the burden that she carried with her every moment of her life. Jesus was fully aware of the woman’s story without her needing to say anything, and He had answers for the real questions that her heart was asking. This Jesus who just happened to be waiting at a particular well at a time of day when most people would have been indoors was seeking after this individual because He was attuned to the deep longing of her spirit. The Christ came to her just as He is continually seeking after all people.

Jesus does know all. He, as God, sees everything that we think, say, and do, and in an even more powerful demonstration of His complete knowledge and understanding, Christ is aware of the condition and the intentions of our hearts. He comprehends the pain and the hurt that we experience deep inside of our being, and He has the answers for us that will bring about true and lasting healing for those wounds and for the struggles that come about in life because of them. Most importantly, Jesus is the answer to the greatest questions that exists in all people’s lives, which are those of my own identity, my value and worth, and my purpose in being here. Jesus takes everyone who responds to His offer of answers into the presence of our Creator, God Himself, and Christ then opens our minds and our hearts to hearing the truth about all of these vital questions. Jesus comes seeking after everyone on earth, He waits for us at our own well of questioning, and He answers all of the doubts and fears that we may possess with His unfailing comprehension, grace, and love.     

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

1 Peter 2: 24

 

Jesus carried a great weight on His back and in His spirit when He was placed upon that cross of torture and death. When I consider the event itself, I am hit squarely in the face with the extraordinary harshness and brutality of what happened, but the human and physical aspects of that day are light and minor in comparison with the spiritual and emotional aspects of what transpired. In that moment, Jesus took with Him all of my sin, my disobedience to God, and all of the sin of every person who would ever walk upon this earth. Every simple unloving act, angry thought, deceit, violent action and contemplation, and all of the rest of the harsh and troubling history of existence that is outside of God’s perfect will and way was heaped upon Him and was there to torture Jesus in those final hours of life on this earth.

 

What is even more remarkable to me is that Christ did all of this knowing how brutally painful the specific act of sacrifice would be and also with knowledge of just how unworthy each of us, myself certainly included, would be. I do not deserve to receive the sacrificial love that Jesus pours out over me, but He loves me still. I have done nothing to earn my place at God’s table of grace; yet, Christ has granted me a seat there. My life has been lived out in a manner that is far short of God’s standard of righteousness, and still, Christ calls me into service to His name and in His Kingdom. None of this makes sense when it is considered in light of worldly and human standards of earned privilege and responsibility that is granted based upon merit. However, God does not desire to make sense in human terms or to operate by worldly standards. His view of life and of human worth come from outside of all that we know and experience here, and His concept of grace and of forgiveness transcend this world’s standards of worthiness as they overcome their limitations.

 

In this world, we are held back and constrained by our status in many ways, and worth is often granted based upon external factors and conditions. To God we are all extraordinarily beautiful and our worth is measured in terms of Christ’s presence within us, for in Christ, we are healed from all of the brokenness and the loss that sin has brought to dwell within our hearts, minds, and bodies. This is a form of healing that takes place on the inside of our beings and that influences and effects all that we are. Christ’s beautiful and blameless blood, which was poured out as the essential sacrifice for my sins and for yours, is the agent of healing for our souls. So, as we surrender to Christ, we are made spiritually alive, granted a home in God’s eternal kingdom, and given place and purpose in Christ’s here and now kingdom come on earth. Christ takes the weight of sin from us, and He sets us free to serve Him by loving the world as God does, for the eternal righteousness that we now possess is founded on love and is carried out in acts of grace, mercy, and justice.

Rather, speaking truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ.

Ephesians 4: 15

 

From conception until twenty of so years later, people grow. Some of that growth is remarkably rapid, and some of it is subtle. There are other ways beyond the physical that we also grow, for we are said to grow in our jobs, in a relationship, or in stature in our community. Peaks and plateaus are found in all of our journeys, and some people work hard at continuing to move forward throughout life and others seem to settle at a point and don’t move much from that place of comfort. However, in the area of our spiritual lives, complacency and settling in are never good as Christ sets out an expectation of growth for His followers and for His body.

 

We all come to know Christ as spiritual infants. There is simply no possibility of growth without the vital nourishment that God provides through the mystery of the relationship that we can only have with Him by and in Christ. The presence of the Holy Spirit in us and in our lives is a gift that Christ grants to people who enter into that relationship with Him. The Spirit provides us with understanding of God through revelation of the deep meaning of His Word and by speaking eternal truth into our hearts and minds. As we know God and His righteousness iHbetter, we are made more and more mature in our thinking and in our actions. The only barrier that exists to our growth is found in ourselves. As we are willing to yield our lives to Christ and to surrender our human comfort to His will, Christ will transform our fallen flesh into the new creature that His love and grace promise.

 

This act of yielding is both passive and active in its nature. Christ asks us to stop striving after the things and the outcomes that we think that we want so that He can reveal God’s true path to us. The Lord wants us to wait calmly and with peaceful hearts as we contemplate and meditate on His Word, and God promises that He will speak to us and provide that purpose and direction that we desire. Yet, Christ also calls upon us to be active in our pursuit of spiritual growth. When we are told to “speak truth in love” we are being instructed to do far more than just talking. Although verbal expression of God’s truth is a very important part of this idea, the real life imperative here is about the totality of the way that we live. Christ desires for us to live in a manner that starts deep within our hearts and that finds expression in every thought and action of our lives. Our Lord calls upon us to live in a way that demonstrates and proclaims His truth and His love for the entire world each and every moment that we draw breath. This is the exercise that brings about growth in us and unity in Christ’s body.

But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.”

Matthew 28: 5

 

It is the dawn of a new day, and life has become even more uncertain than it had been before. For the people who came to the tomb where Jesus had been placed, it is doubtful that they really knew what they would be doing or how it was all going to go from that moment forward. Life had been turned upside down and inside out. Yet, the answer to their concerns had already been set into motion by God. In fact, they had been living in the proceeding of that answer for some time before the great and disturbing events of the prior week. They had walked with Jesus and now they were witnesses to and participants in the next chapter in this story of redemption for all of creation.

 

On that morning, the first words that the angel says to the women are, “Do not be afraid.” This messenger that God had sent knew what was going on in the hearts of the people that he encountered. He was aware of the fear and the concern that filled them, and he knew of the courage that coming to that place at that time required. The situation that these women found themselves in was not all that different from where most of us find ourselves at various times in our lives. We are facing uncertainty, there is risk to be found in the actions that we are faced with taking, and yet we stand on the edge of great and wonderful things.

 

Jesus was the answer on that long ago morning, and He still is now. That tomb, that place of death and symbol of loss, was empty then and it still is just as empty now. Jesus is alive, and the life that He knows is the same life that God grants to every one of us who accepts it as the ultimate gift from heaven that it is. We may approach that place of decision with fear and uncertainty in our hearts and on our minds; yet, Christ answers those concerns with an overwhelming love and grace that can come only from God who is their singular source in the universe. All people are granted their mornings before the empty tomb of Christ; it is up to each of us to respond. After that hour of acceptance, it is still our decision to engage with this life that we have with the fearlessness that is Christ’s on-going gift of love to His people.

And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Acts 2: 21

 

Peter is speaking about the end of time when God’s will for the redemption of His creation shall be completed. This is something that is to take place over a period of time that is outside of human understanding. God doesn’t reveal the details of His timeline or of His methodology to us. What the Lord does say is that He wants us to trust His word and believe in His promise that this work of redemption will be completed. It is in this faith and by this trust that each of us who follow Christ are called upon by God to live in these days of uncertainty and distress.

 

It seems to me that these troubled times are situated in a place that is well along God’s timeline for the last days. The violence, angry rhetoric, and injustice of our days are an indicator of the growing divide between God’s will and that of the powers of this world. What is happening around us causes a very significant amount of pressure to be placed upon people of faith in several ways. There is much to fear in our world; so, fearfulness and caution are rational reactions to it all. Many of the actions of our governments are unjust and unrighteous; so, radical change is something that we seek. Also, in a highly relativistic and equivocal world we desire a solid place to set our feet; so, we turn to our national identity for that bedrock of truth.

 

Yet, none of these responses is the one that God calls us to. His Word and the revelation of His Spirit point us toward Christ alone as the answer to the stormy environment of these last days. Then, in and with Christ we can engage with the political and the cultural concerns that trouble our hearts and confuse our minds. God’s desire for His creation is its redemption from the death grip of sin, and followers of Christ are to be workers in the achievement of that plan. At the end of it all Christ will cleanse and then restore all of creation to the glory of God’s original work. Until then, our salvation is found singularly in Christ, and our mission is to proclaim that reality to all who will listen.

The LORD passed before Moses and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

Exodus 34: 6, 7

 

There is much in these words that is hard to accept and to live with. God was stating a very strong warning to Moses. The Lord was making it clear that our sinfulness and rejection of Him and of His righteousness did have consequences that would not only impact us but that they would also effect our children and their children. Sin is not just personal, for its harmful and corrosive nature intrudes into the lives of many others. Yet, that is not really the point that God was making to Moses. Instead, the real emphasis here is on the nature and the quality of God’s love.

 

Bear in mind that a lot of highly negative things have been happening in the camp of the Israelites, and God has every right to be angry with them. Yet, the Lord has spared them and He has continued to place Moses before them as the person who will lead the people to their promised destination. It would seem that these Israelites are not all that different from us. So, in light of the reality of our human propensity to sin, God presents us with this essential aspect of His nature. The Lord is constant, consistent, and ever faithful in His love for people. God would rather forgive and restore us than punish and banish us. The Lord’s love continues long after we have seemingly rejected Him and His ways and entered into the worship of our own personal idols.

 

God presented them with an option, and He grants us the same one. We can repent, turn away from the sin that destroys our lives and that separates us from God, and we can enter into the Lord’s grace and restoration. God gave us Himself in the person of Jesus in order to permanently complete the return of lost souls to His presence. This sacrifice of self for each of us is God’s greatest demonstration of His steadfast and faithful love for all of humanity. Now we can do something about the warning that the Lord gave to Moses. Now we can turn to Christ for salvation and for healing, and we can also share the truth of God’s mercy, grace, and love with others so that they too can enter into the presence of perfect love.

 

If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

John 12: 26

 

It is true that Jesus wanted people to follow Him. Yet, the place that He was going was not clear to the people who heard Him say these words. That lack of understanding was not Jesus’ fault, for He had been talking and teaching about the Father’s plan for what was to be required of Jesus for some time. The disciples just weren’t ready to listen and to truly hear. Yet, at this moment in the journey that God had set the Christ upon, in the little town of Bethsaida just a few miles from Jerusalem and the mount called Golgotha, Jesus says to those who are with Him, “follow me.”

 

These same words echo into our day and over our lives. Jesus speaks to each and everyone of us who respond to His gift of grace, love, and restoration and says the same thing to us. We are to follow. That is not an easy road. It is not a path that is paved with comfort and with universal acceptance. In fact, it seems that in today’s world, acceptance and cultural prominence are far removed from the experience of the Christian life. Perhaps that is actually a good thing, for rejection and animosity are the road that Christ walked. As we encounter this response in our daily lives, we just might be stepping into the footprints of our Lord.

 

So, travel along a path where crowds of adulation and acceptance have suddenly turned into disrespectful and unaccepting nations of skeptics, as seems to be the case in our western cultures, leads me to seek out Christ for His responses to these same experiences. He responded to the world’s anger and aggressive rejection with sadness at their lost condition, with grace and love, and with the diligent and unstoppable zeal of the shepherd who seeks to bring the one lost sheep home to life. This is how I believe that Christ is telling me to respond to my world. This sort of uncompromising love and grace is the result of following Christ all the way to that cross of absolute sacrifice and shame where all of myself is left behind and all of Christ becomes who I am.