Reflections for the Week of Sunday April 2, 2017 Fifth in Lent

Gospel: John 11.1-45 tells of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.This is a precursor to Jesus’ resurrection on Easter. In the case of Jesus’ resurrection His body was no longer subject to decay and death, while Lazarus’s was. Lazarus’s resuscitation shows Jesus’ power to raise the dead which He demonstrated in several instances. Jesus’ resurrection shows not only God’s power to give life where there is none but is an example of His ability to bring to existence what does not exist as He did in the Creation. Of course, we know this since we believe God has created all things out of nothing. But the resurrection of Jesus also shows that death has been overcome and satan has been defeated. Satan’s power, the power of death,  could not hold Jesus. It also shows that a  new creation has begun: death has lost its power; the Holy Sprit lives in God’s new people.  It is new in the sense that God in Christ is King and is ruling on earth as in heaven; the new creation is made up of those who give their allegiance to Jesus by trusting in His Lordship through obedience. This new creation comprises the kingdom of God which  has spread over the whole world and consists of those who have received the Holy Spirit. In this sense they are new people who have been profoundly changed. They have become a royal priesthood, serving the King and worshipping our great high Priest. But that is just the beginning of the story. The key question is what did Jesus come to do and what did He leave us to do? The canonical Gospels make it clear that He came to initiate the kingdom of God, and He told His disciples, and through them us, to continue His work. It is not about His followers leaving this world to go to heaven, but ultimately about heaven coming to earth as described in Isa 65, 66; 2 Pet 3.13, and Rev 21, 22. His people will be resurrected and live embodied lives in the new heavens and new earth. The whole world will become the temple of God (Ezek 40-47) where  heaven and earth are joined together  throughout the world (Ps 2.8) and where His people live as priests in this new temple reflecting God’s image to the world, and reflecting the praises of the creation back to the Creator. After death and prior to resurrection His people will be with the Lord until the Lord returns and they receive new bodies. In the meantime as we live out our lives here in the new age which began with Jesus’ resurrection, we are to tell the story of Jesus the King  and make disciples to extend His kingdom. This is the mission of the church and its members They (we) are to tell of His turning plain water into the joyful, savory wine of new life in Him; of calming the turbulent seas of life; of opening the eyes of the formerly spiritually blind to see both heaven and earth and the truth of the  raising of the  spiritually dead and giving new, meaningful, fulfilling life. As with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, we are to see how the whole history of Israel is fulfilled in this King who fulfilled God’s promises to Abraham by establishing the new kingdom of God on earth as in heaven. Our purpose can only be fulfilled by being filled full with the Scriptures so we live out the story of Israel, praying, breaking bread, and gathering together in His name. Jesus Himself becomes our example to follow and the Lord’s prayer becomes our mandate to facilitate His kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. The Spirt guides us as the pillar of fire guided Israel, as God promises to renew the world (Rm 8.17-24). There may be conflict as the kingdom of God clashes with the kingdoms of this world as Jesus confronted Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate (Jn 18,19) but Satan is defeated and the chief weapon of tyrants, death, has lost its power.

        Memory Verse: You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked. (Eph 2.1).

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