18 March, 2018
This week many are mourning the death of Professor Stephen Hawking. He was a mental giant, and one of the most respected and recognised mathematicians and scientists in the world. He worked with the big stuff: life, the universe and everything. His Book “A Brief History of Time” sold 10 million copies (although few actually read it through to the end).
Perhaps his most profound work, according to BBC news this week, was demonstrating that “Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity implies that space and time would have a beginning”.
Without meaning any disrespect to Prof Hawking, I find a great irony in this. At the end of this great thinker’s life, he is remembered for his brilliant and profound work showing that the universe had a beginning, yet this brilliant and profound work is the very first thing that we find written in the Bible:
What Paul wrote 2000 years ago is still true today:
Again, I mean no disrespect to Prof. Hawking, but I’d like to go on from there and contrast the seemingly profound nature of his words and work (you can read them more fully online), with the truly profound nature of the words and work of Christ, which we heard in today’s Lent reading.
Let’s go back a little and begin with what John wrote in chapter 12, verses 20-22:
The Greeks were a bit like a bunch of groupies at a rock concert. It’s interesting that John never tells us if Jesus met with them. That seems to be irrelevant. What’s important is that even before Pentecost, before Jesus died and resurrected, even before Passion Week, the gospel was already spreading. This is an important insight for us here in Japan.
In Mark 4, Jesus tells us about the mystery of the growth of the Kingdom in a parable. He said,
We see this in this passage with the Greeks. We need to see this truth with eyes of faith as we reach out to our community here in Minoh. We prepare for outreach, we pray for boldness and effectiveness to be fruitful, and that’s good, but the Kingdom of God is ultimately expanded by the Spirit in ways that we don’t know or understand. So let’s take heart in this as we reach out this Easter.
As we continue in the passage from John, Jesus speaks words that are so profound they have no equal. He says,
Here Jesus reveals the great purpose for His life, a purpose which affects all of mankind. After all the life-changing teaching, after all the preaching, the healing, the casting out of demons and the miracles, we learn that those things were not the main act. They were merely signs. The real work, the real purpose of Christ’s life, was about to be revealed: Jesus was about to lay down His own sinless life in an exchange for our sinful lives.
Jesus was about to pay the penalty for our sins. It would cost Him his life. He would be betrayed. He would be abandoned. He would be flogged. He would be crucified on a cross. And He would carry on Him the sins of the whole world. He would then be separated from His Father in death. And He would do this for us. That was the hour that Jesus came for. That was the whole purpose of His life.
There’s more to this passage. Because Jesus goes on to talk about our purpose too, again, in words so profound, they have no equal. Jesus said,
Our purpose is to enjoy a life of devotion and service to Christ. Not simply because of the paradox that Jesus exposes: that is, those who live for themselves will lose themselves, and those who lose themselves for the gospel will find eternal life; but because it’s only in God, who purposed and created us, that we can find and enjoy our true purpose and identity. It’s only by the Spirit of God that we can say, ‘I was made for this life in Christ. I live for this. God has a reason for my life. I’m going to shout it out, without a doubt. I was born for this, built for a purpose’…hang on, that sounds familiar.
Our purpose is to live for Christ. By all accounts, Prof.Hawking did not live for Christ. Without wanting to be distasteful or opportunistic in any way, I genuinely wonder and I fear – and we must consider this – what did he say to God when he met Him? What did God say to him? I’m sure it would be a very different conversation from the one Billy Graham is having. The purpose of our lives is to live for Christ. If we’re not living for Christ, we’re not achieving our purpose.
In this brief passage, Jesus reveals the purpose for His life, and He reveals the purpose for our lives. There’s a third grand purpose that Jesus reveals. It is God’s purpose for causing all these events leading up to, in, and beyond, Passion Week.
Jesus reveals this purpose in verses 31,32 and it brings an entirely new perspective to how we view life, the universe and everything:
Jesus’ work on the cross – His death and resurrection – would herald the beginning of a whole new era of spiritual – and material – reality. With Jesus’ work on the cross, the ‘Your Kingdom Come’ of the Lord’s prayer is delivered. With Jesus’ work on the cross, Satan is defeated and God wins. This fundamentally changes everything. We are no longer subject to the schemes of the devil. Just as Jesus wins, so do we who live in Christ, win. We have authority over the prince of this world. That is God’s purpose in all this.
I want you to understand what this means. It means the keys of God’s Kingdom are ours. The keys of God’s Kingdom are ours to heal the sick, to work miracles, to forgive with a supernatural forgiveness, to love with a supernatural love, to experience a joy that is so great it is not possible to express in words, to enjoy a peace that is incomprehensible to the world. Some of these things we may not have experienced much of yet, but we live by faith to see all these things become a reality in our lives today.
Jeremiah prophesied this 600 years before Christ:
This reality, this knowledge of God that brings victory, is ours to live out. Though we belong to the Kingdom of God, we still live in the kingdom of this broken world. It is a defeated kingdom but it’s defeat is not yet complete, and the prince of this world remains powerful in his domain. In the name of Jesus, we are to drive him out whenever and wherever he appears: in our homes, in our workplaces, even as he attacks our own hearts.
I’m not encouraging anyone to get a tattoo, but a friend of mine has this tattooed on his torso:
GBTDWTS. Does anyone know what it means?
It means, ‘God Beat The Devil With Two Sticks’. I admit, it’s a little edgy, but it’s true. God defeated the devil through the work of the cross.
Our purpose in Christ is to draw near to God daily, to pray for and seek the coming of His Kingdom in every sphere of our lives. As we move closer to the Easter celebration and work to take God’s Word into the community, know that the devil has been defeated, and that by faith we are called and empowered to overcome any evil or darkness or power that stands before us.