I am the Resurrection and the Life

This is, probably, the first in a series of about three posts around a developing theme - exploring the ‘implications’ of what was discussed in my previous post.

I have recently ‘discovered’ a different way of thinking about what Jesus did for our relationship with God - or, at least, a form of words which is different, and which sheds new light on it for me. It may, of course, be ‘old hat’ for you.

When Jesus cast the money changers, dove sellers, and other ‘traders’ out of the temple He was questioned as to under whose authority He was operating:

The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” John 2:18

And His somewhat enigmatic response was: 

“Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” John 2:19

Of course, the Jews thought he meant the physical, bricks and mortar, temple, whereas it turned out that Jesus was actually referring to Himself as the temple.

Under the old covenant, the temple in Jerusalem was the meeting place between God and His people Israel - the people He intended to be His ambassadors in the world. The temple was the place where heaven and earth touched… It was the place on earth where the glory of God rested. That changed when Jesus died on the cross. 

When Jesus died:

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split… Matthew 27:51

The curtain of the temple was what separated the ‘holy of holies’ (where the glory of God dwelt, and where no man except the high priest could enter - and then only once each year) from the rest of the temple. The curtain symbolised mankind’s separation from God, brought about by sin. 

The tearing apart of the curtain signified several things:

firstly, that God was not going to dwell there any more - that space was no longer ‘separate’ (or holy - the two words are synonymous here) - never again would He dwell in a temple made by human hands; 

secondly, that Jesus’ self-sacrifice was a sufficient atonement for sins - there was no longer any need for a curtain;

thirdly, that there was now no need for a ‘physical’ temple - Jesus Himself now assumed the role of being the ‘link’ between heaven and earth - in effect, heaven and earth meet in Him; He is both the temple and the high priest; in Him, God and man are joined - He is both God and man. 

That the curtain tore from top to bottom shows that it was torn by God - logically, if man had done it, it would have been torn from the bottom up.

And Jesus said:

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

What does that mean? Well, apart from the obvious - direct access to God in and through the person of Jesus Christ - there is, I believe, more to it.

Paul’s letter to the Romans tells us that:

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs - heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. Romans 8: 16-17

And Peter tells us:

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9

Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians tells us:

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptised by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free —and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. … Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 1 Corinthians 12: 12-13, 27

What all that adds up to is that we, the church, are the heirs of Christ, and we form his earthly body. In a physical sense now we form the ‘link’ between earth and heaven - we are now become, in some sense, the temple and in another sense, the ambassadors of the Kingdom of Heaven. What a privilege - and what a hugely daunting responsibility - the world gains access to God through us.

We are apt, all too often, to think that the gospel is about being saved and going to heaven: ‘Pie in the sky when you die’ - to steal a phrase from Joe Hill’s parody on the old hymn ‘In the Sweet By and By’. That is, I think a misunderstanding - because Jesus speaks about a coming kingdom, not about an escape from this world. We are, like Jesus, to preach this coming kingdom, and to seek to bring it about. 

That makes these words from the Lord’s prayer make more sense:

your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Matthew 6: 10-11

That’s not pie in the sky when we die, but pie in the here and now (as well as not yet). Becoming a Christian means entering into a realm which is now almost as much as it is later; a transcendent realm which was begun in this world through the embodiment of Christ, rather than a ladder to get us away from here when we die. 

Pie for me, and us, and pie for others too…

The Good News is about beginning to work towards the ‘new heaven and new earth’ in the here and now… Fighting against inequality and oppression; feeding the hungry, looking after strangers in our midst, clothing the destitute, looking after the sick, visiting the prisoners… And thereby sharing the love of Christ with the world - being Christ’s body by doing what He did.

“Christ has no body now but yours,
no hands, no feet on earth but yours,
yours are the eyes through which he looks
with compassion on this world.
Yours are the feet with which
he walks to do good.
Yours are the hands with which
he blesses all the world. 
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.” Teresa of Ávila 1514-1582

God bless you!

Copyright © Phil Hendry, 2020