Monday, 6 March 2017

Christ brings life and freedom

Genesis 2: 15-17, 3: 1-7 (page 2 in our pew Bibles) Attainment of the knowledge of good and evil makes humankind like God, and as far as we know, no other creature possesses this awareness. But while we are like God in this respect, that doesn't mean that we are able to cope with good and evil. In the narrative in Genesis, this actually culminates in such chaos and evil that God decides to destroy the world in a universal flood. Only the eternal God and not limited humanity can bring it to a resolution.
Romans 5: 12-19 (page 942 in our pew Bibles) Paul's main point here is to compare and contrast the impact of Adam's disobedience with Christ's obedience with the emphasis on "how much more" are the positive effects of Christ's act of righteousness compared to Adam's sin. Though Paul never articulates a universal salvation and actually differentiates between those who are being saved and those who are perishing (1 Corinthians 1:18) the logic of his theology pushes in that direction. Certainly the only assurance we can have of our personal salvation is to believe the gospel.  
Matthew 4: 1-11 (page 809 in our pew Bibles) The purpose of the passage is to explain Jesus' rejection of the temptation to depart from God's will in contrast to the people of Israel's departure from God's will in their 40 years in the wilderness between the exodus and their entry into the promised land. The replies of Jesus are all from Deuteronomy (8:3, 6:16, 6:13) and refer to the manna, and the golden calf. Jesus wins through where the Israelites failed.

The themes highlighted in each of today’s readings demand a book written on each one so condensing each of them into one cohesive whole is a major task.

One of the themes highlighted in Genesis is our ability, unique to humankind as far as we know, to discern and make moral choices, and our inability to cope with that responsibility, until Jesus thousands of years later does so in his life.
In Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness we have a direct comparison with how the Israelites fared and failed in their wanderings in the wilderness after the exodus. To ram home the contrast, Jesus’ replies to the Devil are all taken from Deuteronomy which refer to the Israelites where they failed in the wilderness, particularly to their reaction to the manna and the making of the Golden calf.

Where the Israelites tried and failed to live in a perfect relationship with God, Jesus triumphed. The whole of what God was trying to achieve through the Israelites – to be a light to the gentiles and a way to God – was now to pass to a single human being, Jesus, the embodiment of a “perfect Israel” in a single person.   

What do we mean when we say that Jesus was without sin? It means that Jesus shared a perfect unbroken relationship with God, where Sin is understood as a broken relationship with God.
This was demonstrated in the first prompting of the Holy Spirit. Jesus had just been baptised and at his baptism the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form and the words of God said “This is my son, the beloved, with him I am well pleased”

But the first act of the Holy Spirit was to drive Jesus out into the wilderness! If you read the text (verse 1) it was God’s Spirit that drove Jesus into the wilderness, to prove his worth, to be tested. And where Israel had been found wanting, Jesus was found to be unshakable and rejected the temptation to use his relationship with God for his own personal gain or for power.
Jesus followed God’s will all the way to the cross. He didn’t want to die but as you remember he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Yet not my will but yours”

As the first person to actually remain in perfect communion with his Father without rebelling, and exuded the same ability to make perfect moral choices as the Father himself, the “Jesus event” effectively reversed the Sin of all humanity that was introduced and explained by the Biblical story of Adam and Eve.
Sin came into the world through one man – Adam – and was taken away from the world by one man – Jesus.

This is explained by Paul in our reading from his letter to the Romans this morning. The text can be a little dense but in verse 18 he makes it clear that “as one trespass (Adam) led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness (Jesus) leads to justification and life for all men.

God’s offer of new life, eternal life, to all, is an offer made freely and can be received freely by all people everywhere without exception. It is made effective in our lives through faith, so life is not just life after death but fullness of life before death.

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