“Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came [before me] are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd. This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again.”John 10:7-10, 14-18 (NABRE)
Over the course of the last few blog posts we have explored the reasons why Jesus came to earth. We have learned that God created us and loves us more than any of his other creations. We know that Satan wants to destroy us due to the position that we hold in God’s ultimate plan. He hates us and wants to degrade us as much as possible. God loves us so much that he’s come to earth to rescue us from Death’s grasp so that we will have eternal life with him. How does he do this? We know that Satan is not dumb. He’s not going to let two inept guards stand at the doorway and be tricked into letting God enter.
We already know how this story ends, but let’s take a closer look at it. Jesus defeats Death on the Cross. How? He’s crucified, dies, is buried and rises again. Is that the whole story? That sounds pretty boring. What we need to keep in mind is that the Cross wasn’t just two pieces of wood nailed together on which Jesus died. No. THAT was the battlefield! THAT was the trap! Read the next sentence, then close your eyes and think about it: God, the one who created the entire Universe and EVERYTHING in it, has been scourged, made to carry his own heavy cross, and nailed to it for everybody to see. He is covered in his own blood, naked and dying. Does that look like the most powerful being to ever exist? No! He looks like a pathetic man who is weak and powerless. This is the same man who had resisted the devil’s temptations in the desert, and here he is nailed to a cross. Can you feel the devil salivating as Death nears? Now go back up and re-read the scripture from John. Read the bold sentence a few times.
What does that tell us? It tells us that God ALLOWED himself to be tortured and nailed to the cross. This is God! He could easily have blinked us all out of existence. He could have easily resisted and avoided the suffering. But he didn’t. In order to save us he had to take on a human form, after all, God can’t die or suffer for our sins. Why would he have to die? Have you ever seen the movie Armageddon (with Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck)? If you have, you might remember that NASA decided they were going to detonate a nuclear bomb on the asteroid in the hopes of breaking it up enough that the pieces would not end up hitting earth, or if they did they would burn up in the atmosphere. The oil-drilling guys were confused as to why they were chosen instead of fancy astronauts. Billy Bob Thornton explains that they can’t just place the bomb on the surface because that won’t do the job. Instead, they needed somebody to drill a deep hole into which the bomb could be placed so that when it went off it could destroy the entire thing from the inside. How does God destroy Death? From the inside. To get in, he would have to die. That’s where the real battle took place, where Death was destroyed and we were set free.
Jesus has destroyed Death and set us free. What does that mean? We will still physically die. However, our death is just from our current state of existence. This is all temporary. Destroying Death means that we get to have ETERNAL life with our heavenly Father. We have been adopted into HIS family where we are given grace and mercy because of his love for us. We can’t earn those gifts no matter what we do. They are freely GIVEN to us through his love. His love recreates us, too.
“‘Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them [as their God]. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, [for] the old order has passed away.’ The one who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.'”Revelation 21:3-5 (NABRE)
He makes all things new. How does he recreate us? When you are baptized your “old” self is washed away so that your new self can take its place. This means that NONE of us are beyond redemption. We can change. “It is what it is,” is a bald-faced lie when it comes to who you are as a person. If you truly want to change who you are deep down, you can do it. You just can’t do it on your own. You have to surrender yourself to Christ and ask for the Holy Spirit to dwell in you and help to make you new. It’s not easy because Satan is still out here tempting us, but with Jesus on our side we can’t lose! When you are picking teams you ALWAYS pick Jesus first!
Isn’t all of this news great?! We can’t lose! God is on our side and has told the Devil to take a hike so that we can be with God forever! But wait a minute… why? Why would God do all of this for me? He can create a universe out of nothing. He can destroy Death. He creates billion of stars at unfathomable distances away from us. God is AWESOME. So why me? I’m only one tiny little microscopic speck in all of his creation. Why would he care about doing any of this for me? I’m insignificant. Do you still not understand? God loves YOU. He thirsts for you. You wants to always be near to you.
“You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! My very self you know. My bones are not hidden from you, When I was being made in secret, fashioned in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw me unformed; in your book all are written down; my days were shaped, before one came to be.”Psalm 139:13-16 (NABRE)
Remember, God is perfect and doesn’t make mistakes. He made YOU. On purpose, with a purpose. Even if you don’t know what your purpose is, He does. He knows the real you and LOVES you. Embrace him, surrender to him, and recreate yourself anew. It’s never too late.
Take some time to think about what you’ve read. Open the Bible and see what God has to say to you. After all, the Bible isn’t a History textbook; it’s a love letter to you from God. Read his words. Feel his love. See what he has done for you. Listen to the song “You Are Near” by Dan Schutte as you think about what God has done for you.
What is your response?