April 16. 2017
Background Scripture: John 20:1-10. 1 Peter 13-9 Devotional Reading: 1 Corinthians 13
As I have suggested previously, the writer of the Gospel of John hardly wrote anything in his gospel that didn’t have a meaning or importance that was more than just the words he put on paper.
For example, in John 20:1-10 he is affi rming that the death of Jesus was real, not a pretense, misconception or deception. Jesus, God’s son, really died on a cross. (Some people, then and now, believed that he only “seemed” to have died and rose from the dead.)
What John says in his gospel is that the crucifi xion/burial appearances were those of a man who had really died and was resuscitated into a life that can be experienced, but not necessarily explained. In fact, I believe we can experience and encounter the “beyond,” but if we think we can comprehend it and satisfactorily explain it to others, that is a sign that we only “think we can.”
I have known and experienced many discussions on what it is God bestows upon us when we die, but I long ago decided that if we think we can adequately understand the life beyond, I don’t want to go there. Why? Because it is a gift from God, not something we can order from a catalogue.
I suspect if we think we can adequately understand and explain grace, God’s gift of love, then we are trivializing this enormous gift that has to and does go beyond human comprehension.
The closer we get to God, the farther away we realize we have been. News! News! News!
If John is symbolic In his presentation of “The Good News of Jesus Christ,” he is nevertheless specifi c in his attempt to bring his readers into a more specifi c relation to Jesus. For one thing, he is careful to note that Jesus did not just appear to be dead, he was really dead. And he was now truly alive.
At the time it was written, among those who found the passion and death too diffi cult to accept that the Son of God had actually suffered and died, it was assumed that Jesus did not really suffer, did not really die, but only “appeared” to have done so. (I think it ironic that some people today, if questioned on this subject, also would hold that Jesus “only appeared” to suffer.) If that were true, then the whole meaning of the death and resurrection of Jesus would be invalidated.
If Jesus only “appeared” to suffer on the cross, then no one would or could realize what a tremendous sacrifi ce God paid when Jesus died on the cross. A Jesus who didn’t suffer and pay the supreme sacrifi ce on the cross would not matter. Even more important, such an event would eliminate the sacrifice of love that lay behind this seminal moment in the history of this world.
The death of Jesus on the cross was neither an endemic accident, nor “just one of those things.” Much more than the depravity of the human race or a particular branch of it, it is the victory that the love of God ultimately wins over the gravity of human evil.
The redeeming, healing, justifying love of God for us, His creatures, is the power that freed Jesus from the cross and from the tomb. Our aim as disciples of Jesus Christ is to embody that power. We need to both know about it and also live it. An anonymous someone has said, “Love is more than a characteristic of God; it is his character.” And God means for it to be our character, too.
Love unconditional We can call ourselves “Christians,” but without love of the kind with which Jesus loved, we are deceiving ourselves. As Paul put it: “Love is patient; love is kind and envies no one. Love is never boastful, nor conceited, nor rude; never selfi sh, not quick to take offense. Love keeps no score of wrongs; does not gloat over other men’s sins, but delights in the truth. There is nothing love cannot face; there is no limit to its faith, its hope and endurance” (1 Cor. 13:4-7).
There is a difference between a God who is merciful and a God who has to be persuaded to be merciful. William Barclay has written that the “the initiative in all salvation lies with God.”
He goes on to say: “Sometimes Christianity is presented in such a way that it sounds as if God had to be pacifi ed” and persuaded to forgive. This text tells us that “it was with God that it all started … The tremendous thing about this text is that it shows us God acting, not for his own sake, but for ours; not to satisfy his desire for power, not to bring a universe to heel, but to satisfy his unconditional love.”
And that is our problem in that regardless of what we say, conditions always raise their ugly heads. Thus, love becomes a bargain, not a gift, short in supply (if at all), rather than magnanimous. I recently came across a quotation from Rev. Daniel Poling, a pastor I remember from almost 50 years ago: “Hate cannot destroy hate, but love can and does … love that suffers all things and is kind, love that accepts responsibility, love that marches, love that suffers, love that bleeds and dies for a great cause – but to rise again.”
What the New Testament teaches us is that love is not one quality among others, but the quality and reality that above all others, even if tried the least, still accomplishes the most. And that is love’s victory!
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of Farm World. Readers with questions or comments for Rev. Althouse may write to him in care of