The journey was long, arduous, around many bends, through streams, and up many mountains. Yet, their spirits remained high. A benefactor ensured they had all they needed to complete the journey, and his promise that they would make it too their long awaited and most desired destination was surer than money in the bank.
The Christian can use the word “hope” in a special way. Christians do not hope as the rest of the world hopes. The world often uses the word “hope” for something one would like to see happen but can never be sure it will. The Christian hope is different. It is a sure, certain, unalterable, and everlasting hope. The Bible tells the Christian in Romans 5:2, “we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
I do not know about you, but there are things in my life that I long to get rid of. There are behaviors, bouts of crankiness, loneliness, selfishness, melancholy that I long to get rid of. Furthermore, now that I am older, I am beginning to realize why so many people have given me a piece of advice that I never could follow, “Don’t get old.” The aches, pains, and lack of endurance of old age sneaks up on you.
Over the past two weeks, we have looked at some of the ways that the peace that God offers us through his Son changes us. The reception of this peace changes how we view God. It calms our souls with an assurance of permanent peace with God. It also conditions our emotions, helping us resists Satan’s attacks. Here we look at two more ways God’s peace changes us.
Peace with God not only calms one’s troubled soul, it also moves one’s hands. Romans 12:18, says, “If possible, as far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” If God has gone to such lengths to make peace with us, how can we ever withhold peace from others. If God found a way to relieve our greatest of debts, how can we squabble with others over smaller ones. What grudges are you nursing right now against others that you need to let go of? Do you have an estranged child that you have refused to talk to? A ruptured friendship that you have kept at arms-length? Are you harboring resent in your heart against another member of your church family? “If possible, as far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
Last week we looked at how the peace that God offers us through his Son changes how we view God and calms our soul. This week we look at one more way the peace of God changes us.
The late and great Biblical scholar John Murray said, “Peace of heart and mind proceeds from ‘peace with God’ and is the reflection in our consciousness of the relation established in his favour.” Even the most devout Christian will experience times in life when God feels far away. Though our feelings help us in many ways, they do not always send us in the right direction. While we cannot always change our emotions, and we certainly do not want to suppress them, we can condition them.
Last week we looked at how God made peace with us through the death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ. Here we begin to explore some of the ways that receiving this peace changes us.
First, this peace changes how we view God. The late Bible scholar par excellence Robert Haldane once said: “While guilt remains in the conscience, enmity will also rankle in the heart; for so long as men look upon their sins as unpardoned and on God as the avenger of their transgressions, they must regard Him as being to them a consuming fire. But when they view God in Christ reconciling them to Himself, not imputing their iniquities to them, peace, according to the measure of faith, is established in the conscience.”
If that sounds like a lot to take in, let me say it again graphically. If a great thief knows his guilt, he will tremble on his way through the door into the courtroom. But, if he knows that everything he stole was paid back in full by the judge himself, his trembling will turn to joy. He has nothing left to fear. His heart now overflows with gratitude and joy before the judge, who paid his great debt.
Whether a Gentile or a Jew, whether you live life on the wild side or follow all the rules, whether you live and let live or look down on everyone who does not live like you do, we all have waged war against God.
How can this be? First, we all sin. We can sin in wild ways. We can also sin by condemning those who do not conform to our own moral standards. In whatever way we sin, we are telling God, through our sin, that we now claim control of this world and our lives. We are telling him that he and his ways have no claim upon us.
You could think of it like this. What happens when two parties of people claim ultimate authority over the same thing? We see this happening in Ukraine. Russia claims sovereignty over certain parts of Ukraine, which Ukraine claims as their own. When two parties say they each have ultimate control over the same thing, war breaks out. When we sin against God, we claim ultimate control over our lives and this world. We declare independence and thus wage war against God through our sin.
Consequently, God must also declare war against us. God will not let the guilty go free without reaping the consequence any more than he will allow innocent victims to go without justice forever. God cannot look at sin and evil with indifference. He must respond.
We are not able to end this war. Why? Because no mere mortal has ever figured out how to stop sinning. We all sin in unique ways, and we cannot help ourselves. Because none of us have figured out how to stop sinning, we cannot turn to God and say, “we’re cool, bro, right?” any more than Russia can say to Ukraine, “We’re cool, right?” We cannot create peace with God because we habitually break peace with God.
Therefore, only one mediator between humanity and God has ever existed: Jesus Christ. When God in Christ came to earth, he was calling a peace summit. Yet, he did not say, “If you would only stop doing this, then we can have peace.” There were no “ifs” at God’s peace summit. God simply said, “I’ll absorb the cost of the damage myself.” When Christ died on the cross, he took what was due us because of our guilt. In other words, when we receive Christ’s offer of peace born out in his death and resurrection, we are acquitted of all guilt, vindicated before the judgement throne of God, and thus have peace with God.
Distraught and weeping, Mary says to Peter, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” (John 20:2) Peter and another disciple immediately run to the tomb to check things out for themselves. The other disciple outran Peter. He arrived at the tomb first.
They would have cut the tomb where Jesus was laid into the rock of the Judean hillside. The entryway would have been low to the ground, so that the other disciple would have needed to bend low to peak in. As the sun had risen higher, enough light would have entered the tomb so that this other disciple could see what Mary could not have seen earlier. He sees the linen burial strips lying there. He does not go in. We can excuse him. This was, after all, someone else’s tomb. Laws prohibited, just as today, tampering with someone else’s grave.
Mary, still literally in the dark, sees the stone taken away from the tomb where her beloved friend was laid. Given the low sunlight – the sun had probably just cracked the horizon – she probably could not see into his cave-like tomb. She assumes, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb…” (John 20:1)
Mary’s assumption was reasonable enough. Imagine you were at a cemetery walking up to the grave of your loved one. You see a pile of dirt next to a hole where you know your loved one was laid to rest, but you have not yet moved close enough to peer in. What might you assume? You might assume someone took the body. Mary did. She did not know better.
The darkness, in John’s Gospel, signifies something more than the early hour. We all, like Mary, start in the dark. We all, like Mary, start with assumptions about who this Jesus really is. In John’s gospel, people have been making all sorts of assumptions about Jesus. Some called him “the Prophet (John 6:14).” Others called him the Christ without yet knowing what that title meant (for example, John 7:31). Still others said he had a demon or was insane (John 10:20).