Tuesday, 7 June 2011
Fix your eyes on Jesus
Paul writing to the Philippians (3:10) tells them “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection.” That’s quite a statement from one of the greatest evangelist the Church has ever known and the one who, probably more than anyone did so much to make Jesus known to the world of his day.
And yet he highlights, for me, the importance of making sure that we never stand still with Jesus but ensure that we push on and grow in our knowledge of Jesus.
I think it is true of any marriage or relationship that you can spend a lifetime getting to know them. And there is a danger that we can forget. There is another danger too and that is that we can think we know
someone and we don’t.
The writer to the Hebrews tells his readers that they should keep their eyes fixed on Jesus. But who is Jesus?
Here he describes him as the “author and perfecter of our faith”. Just as there is no book without an author to write it, so there is no Christianity with the one who creates it. Jesus Christ. Any attempt to live the Christian
life without Christ at the centre is at best an odd form of neo-Judaism and at worst a sort of Christian Atheism.
So let’s look at that word “author” to try and understand who Jesus is.The word “author” is used of Jesus
three other times in the New Testament:
The first we find in Hebrews 2:10 which reads: "In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. "
The words “sons of glory” is New Testament reference to Christian believers. Here is reference to Jesus’ crucifixion We are saved, the writer says through the “suffering of Jesus” How? Because he was crucified in our place.
Crucifixion was punishment for a crime—it’s a death sentence and Jesus is the innocent but willing victim who dies in our place for the sins that we—not he—have committed.It is “ by His stripes” says Isaiah “that we are healed”. The Cross is where you and I deserve to be—”the wages of sin is death”. But because Jesus was willing to pay the penalty and die in our place, if we believe and trust in Jesus then we are set free. He is the author of our salvation through his crucifixion.
The second reference is found in Acts 3:15 and it's the Apostle Peter speaking: "You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this."
Here Peter is talking to some onlookers following the healing of the blind man at the Beautiful Gate and he is referring to Jesus’ resurrection, that that God raised him from the dead thus vindicating his obedience in dying on the cross.And because Jesus rose again so will all those who put their trust in him. We read in Romans 8:11: "And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ
from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you."
He is the author of our salvation then also through his resurrection.
Finally, our last reference is in Acts 5:31. Starting with verse 30 we read: "The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince (the word used is the same as the one in Hebrews 12:2 meaning 'author') and Saviour that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins."
We are saved by his crucifixion; we are saved by his resurrection; and finally we are saved by his exaltation
or his ascension. These are not three separate events but one continuous whole which is why the disciples could not preach their message until the full work of Christ was complete and Jesus crowned as King.
Then and only then the Spirit fell and the Church got under way. He is the author of our salvation through
his exaltation or Ascension.
All three come together in Paul’s letter to Ephesians 2:4-6: "But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions (crucifixion)—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ (resurrection) and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus (exaltation or Ascension)".
Jesus is the Author of our faith because he has written it in his crucifixion, his resurrection and his ascension.
But the writer to the Hebrews goes one step further. This is not the work of Christ in the PAST tense
it is his work here and NOW and we participate in it through faith. Because Jesus is not only the author (past tense) he is also the PERFECTER or finisher (present continuous) of our faith. The word means “to bring to maturity”or to completion.
So whatever our work is in this parish (or as individual Christians), if Jesus is not at the very heart of what we do, if he is not the author AND perfecter of our faith as people or as churches then we need to take our eyes
of whatever else has taken his place and once again “fix our eyes on Jesus".
NOTE: This address was given on Palm Sunday at our annual Easter Vestry 2011.