Thursday, 27 March 2014

Lent day 22 - the God who saves the world

We probably don't think much about it as Christians, but to the historically aware person, Jesus was a Jew and it should in one sense be surprising that a first century Jewish religious figure should mean anything to 21st century non-Jews. Then there are those who maintain that he shouldn't, and that only Paul makes a thing of Jesus for non-Jews, essentially inventing Christianity. I'm not at all convinced that is true.

Today's text (John 12:20-50) makes it clear that Jesus saw his role as saviour of the world (verse 47) and not primarily its judge. So many Christians see Jesus merely as judging, and it shapes their judgmental nature of others. His attitude should steer us in another direction.

In verses 20-26 we see the turning point is Greeks wanting to see Jesus (perhaps proselytes to Judaism). Now that non-Jews were interested, it was time for Jesus' message to go wider, yet fruit would only be born by his death on the cross.

World is rather ambiguous a term in John. Jesus comes to save it not judge it (verse 47) but we are to hate our life in it. Jesus is not being dualistic about physical reality but saying that human society in general, and specifically Israel (verses 36-43) was corrupt and in need of saving rather than following in its belief.

More than that - the cross is in fact a judgement of the world (by God himself, not Jesus) and the throwing down of its ruler (Satan), make the cross both a sacrifice for sin and a defeat of Satan - and I don't think you need to subsume one theory of atonement into another but see them working side by side. Behind the whole of human evil stands a suprapersonal being, not a man in red tights but an evil 'person'.

Theology has traditionally spoken then of sin, the world and the devil - and the cross deals with all three. We are personally responsible and need to repent of the things that we do. Only Christ makes our reconciliation and cleansing from sin possible.

Likewise, society and its structures need renewal. Just as personal holiness and loving others is important, so writ large this means peace, justice and care for the physical world, which itself will be renewed.

Finally, those larger darker forces have been defeated. We can't say 'the devil made me do it' or 'society made me do it', but recognise influences subtle and overt, and learn to resist. All of this, so we might bear fruit for life of the new age (eternal life).

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