Summary: Jesus died for the church, wherein we find our greatest selves.
Jesus and the Church
For hours on a spring day, Jesus hung on the Roman cross, jeered at by those of his nation- the Jews- and Gentile Romans, alike. Those who had sought him during his ministry turned on him. He was abandoned by those too fearful to be identified with him. His closest friends ran and hid when he was arrested, and kept a very safe distance from him. His most vocal supporter denied him 3 times, even within Jesus’ hearing. He walked a lonely, difficulty, life-ending road… alone. Then he hung between heaven and earth for hours until he died. Why?
Awhile before he suffered this cruel treatment and death, Jesus had declared what he was about to do.
Matt. 16.18- he declared that he was about to build his church. This was something new in the world. This was something he was initiating. This was his long-term vision, presented in a private conversation with Peter. This was something to change the world, and something that would stand for all ages. All that the dark forces might bring against it would fail. The church would stand. Hell would fall.
On another occasion, he declared what would happen when he died the way that he was going to die.
John 12.32- his lifting up would draw all to him.
In this next 7 weeks, we prepare to celebrate Jesus in His incredible resurrection. We need to know what it was all about, though, as we begin. It was all about building his church, of which this congregation is part. Jesus hung between heaven and earth because of and for the church. His cruel death was part of what was necessary to build his church- it was a church building action.
We don’t, often, see his death this way. Too often we make it all about us or me. It was about something else- something bigger. The us and me comes into the picture with clarity only in the context of the church which Jesus built, and continues to build, because it continues until his return and the culmination of all things worldly.
Eph. 1. 22, 23- KJV. Now I want to read these verses in ‘The Message’. “At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.”
Did you catch that? The world is peripheral to the church. Wow! What a perspective! There is no organization or body or group more important on earth than the church. It is central. Everything else is peripheral. Everything else is unimportant by comparison. It’s on the outer edges of relevance and importance, by comparison. That’s what peripheral means. That’s an exciting idea and one to mull over for awhile.
God’s work here, and his greatest wisdom, is being seen through the church.
Eph. 3.10- “Through Christians like yourselves gathered in churches, this extraordinary plan of God is becoming known and talked about even among the angels!” (“The Message”). Let’s put this into context and read right from 2.18- 3.12. This entire passage speaks about the bringing together of people, and that this occurs in Christ and is through the church. This doesn’t happen much of anywhere else or anyway other. What happens here is people of all colours, races, and backgrounds come together and, together, love God (obeying the Great Commandment) and love neighbours (Second Commandment), and this shouts what could not be shown any other way. The angels get to learn this part of God’s great wisdom through what they see. So far, they’ve seen, in the world, people at enmity. They’ve seen Babel. They’ve seen Cain and Abel. They’ve seen Jacob and Esau. They’ve seen Israel and Judah. They’ve seen Assyria and Israel. They’ve seen Babylon and Judah. They’ve seen Judas and Jesus. They’ve seen a lot of animosity and killing; they’ve seen people trying to get one up on someone else. They’ve seen people trying to unite and come together. That’s been very imperfect. But, then, Jesus came so they could see it happen.
In an extensive discussion of how members fit together in the church, and how members find their personal best in the church, Paul declares:
1 Cor. 12. 18- 27- esp. v. 27- together, we are Christ’s body and we’re, individually, individual members of it. Within the body, we find our greatest fulfillment. Here is where God works with us rather intensely.
It’s in the church that people live out all that Christ died for and in the church that God’s greatest wisdom gets shown. Christ hung between heaven and earth for the church.
Col. 1. 12, 13, 14- this happens to us, and we’re put, then, within the church, which is not peripheral to the world, but the world is peripheral to the church. We’re put right into the centre of God’s, Christ’s, and the Spirit’s eyesight and vision in the church.