Summary: It is not we who possess anything of lasting value; no matter what we possess it is Christ who possess us!
The Paradox of Possession, II Corinthians 6:1-13
Series Introduction, “An Upside-Down Kingdom”
In Isaiah 52:13-53:12, known as Isaiah’s fourth servant song, the prophet describes what is known as Isaiah’s “suffering servant.” This verse is filled with language of “substitution.” The passage, along with references from the previous and succeeding chapters, give us a picture of a righteous servant who acted as a substitutive for our sins. In the ancient near east was a common theme of the “substitute king.” The substitute king was a different kind of substitute than the one being spoken of here by Isaiah. You see, in the ancient world, particularly in ancient Assyria, if an astrologer predicted or spoke of a bad omen which was to befall the reigning king, then the king and his courts men would quickly find a man who would sit in authority as the king for up to a period of one hundred days. They would place him upon the throne of the king so that any evil which had been predicted in the stars which was to befall the king would befall this man instead. During this time the king was kept in relative isolation as he performed ceremonial cleansing rites, so that the evil would pass him up and fall upon the substitute king. The substitute king was the one who would take the judgment meant for the king. He was often a person of very low social status whose life was considered inadequate when compared to that of the king. He was often portrayed as a shepherd, though anyone could plainly see that he was in fact a sheep nearing the slaughter. At the end of his period of substitution, the man was put to death so that the supposed aim of the gods to punish the actual king could be realized to satisfy their wrath.
In Christ we see the exact opposite! In Christ we see the righteous king laying down His holy life as a substitute for the people. Rather than taking a man of low esteem so that he might stand in the place of the great king, In Jesus we see the great and mighty King of Kings laying down His life to satisfy the wrath of the one and only true God. In Christ we see the king forfeiting His throne in heaven, not so that He might run from trouble and maintain safety, but so that He might run away from safety into the trouble which was ours. In Christ, we see Jesus, the holy and blameless King making us citizens of an upside-down kingdom, reconciled unto God by His blood.
Time and again in the Scriptures we see that the kingdom of God is unlike any other kingdom; no kingdom of this world even compares to its beauty.
If there is one constant motif running the Scriptures it is: God saying to mankind, “My ways are not your ways, o man, and your ways are not my ways!” At the Cross we see Jesus declaring loudly and plainly the radical difference between the kingdoms of this world, who seek to dominate with power, and the kingdom of God which seeks to reach out with love!
Today we begin a series of sermons entitled, “An Upside-Down Kingdom.” This is a theme which is found time and again in the Bible. For at least the next few weeks, we will look at some of the “Paradoxes” of life in this world as a citizen of the upside-down kingdom of God. The Gospel message which saves us is at war with the convention thinking of this world. Jesus said that he who seeks his life will lose it, but he who loses it for my sake will find it. He who seeks to be first will be last and he who is a servant of all will be great in the kingdom of heaven. As modern Christians it is all together too easy to take passages like that for granted, but how do we apply messages like that to our lives? I pray that over the next few weeks we will come away with some new insight, a fresh perspective, on how to do exactly that.
Years after her concentration camp experiences in Nazi Germany, Corrie ten Boom met face to face one of the most cruel and heartless German guards that she had ever contacted. He had humiliated and degraded her and her sister. He had jeered and visually raped them as they stood in the delousing shower. Now he stood before her with hand outstretched and said, “Will you forgive me?” She writes: “I stood there with coldness clutching at my heart, but I know that the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. I prayed, Jesus, help me! Woodenly, mechanically I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me and I experienced an incredible thing.