Sunday, April 09, 2006

“Everything’s Changed”[1]

Jeremiah 31:31-34; John 12:20-32

In our gospel lesson for today, Jesus begins to explain to his disciples the meaning of the events that are about to take place. He is going to Jerusalem, where he will be killed by the Jewish and Roman leaders. What he wants them to understand, however, is that it will not be the end, but rather a new beginning. By offering himself as a willing sacrifice, Jesus will break the power of the ruler of this world. He will make it possible for all people to be drawn to him. His death on a cross will change everything.

C. S. Lewis, in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, tells the story of four children who discover a land called Narnia. It is a place ruled by a White Witch whose cruel and seemingly absolute power keeps Narnia in a constant state of winter. Although one might think that under those circumstances Narnia would be a lifeless, hopeless place, in fact many of the creatures of Narnia are filled with hope. An ancient prophecy said that when 2 Sons of Adam and 2 Daughters of Eve sat on the thrones at Cair Paravel, the lion Aslan, the true King of Narnia, would return to set things right. The children—Lucy, Edmond, Susan, and Peter—are the children of the prophecy.

A Light Shining in Darkness. For that reason, the White Witch entices Edmond to betray his brother and sisters to her. She does not want Aslan to come and interfere with her rule of Narnia. She thinks that if she can keep them from fulfilling the prophecy, she can be ruler of Narnia forever. But she is thwarted because when the children arrive in Narnia, they discover that Aslan is already on the move. The simple fact of his presence has already begun to change Narnia. When Aslan is there, he melts the perpetual winter the Witch had imposed over the land. His presence changes everything.

In a very real sense, according to John’s Gospel Jesus’ presence has much the same effect. As John can say, “In him was life and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it” (Jn. 1:4-5). The simple fact of Jesus’ coming means that “the ruler of this world will be driven out” (Jn. 12:31) just as surely as light dispels darkness. Jesus’ coming changed everything. What that means for us is that, instead of resigning ourselves to this world that can be just as cold and lifeless as Narnia under the Witch’s spell, we can live with a whole new outlook on life—one that is filled with hope.

Deep Magic. In the story of Aslan, the children make their way to the Stone Table where they will meet him. The Witch shows up and insists that Edmond belongs to her by right of the “Deep Magic from the Dawn of Time.” The Deep Magic said that the Witch had the right to put any traitor to death. But Aslan proposes an alternative—he will offer himself to her in exchange for Edmond. Thinking that she has outwitted the lion, the Witch accepts his proposal. After Aslan is dead, she intends to kill the children and secure her rule of Narnia forever! But something unexpected happens. After Aslan is murdered, he comes back to life! By offering himself in place of Edmond, Aslan destroys the “Deep Magic” that had given the Witch her power over Narnia, and thus ensures her defeat. He changed everything.

That’s what Jesus’ sacrifice of himself on the cross does in real life. By his death and resurrection Jesus revoked the power of the “ruler of this world.” The very fact of Jesus’ death and resurrection changed everything—as our scripture said, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.” Jesus changed everything.

Everything’s Changing There is one major difference between the story of Aslan and the story of Jesus. In Narnia, Aslan returns to life and leads the children and their subjects to defeat the Witch. They take up their thrones and rule for many years, bringing peace and joy to Narnia.

In real life, Jesus’ presence is like a light that dispels the darkness, but the darkness is still there. Although Jesus has broken the power of the “ruler of this world,” there are many people who still submit to him. This world really can be just as cold and lifeless as Narnia under the Witch’s spell! While it is true that Jesus’ life and death and resurrection changed everything, it’s also true that everything is still in the process of changing.

What enables us to live with hope in the midst of this world is the fact that Jesus’ death and resurrection point us forward to a future when the power of evil will be no more, when he will restore everyone and everything. We can look forward with confidence the day when Jesus will draw all people to himself. As we live with that hope, we become signs of the future victory. But just as darkness cannot overcome light, so nothing can prevent Jesus from winning the final victory.

[1] A sermon preached 4/2/06 at First Presbyterian Church, Dickinson, TX.

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