Thursday, December 05, 2019

A Mighty Savior

A Mighty Savior
Jeremiah 23:1-6; Luke 1:68-79; Colossians 2:11-20[1]
  One of the age-old human desires is for someone to come and rescue us from the brokenness of our lives. At times have looked to our “God” to be the one to save us from the pain and suffering that seems to define our existence. At times that desire has been focused on a specific person—a “hero” who would throw off the yoke of oppressors, or a leader who would step up and set things right, or a spiritual figure who would come and save us. At times, the disappointments of life have driven us to look for our own solutions—some good, some not. But when push comes to shove, we tend to look to God to save us.
  In ancient times, this desire was directed toward the promise of a Messiah. That idea originated because, as Jeremiah declares, those who were supposed to care for the people had failed to do so. More than that, they had taken advantage of the people, “destroying” and “scattering” God’s flock. In response, God promised to send one who would be a true shepherd. This one would enact true justice, rather than exploiting the people for the sake of power and wealth. This one would bring true peace that enabled them to thrive, not just the richest of the rich. This one would be called “The Lord is our righteousness” (Jer. 23:6, NRSV), or “God-Who-Puts-Everything-Right” (The Message)! Jeremiah was looking for a mighty savior!
  So was Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. In Luke’s Gospel we hear his song of praise at the birth of his son. He took that to be a sign that God was in the process of fulfilling ancient promises. Promises to save the people from their enemies and from the hand of those who oppressed them. Promises that God had made to Abraham and David about the days when the people would be able to serve God freely. Promises that light would come to those living in darkness, and peace would come to those who were troubled by violence, or cruelty, or want of common necessities, or simply a place to call home. And Zechariah believed God was going to do this by raising up “a mighty savior” (Lk. 1:69).
  After raising their hopes through the many amazing things he did, Jesus dashed those hopes by going to the cross. “Mighty Saviors” don’t get publicly humiliated by a brutal execution. In the minds of the Jewish people that just couldn’t happen. A truly mighty savior would have the power to overthrow even the Roman Empire, who kept the Jewish people firmly under the heels of their army. A truly mighty savior would bring back the days when the Jewish people were a world power. When Jesus died on a Roman cross, the hopes of those who followed him died as well.
  But that was not the end of the story. By raising Jesus from the dead, God demonstrated that he was indeed doing something “mighty” through Jesus. I think it took the first Christians a while to understand all that meant. It meant that God was doing something much bigger than just freeing the Jewish people. Through Jesus the mighty savior, God was going to free all people. And he was going to free us not just from the political and economic powers in this world, but from all the evil, hatred, injustice, and brokenness that burdens us in this life. Because he defeated death itself, the first Christians began to recognize that there was no victory that Jesus, our mighty savior, could not win.
  As a result, they began to see Jesus’ work as something that would involve a much bigger picture that simply the fate of nations. In Colossians, Jesus’ work as our mighty savior includes nothing less than creating all things in the beginning and restoring all things in the end. Because of Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to the right hand of God, Jesus’ role as our savior was much bigger than anyone had imagined. As the “firstborn of all creation,” he was the one “through whom and for whom” all things were created by God. We may not understand all that means, but as our mighty savior, Jesus participated with God in the creation of all things.
  Beyond that, Jesus’ work as our mighty savior includes restoring “all things” in the end. Now, in the Greek language “all things” is worded in such a way as to point to the whole created order. It refers to “all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe” (Col. 1:20, The Message). I think that’s going way beyond what most of us can imagine, let alone understand. Somehow, the Scripture says that Jesus reigns as our mighty Savior over the whole universe. And he will carry out his reign “with wisdom, power, and love” by making all things right—throughout the whole cosmos!
  I think our desire for a Savior tends to be focused on ourselves. We tend to want our Savior to help us out of our difficulties. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, of course. But we can’t stop there. According to the New Testament, our mighty savior is engaged in a work that will make all things right again, just the way they were at the very beginning. I don’t think, however, that because Jesus is the Savior of the universe that somehow means that our concerns are too small for him. Rather, I would say that when we turn to him with our burdens, we can do so in the confidence that our mighty savior is the one who is working to restore the whole universe and everyone in it! Surely that means not only that he can help us, but also that he will!

[1] © 2019 Alan Brehm. A sermon delivered by Rev. Dr. Alan Brehm on 11/24/2019 at Hickman Presbyterian Church, Hickman, NE.

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