Growing up in Wellington, we were keenly aware that the very ground beneath us was not entirely secure; that the Big One could hit at anytime, and that terra firma was not quite as firma as it felt. We experienced this on a personal scale this week. We have a small plot of land on a ridge north of Auckland. The ridge gives way to a series of steep gullies covered with dense native bush. As we visited the land on Monday, I glanced to my left to take in the vast expanses of mature native bush. To my shock, what used to be lush green had been replaced by a sheer face of clay and rock, with dozens of trees having been flushed down the gully in recent flooding. This tract of bush that had stood strong for decades had vanished in an instant.
For me, it sums up the instability and uncertainty that we experience in life. Whether it’s in our health, our families and relationships, our careers, or other circumstances, we never quite know what’s around the next corner. It raises the question of how we travel as followers of Christ in an uncertain world—a world that still groans for the return of its king. Over the last month, we’ve been exploring what it means to live out of the Sabbath, not just as a day off, but as a vision of life. And for that vision to be based on something beyond just positive thinking, we need to know and stand upon the terra firma of what God has done in Jesus—no less than the taming of the cosmos towards the rhythms of his peaceable kingdom. And so, to live in perpetual Sabbath, is to live out of the rhythms of this new kingdom. Today, Aaron Roberts is speaking about the moment of Jesus’ death, which shook the status quo and removed the terra firma of the old certainties. Matthew’s Gospel even tells us that it sparked a literal earthquake! So, what’s going on here?
Tom Wright describes it like this: “The power of God is therefore revealed in human weakness, supremely in the weakness of Jesus. At the heart of the Christian gospel stands the ridiculous paradox that true power is found in the apparent failure, and the shameful death, of a young Jew at the hands of a ruthless empire. Why? Because there are more dimensions to reality than just the ones we see and know in our own space and time. Heaven, God’s space, is the present but unseen reality. And, in that all-important dimension, the crucifixion was not a defeat but a victory; in the death of Jesus, the powers of evil were themselves being judged, were being put to shame, were being decisively rebuked for their arrogance. Instead, the generous self-giving love of Jesus, giving himself for the sins of the world, has been vindicated and exalted as the supreme principle of the universe. More: Jesus himself, no abstract principle but a human person, is now exalted as the still loving, still giving, still generous Lord, to whom one day every knee shall bow, and whom we are today summoned to follow. The victory of Jesus over the evil in the world is not something which could be disproved by the continuance of evil to this day. It is a victory waiting to be implemented through his followers. Over the coming months, we are going to journey through John’s Gospel, to explore who Jesus is and what it looks like to walk in the way of Jesus.
Blessings, Rev Jonny Grant