Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who with the Holy Spirit are three-in-one
Many of you know that, before I went to seminary, I pastored a church in Ashton, Idaho as a full-time licensed deacon. To be a deacon, you must take 10 seminary courses from a list of available choices. Only a few of them were mandatory. Among the mandatory was a class on the Old Testament.
Now, I had read the Old Testament multiple times but I never really enjoyed it because, mixed among the stories were endless lists and descriptions whose only intention, it seemed, was to confuse. So, I avoided the class as long as I could. It was the last class I took.
What I thought would be a mind numbing experience, however, was anything but because, along with the Word we studied the history and context in which it was written and it brought color and interest to what had before been a chore. I couldn’t get enough and I even read the textbook twice because, as a lover of history, I enjoyed how it painted a beautiful picture of the people of God and of God’s relationship with them. It was a look into history that brought these people to life, a people shaped by God through leaders as faulty as we are but who showed great faith in the end.
Well, I was having trouble writing this sermon when again my mind wondered, this time to the things and people of our past. Who and what made the world what it is today? How was it shaped? What kind of person does it take to lead someone, to bring purpose to a nation, to bring hope to the lost?
Throughout history, mankind has depended upon great people for guidance, leadership, hope, and direction. Think about a time in the past, in any country or kingdom, and you can name many individuals who stepped out from among the masses leading their people to victory over oppression, who have maintained a great nation of people, who have guided their kingdoms through famine or disease, or who guided their people through necessary changes in technology and knowledge in order to maintain their nation’s strength in a competitive world.
I think of General, and soon to be president, George Washington, who took a mixed group of people from many different backgrounds, stations in life, and positions in society, most with no military experience and turned them into a formidable and unified force and freed this young nation from oppression and tyranny.
I think of the many different Kings, Queens, and religious leaders of the renaissance period in Europe who had to come together to take care of millions of survivors of the Black plague that had just wiped out one out of every three people from all walks of life.
You can spend hours reading the history of hundreds of world leaders in politics, science, and medicine who have guided their nations through the last two centuries, maintaining their nation’s pride as the world went through a massive industrial and technological age that has literally changed the face of the world.
But through all of the wonderful and terrible changes, through all the times of peace and war, through all of the famines and the harvests of plenty, there has always been One – one person who has stood the test of time – one person who has reigned over all creation from the beginning, one person who set history in motion, one person who has promised the world that He is in control, one person who looks down from His place in heaven, who is working through all of the people and physical events, continuously giving people hope until he returns again to bring all people of faith to Him for all eternity. His name is Jesus Christ.
George Washington is dead. We can no longer depend on his great leadership and his ability to bring this nation together.
The world can no longer listen for the great wisdom of Winston Churchill, or John F. Kennedy to guide us through threats of war. The world can no longer look to the great restraint and patience of Gandhi. These great leaders who brought their countries and sometimes, the world through perilous times are now dead.
Add your favorite man or woman from the past to the list who gave selflessly of their lives in order to make the world a better place. As great as these people were, they are no longer able to lead. Their words of advice may still be around, and wise people have certainly tried to follow them, but this world still struggles with the same problems and more – and on a larger scale than all of those who we have mentioned – and world still asks, “Who is going to help us?
How will we ever come together? When will the wars stop? When will the diseases stop? Who is going to feed all of the starving children? When will there ever be peace that will last?” All of the great leaders are gone, all of them. Who can we trust today?
There is One that we can trust. His name is Jesus Christ. He is The One, because He is not dead. He has risen. He is alive. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. With Jesus Christ, there is no looking back. With Jesus Christ, there is no more wishful thinking. With Jesus Christ, there is no “what could have been.”
Because He is alive, we can know that His words of wisdom and hope are not only true, but they are still alive, and so His words are true – forever. Because He is alive, we can know that their will always be eternal life available for all who come to Him. Because He is alive, we can know that there will be peace on earth, and men will demonstrate good will towards each other forever. Because He is alive, there is an everlasting answer to AIDS, cancer, and Alzheimer’s. Because He is alive, there is an answer to that nagging question in the back of your mind, “Is it all worth it?”
The hopes of mankind cannot rest on man. With a man or a woman comes temporary hope, hope that cannot guarantee anything but a few short years of calm in a sinful world. No matter how great the person, they will die and their deeds and any temporary light they may have provided will often die with him.
But with Jesus Christ comes an eternal light, a hope that can never fade away. For it is impossible for the eternal light who created the world to be extinguished.
With Jesus Christ, we have the personal revelation of God. We have direct knowledge of God. Christ’s personal revelation is literally God speaking DIRECTLY to His people, and demonstrating the length to which God in heaven was and is willing to go, in order to have a personal relationship with His people.
With Jesus Christ, there is no more depending upon a worldly man or a woman for the answers, no more depending on dead people’s wisdom to try to make sense in the world. There is no more uncertainty of the soul with only the emptiness of mortal wisdom to guide it.
With Jesus Christ, there is eternal life, eternal hope and permanent answers to life’s toughest questions. We have the spoken words of God in flesh and blood to guide is, that flesh and blood that was once dead, but is now risen, that flesh and blood that is given to us as the greatest of gifts through the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper providing us forgiveness and faith.
The words of Jesus Christ not only answer the most important questions of life, but go directly to the question of His becoming a human being in the first place. Why DID Jesus Christ add humanity to His divinity? Jesus came to seek out and save people who are lost. And by now, surely, mankind has to realize that it is lost? The only things that mankind has been able to guarantee its citizens is death and most don’t even know how it benefits us. Jesus Christ came to save. Not just a certain people, or a nation, or a race. But all who will come to Him. All who recognize not just themselves, but that all of mankind is lost and helpless to save –as our history lessons have already taught us.
Those little bits of glory from an ancient Roman Empire, an ancient Chinese, Egyptian, Aztec or Greek dynasty, those brilliant flashes of light from Socrates, Confucius, or Descartes, are now no longer valid. As great as those ancient dynasties, as bright as those men of wisdom have been in the past, they are all together helpless to shine a single ray of hope as to the future of mankind or your individual soul.
The choice is between the great men and women of the past who have a 100% mortality rate, and the One whose Words will never change, because He overcame death by the blood of His cross, the power of God and is alive, and will never die.
The choice is between the greatest minds who ever lived, and are now gone or and the Creator of those minds who died once, but is now alive forever more.
And now that we know the rest of the story – who are we going to trust to lead us into the future? More great men and women? Or the One who is the same yesterday, today, and forever?
We have no trouble imaging a relationship with great people yet we struggle, sometimes, to imagine a true relationship with God. Yet this is what he desires most. His desire is that you trust in Him, much more than you would ever trust in mankind. He promises life everlasting to those who put this trust in him and he keeps his promises unlike many of our humanly leaders.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Let Him lead you to everlasting life. Trust in the one who is the same yesterday, today and always.
We go back to Hebrews, “May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing His will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”