I often engage in Bible discussions with various people from a variety of different backgrounds. Later today I will be meeting with some friends and co-workers for a meeting and part of our time will be spent in sharing some reflections from scripture. A few hours later I'll be meeting some other friends for a chat and biblical discussion in the city centre. Sometimes we write out our reflections through a technique called "Discovery Bible Study". The idea is to write out a text word for word, paraphrase it, and then jot down some reflections. Though the two studies I'll be involved in today are based out of different passages, I believe that they are simply two different angles on the simple gospel. Here goes...
John 16:20-22 - Text: "Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy. When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world. So you have pain now; but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you."
Paraphrase: Jesus knew that his disciples would not; could not understand his impending death. How could they? A crucified messiah was an oxymoron. Jesus knew that the Sabbath to come would be a black one, even if those in opposition to him would rejoice. But just as the pain felt by a woman in labor ultimately leads to the celebration of new life, so would Jesus' death ultimately lead to resurrection life and the birth of the new creation resulting in an everlasting joy.
Reflections: Pain isn't eternal. It's only temporary, though in its moment it can seem unbearable. Mourning may last longer than a morning, but it too will one day cease to be. Tears of sorrow are nothing to scoff at. They can be as real and raw as any expression of human emotion we ever face. But those tears will one day be wiped dry from every eye and every cheek. Suffering is a reality. We may grin and bear it, but that doesn't make it any less real. But it is only one very small part of reality and it too will eventually be banished forever. Death is not the final word. It's a loud word punctuated with an exclamation mark, but it isn't the final word. I have faith that all of this is true because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the new creation that was birthed on that Sunday 2,000 years ago. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?
2 Corinthians 5:17-21 - Text: "So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us this message of reconciliation; that is in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake, he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."
Paraphrase: If anyone has been incorporated into the Messiah - new creation! Not just them, but for them every single thing has become new and is in the process of being renewed. This is a gift from God who through the Messiah brought us back into relationship with him and has brought us into a partnership in the ministry of reconciliation. God was in the Messiah, the man Jesus, reconciling the whole world to himself, not counting sins against humanity and trusting those of us in the Messiah Jesus with the message. We represent the Messiah to those not yet in the Messiah - God uses us as his spokespersons. We try to persuade others on behalf of the Messiah to be reconciled to God. God in the Messiah Jesus took on the full force of sin, though he knew not sin within himself, so that all of those in the Messiah might share in Jesus' righteousness.
Reflections: What does it mean to be in Christ? To be in the Messiah? He is our representative before God the Father. By virtue of our incorporation in him, literally being in his body, what's true of him is true of us. We share in his righteousness - his faithfulness - so that we are reconciled to God. We are back in the relationship for which we were always created. And this means that just as Jesus gave birth to the new creation through his resurrection, for us, new creation has already begun to arrive and is in the process of continually coming until it is finally realized in the renewed heavens and the renewed earth. In the meantime, as we partner with the Messiah Jesus, we serve as his mouthpiece, his representative here and now. The universal appeal for reconciliation sounds out from Christ's body, the church, as it engages in worship of Jesus, love of neighbor, and in articulating the hope and forgiveness found in the one who was given for the whole world.
Some things seem too good to be true. Others things, like this, are too good not to be true. Simple, but true. - Shay