Fourth Sunday in Lent “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.”
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:16-21
16 So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
Reader: This is the word of the Lord. Response: Thanks be to God.
From my perspective, this is one of the most powerful passages in all of Scripture regarding the impact of the work of Christ. I want to walk us through it. It would seem in the opening verses of this portion, Paul is reflecting back on his earlier days when he persecuted the church. He arrested and terrorized followers of Jesus precisely because he believed that Jesus was simple a human being with heretical and blasphemous ideas. Jesus’ followers needed to be eliminated. Jesus was dead and they were propagating a lie. Then there was the Damascus road encounter with the risen Jesus himself! In his own words, Saul became a new person. His old life was gone and he was now living an entirely new life with a completely different understanding of who Jesus Christ was and is. He humbly acknowledges that it was by God’s grace that he was transformed. Now his mission is to spread the message of reconciliation. The powerful phrase is simply “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.” What does that mean exactly? At creation God spoke (sang) a perfect world into existence bringing order out of chaos, a world that he would enjoy and one that would be in pure harmony and communion with the Godhead. That was the purpose and the ideal. As you know both then and now, human beings rebel against their Maker. With the Fall of our first parents in the Garden, every person from then on was “bent.” The bent was rejection of God. What happened next was God unfolding the action of reconciliation. What most people don’t know, don’t believe, or don’t care about is that God the Creator came to this planet in not only the form of a human being, but willingly became fully human in every conceivable way, (I mean that literally!) in order to make possible the bringing back into communion the world that had rebelled and rejected its maker. For only if Christ was completely and totally human and totally God could reconciliation be efficacious. God had no other way to redeem this world apart from Christ. The entirety of the Bible is the development and implementation of this plan. The Scriptures are the God’s Story of that plan. Paul states here by implication that there is no other system, no faith, no religion, absolutely nothing other than God’s reconciliation in Christ that solves the human and fallen world dilema. There is no Plan B.
Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane confirmed that. Glory to God for ever and ever!
Music: “God So Loved the World” John Stainer St. Paul’s Cathedral Choir
Glorious God, I bless thee that I know thee. I once lived in the world, but was ignorant of its creator, was partaker of thy providences, but knew not the provider, was blind while enjoying the sunlight, was deaf to all things spiritual, with voices all around me, understood many things, but had no knowledge of thy ways, saw the world, but did not see Jesus only. O happy day, when in thy love’s sovereignty thou didst look on me, and call me by grace. Then did the dead heart begin to beat, the darkened eye glimmer with light, the dull ear catch thy echo, and I turned to thee and found thee, a God ready to hear, willing to save. Grant that I may always weep to the praise of mercy found, and tell to others as long as I live, that thou art a sin-pardoning God, taking up the blasphemer and the ungodly, and washing them from their deepest stain. Amen.
―The Valley of Vision p.60