You can watch this week’s sermon right here.
This week we continued our study of Jesus’ final week by looking at what happened in the Garden of Gethsemane.
What hit me most are some of the powerful images from that difficult night.
For example, in his video about the path to the cross, Ray VanderLaan talks about the meaning of Gethsemane in Hebrew. It’s a combination of the words, “gat” and “shemanim.” Gat means a place for pressing oil and “shemanim” means oils. It is likely that the Garden of Gethsemane was an olive grove that contained an olive press where olive oil was produced. These olive presses used tons of weight from large stones to press the rest of the oil out of already crushed olives. The weight of these presses would drain all the oil from the olives, leaving them dry. (You can watch this video on RightNow Media for free. Just search “The Path to the Cross” and watch the session, “The Fifth Cup: Our Way of Hope.”)
This place of intense pressure is where Jesus goes to grapple with the task that lies ahead of Him. The weight of God’s wrath that is about to be poured out on Him is almost too much to bear.
Pastor Shawn mentioned that Jesus and His disciples passed through the Kidron Valley to get to Gethsemane. As he pointed out, this is where the waste of the city went, along with the blood from the thousands upon thousands of lambs that were sacrificed for the Passover. What a powerful image — the ultimate Passover Lamb wading through the blood of those sacrifices. It reminded me of God’s covenant with Abram in Genesis 15 — when He passes through the blood of the sacrifice, promising that if Abram and his descendants are not blameless, He will die in their place.
I was also struck by the concept of the cup of God’s wrath — the cup that Jesus begged to have taken away from Him. This cup is mentioned throughout Scripture — the wrath of God resulting from sin. This wrath is poured out as a means of justice — a way of punishing what is wrong in the world. As Pastor Shawn pointed out yesterday, we ultimately want justice. When we hear of atrocities around the world, we want those who are guilty to be punished. The thing to remember is that it’s not just those who are “evil” who deserve punishment. The Bible says that all of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. You and I are just as guilty and deserving of wrath as anyone else. And because of sin — our sin — God’s wrath needs to be poured out for the sake of justice. And we see that God does bring justice — through Jesus. Jesus takes our place. He drinks the cup of God’s wrath so that we don’t have to. This is what Jesus is struggling with in the Garden of Gethsemane — He knows that He’s about to drink from this cup, voluntarily, for our sake. He will be crushed for our iniquities.
I appreciated Pastor Shawn’s point about obedience. That we will be able to obey God in difficult circumstances only if we’ve practiced obeying and surrendering to Him in the ordinary circumstances. It is when we’ve worked to build and strengthen that relationship that it will be strong enough to make it through the hard times. This is what Jesus had with the Father — and it gave Him the strength to continue on with His mission.
As we ponder Gethsemane this week and prepare our hearts for the coming Easter week, let’s think on these questions together:
- What stood out to you most in the sermon this week?
- Where do you need to work at strengthening your relationship with God?
- When is a time you experienced God’s faithfulness in a difficult time?
This week we explored the Last Supper that took place with Jesus and His disciples in the Upper Room. I loved that we explored this together, because Passover is one of my favorite biblical holidays! There is so much to this holiday that helps us remember what God has done in the past and look forward to his continued salvation in the future.
I had never noticed before what Pastor Dan pointed out about the context of this story within Mark. Right before this story takes place, Judas goes to the chief priests and betrays Jesus to them, and right after the last supper, Jesus predicts Peter’s denial and the abandonment of all of His disciples. This story, couched between betrayal and denial, shows us the sin that makes the death of Jesus necessary.
It is very significant that Jesus institutes the tradition of communion during a Passover seder. As Pastor Dan talked about, this meal and its traditions were a way to remember what God did during the Exodus from Egypt.
Passover is the very first holiday God commanded his people to celebrate in Exodus 12. It is the night of the final plague in Egypt and the Israelites are finally going to be set free from the yoke of the Egyptians. Pharaoh has hardened his heart numerous times, but this last plague will leave him devastated and he will finally allow the Israelites to leave. Moses has warned Pharaoh of what is about to happen, and God has given instructions for the meal the Israelites are supposed to eat as they prepare to leave. They are to dress in traveling clothes, eat a lamb, eat bitter herbs, and avoid leaven. Most importantly, they must take hyssop and spread the blood of the lamb over their doors. The Lord is about to pass over Egypt, and he will smite the firstborn of anyone who does not have the blood of the lamb upon their doorposts.
The Lord provided a way for people to be saved from the destroyer—it was a monumental night in the history of Israel, and He wanted them to remember what He had done forever. God gave them tangible ways to commemorate the Exodus from Egypt — lamb, herbs, unleavened bread. This meal would forever remind the Israelites that God passed over them and brought them freedom. It is also important to note that the Israelites had a task to do. In order to be saved, they had to put the blood of the slaughtered lamb over the doorpost.
At Jesus’ final Passover Seder, He took the bread and the cup and gave them new meaning. He would become the atonement that the world needed by shedding His blood in our place. Instead of the blood of the lamb on the doorpost, it would be Jesus’ blood that protects us from eternal death.
I really appreciated our take-home points from this sermon. Pastor Dan pointed out that we have to take what Jesus is doing for us. It’s not just automatic. Through Jesus’ death on the cross, the invitation is open to everyone. But we must repent of our sin, understand our need for Jesus and realize that salvation is found in no one else.
We also acknowledge that our remembering includes participation. When we take communion we are acknowledging our exodus from sin and our freedom that was accomplished on the cross.
We come to the table unworthy. But we know that as long as we come through Him there is enough grace and mercy for all.
This week think about these questions with me:
- How does this explanation of Passover and its meaning affect you?
- What are some ways you can actively remember the things God has done for you?
- Have you recognized your sin that made the cross necessary?
This week’s sermon is available right here.
This week we were in Mark 14 studying the story of the woman who poured out perfume on the feet of Jesus.
We talked first about the fact that in this passage, we see love poured out. This woman came to Jesus and poured an entire bottle of expensive perfume over Jesus’ head. She gave everything — her possession that was worth a year’s wages — in order to worship Jesus. There’s a lot of symbolism in this passage as well. Often when people had oil poured over their heads, it meant that they were being anointed for a special task or role. Remember how David was anointed by Samuel in the Old Testament? This anointing was because God was choosing him as Israel’s next king. Jesus, here, is Israel’s ultimate king, the Saviour who would fulfill all of God’s promises. This anointing was also something done to prepare bodies for burial. Jesus’ death is coming up in just a few days, and as Pastor Dan mentioned, this woman seems to be the only one who actually believes what Jesus has said is going to happen to Him. She has heard Him speak of His coming death, so she anoints him to prepare His body for burial.
We also talked about how love was questioned. Instead of praise, this woman received rebuke from the disciples. But she believed Jesus. The price of the perfume didn’t matter — her love compelled her and her belief prompted action.
Finally love was betrayed. Judas, one of those closest to Jesus, is the one who hands Him over to be tried. Just because we have close proximity to Jesus doesn’t mean that we’re faithful. I think that’s an important one for us to think through — just because we go to church or know the Bible or do good things does not mean we are truly faithful to Jesus or have truly experienced His salvation. It is only through belief in our need for Jesus and what He did on the cross and then acting in obedience to follow Him that we are shown to be faithful.
So many good questions came out of this sermon. As we continue through this season of Lent, let’s think on these questions this week — use them during your personal devotion time. Ask God to reveal these answers in your life and depend on His Spirit to help you grow.
- Where do you fit in this story from Mark 14? What kind of disciple are you — are you more like the woman or more like Judas?
- Think back on your relationship with Jesus — did He find you wandering in the desert? How did He rescue you?
- Where do you have a hard time believing Jesus?
- What is your most precious possession that you can pour at the feet of Jesus?
This week’s sermon is available to watch here.
This week Pastor Shawn continued taking us through the final week of Jesus. We stayed in Mark 11 and looked at the incident where Jesus drives the money changers out of the temple.
This event–this show of Jesus’ anger–is a side of Him that people seem to either want to ignore completely or want to talk about all the time. Unfortunately, I’ve seen both sides use this, probably not to actually get to the heart behind the matter, but to advance whatever religious or political cause they’re promoting.
But what we see here, as Pastor Shawn pointed out, is really not out of character for Jesus at all. He does this because it represents how the Father feels about sin, injustice, and His people acting outside of His way.
Jesus saw all that was going on in the temple, and then came back the next day, prepared to right what was wrong. This passage reminds me a lot of the prophets — which is where Jesus quotes from when He says that the temple is supposed to be a house of prayer but has been made a den of thieves. The prophets are always coming to speak to the Israelites — God’s people — about how justice is failing and people are suffering. They warn of God’s anger with their sin, with their uncaring hearts. They beg people to turn from their sin, because if they don’t, they will face God’s discipline.
God’s heart is for justice — we see this in what happens on the cross and in the instructions He gives through the Law. And so when God’s chosen people, those who are supposed to represent Him to the outside world, fail to do so in really spectacular ways — this bothers God.
The Jewish leaders in charge of the temple knew that the Court of the Gentiles was the one place in the temple where those who were not Jewish could come and worship the one, true God. And they knew that people from every economic situation would come to the temple to worship and offer sacrifices. And yet they let people sell in the Court of the Gentiles — crowding out those who had nowhere else to worship the Lord. And they allowed ridiculous prices that gouged those who could barely afford to offer a sacrifice to God. This is opposite of the heart of God, and so the anger Jesus shows with this injustice demonstrates God’s anger with this sin.
This is also why Jesus is often upset with some of the Pharisees. The Pharisees set out with a desire to obey God’s law, just as He commanded them. But they added to the law — they added extra burdens and justifications that were not from God. And so Jesus gets upset with this — He criticizes their extra practices and calls them out on hypocrisy. What God had set up to be something that was life-giving and representative of Him, the Pharisees were turning into a burden that didn’t draw anyone closer to the Lord.
The part of the sermon that stood out to me was the questions asked in Jeremiah 7. Am I guilty of being someone who steals, lies, worships false gods and then comes before God declaring my safety? This is what the Israelites were doing — feeling way too comfortable with their status as “God’s chosen,” while not recognizing that they were failing to live as God’s chosen. Our beliefs and actions must line up — this is what shows true faith and repentance.
So as we go through this week, ponder these questions with me:
- What is your reaction to Jesus’ anger in the temple? Why?
- Are there some areas in your life where you need to check if your actions line up with your beliefs?
- How are you representing the Lord to those who don’t know Him?
We started a new series this week that’s going to take us through Easter! We’re looking at the events of the final week of Jesus, which I think is a great way to prepare our hearts to contemplate, remember and celebrate what Jesus accomplished through His death and resurrection.
This week Pastor Dan took us through the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem the week before His death. How interesting that Jesus had the parade of a peasant as He entered the city from the east, while Pontius Pilate entered from the West as a representative of Rome and all of its pomp and circumstance. I love how Pastor Dan pointed out that these were really two rivals in theology. Jesus, proclaiming His kingship and Sonship directly combats the theology of Rome, that Caesar was God’s son.
I found it convicting and sobering to be reminded of all of Jesus’ followers who abandoned Him by the time He went to the cross. He was not the kind of king they were expecting or wanting. And although He had explained His mission and purpose numerous times, they had turned Him into who they wanted Him to be instead of who He really is.
As Pastor Dan mentioned, this is one of the biggest issues in the North American church today. We don’t know what kind of king Jesus is. Sometimes we’re all too willing to buy into poor theology that claims that Jesus wants our best life now, that He will bless us with material wealth, that He will always heal our physical ailments. But when we look at the life, words and work of Jesus — and when we look at the lives of the disciples after Him — we get a different picture.
The way of Jesus is suffering and death — and then glory. Jesus invites us to come and die. It is not glamorous. It is not pretty. It is not always comfortable. But this is what Jesus demonstrated for us. And it is what He said when He told us that, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
Two of the most important questions I was ever asked when I was at seminary were: “Who is God and what is He like?” These are the questions we pondered as we explored the Bible. It is so important that when we go to the Scripture, we go with hearts that are open to how God actually reveals Himself, not how we want Him to. This comes into play when it comes to our theology, our politics, our handling of current culture, etc. Who is God and what is He like? What kind of upside-down kingdom did Jesus institute when He showed His power by dying for us? How does this reality affect our lives today?
May we live out this week reminded of the truth about the kind of King we follow.
The season of Lent starts tomorrow — Wednesday, March 1. Lent is not a biblical tradition, but it is observed as a way to prepare for and remember Easter — when Jesus died on the cross for our sins and then rose from the dead three days later.
Lent is not a tradition that Christians are required to observe, but it is an interesting season that can be a good time for remembering, reflecting and pondering the seriousness of our sin.
Because the date of Easter changes every year, it can tend to creep up on us. We’re going about our daily lives, and suddenly we come upon a busy week filled with Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Observing the season of Lent can allow you to stop and prepare for Easter in ways that you maybe haven’t before.
But what exactly is Lent?
Lent is a season that begins on Ash Wednesday and spans the 46 days until Easter Sunday. Lent is usually talked about as 40 days because the Sundays during Lent don’t count as part of the fasting season. Lent lasts for 40 days to commemorate the 40 days Jesus spent being tempted in the wilderness.
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Some churches have Ash Wednesday services where people receive a cross of ashes on their foreheads as a symbol of mourning over sin. (Job repents in dust and ashes in Job 42.) The ash is also a reminder that we are simply flesh and bones — to dust we shall return. There is nothing in us — absolutely nothing — that is able to resist or defeat death. It is only through Jesus — whose victory over sin and death is great cause for celebration — that we are able to have eternal life. He is the only one powerful enough to take away death’s sting!
For churches that observe the Lenten season, their services often change a bit as well. The mood becomes a bit more somber during the 40 days of Lent as people remember that the reason Jesus came into the world was to die for our sins. Often worship songs will be a bit more solemn. In churches that recite prayers together, the word “Alleluia” is omitted during Lent.
Throughout the season of Lent, people often fast or give something up. Some people fast from meat on Fridays and a lot of people give up something else during the entire Lenten season — certain foods, alcohol, television, social media, etc. People also sometimes add something in — extra Bible reading or prayer time, for example.
The point of fasting during Lent is really to take time to remember that Jesus gave up everything in order to become a man and sacrifice Himself for us. It allows us to, in a very small way, feel those cravings and longings and remember the sacrifice of Jesus.
Lent ends on Easter Sunday. For those who have given something up during the Easter season, the fast is finished because He is risen! Our debt has been paid! For churches who observe Lent together, the music on Easter Sunday is joyful and hopeful and filled with rejoicing! Those churches who have abstained from “alleluia” during Lent now shout them out over and over, rejoicing in the King who defeated sin and death — Alleluia!!
Lent is not something Christians are bound to observe. But over and over again, the God of the Bible tells His people to remember. To write His words on our hearts, to celebrate feasts to commemorate what He has done, to fast and repent from our sin. Lent can be a great time to sacrifice, to become aware of the reality of sin, and to anticipate with longing the death and resurrection of Jesus that we get to celebrate together at Easter.
Have you observed Lent before?
Do you plan to observe it this year?
What can be the benefit of observing Lent?
This week’s sermon is available to watch here.
This week we talked about the church. This is a big topic and one that brings up a lot of different thoughts, opinions and feelings.
When I studied the Old Testament and the Hebrew language, I was often hit by the communal aspect of the Bible. And honestly, this is a difficult concept for me sometimes, probably because I have grown up in a very individualistic society. If we look at our western culture, individualism is encouraged. It is thought of as noble and good to make it on my own, to do what makes me happy, and to be my “true self.” These are the values of our society, and they seep into how we act and what we believe — even when it comes to our faith. We think very individually about our relationship with God and others.
But when we look at the Bible — both the Old and New Testaments — what we see encouraged is the community. Almost always in the Bible when we read the word “you” it is plural — addressed to a group, not an individual. God saved the nation of Israel at the crossing of the Red Sea — as a community of people. He rescued them and chose them and they committed to Him. In the New Testament, the first Christians met together, ate together, worshiped together, and shared their possessions. They did not go home after work and shut themselves in their homes and get on Facebook, like I tend to do.
The Bible encourages us to live in community, to be the church, to not give up meeting together.
Some people are disillusioned by the church because they have been hurt or had a bad experience. And it’s true — people are in the church, and people are sinful. That means we will likely be hurt or experience something we don’t like in the midst of this community. However, the church is so much more than this. As Pastor Dan put it yesterday:
The church is not a human organization as such, but a divinely created community of sinners who trust a common Saviour, and are one with each other because they are all one with Him in a union realized by the Holy Spirit.
We — the church — are a community of sinners. But we have a common Saviour! A rescuer who makes all things new — even us. Pastor Dan made four points about what the church is:
- The church is a community of the covenant. Covenant is so important in the Bible — these unbreakable promises God makes with His people. He has covenanted with us, His people, not just individually, but as a community.
- The church is a community of the Spirit. As we come to church, we enter into the presence of God as we interact with His Spirit-filled people. We should come with anticipation and thanksgiving. We should come with a healthy fear of God, knowing Whose presence we’re entering into.
- The church is a community of love. We can’t just do our own thing — the work of God needs to extend to the healing of our relationships. We are interacting with those whom Jesus purchased with His own blood.
- The church is a community on mission. I really appreciated Pastor Dan’s take on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These gifts are given for mission first. They are given for the advancement of the gospel. We see this in Acts 2 when people are filled with the Holy Spirit. Peter, who was always blundering and messing up and even denying Christ, suddenly gets up and gives a bold and magnificent speech about the saving power of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit changed him and made him a bold messenger of the gospel.
So, as we ponder these things this week, let’s think about what the following commitments look like in our lives:
Committing to the church through attendance, serving, etc.
Committing to the mission of the church — preach the gospel!
Committing to the unity of the church — united in our relationships with one another and other churches.
You can watch this week’s sermon right here.
Today we started discussing some of the basic beliefs of Christianity by looking at who the Bible says God is.
Two of the most important questions I ever heard about God in seminary were repeated by Pastor Dan in his sermon: Who is God and what is He like?
If we ask these questions honestly and go to the Bible looking for the answer, we will come up with a full picture of God’s character, the things that are important to Him, and the things He asks of us. This will help is in creating a Christian worldview — a way we look at the world, answer the important questions of life, and then live out our beliefs in a consistent manner.
God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This is important for a few reasons. First of all, it signifies that God is related to the people He chose in the Bible. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the one we read about in the Old and New Testaments. He chose the Israelites and worked through them to bring about a descendant of Abraham — His Son Jesus Christ. This means that the God we worship is not the God of Buddhism, Islam or any other religion. He is the God who first revealed Himself to the Jewish people and then invited the whole world to be adopted into that family when Jesus died for us on the cross.
Secondly, as Pastor Dan emphasized, the God of the Bible is a personal God. He identifies Himself with people, people who are not perfect. He invites each of us to know Him because He knows us. He knits us together in our mother’s womb, and He knows the hairs on our head. He is not a God who created and then left us to run on our own, as the worldview of deism promotes. God is personal and here and intimate.
God is the God who is revealed most fully and definitively in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is through the cross that we experience God’s great love and grace. Because of His great love for us, He sent Jesus to die for our sins. And it is His grace that was willing to accept the sacrifice of Jesus and apply it to anyone who called on Him to be saved. And through the resurrection of Jesus, we see the great power of God, displayed by raising Jesus from the dead. The crucifixion and resurrection show us so much about who God is and what He is like. We learn about His love, His justice, His grace, and His great power.
God is the Triune God. As Pastor Dan talked about, this is a hard concept to grasp. The idea of the Trinity is that from all eternity, God is one, but God is not alone. He exists as three persons, one God, with one purpose. God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit all have different roles and expressions, but they are one in unity and purpose. (For more on the mystery of the Trinity, make sure to download the booklet that goes along with this series.) Ultimately, the Trinity shows us that God’s character involves relationship. And this shows us that we, created in His image, were made for relationship as well — with one another and with Him. I loved that picture we were given in the sermon of God inviting us to the table to fellowship with the Trinity.
Ultimately, God invites us to know Him. John 17 tells us that eternal life is knowing God. He knows us and invites us to know Him too. And to do this, we turn each truth we learn about God into matter for meditation before God, leading to prayer and praise of God.
So this week, think on these things with me:
- Who is God and what is He like?
- Which attribute of God stands out to you the most?
- Are there relationships in your life you need to mend as you live out God’s image?
- What ways this week can you spend time growing your relationship with Father, Son and Holy Spirit?
You can watch this week’s sermon right here.
This week we explored the story of the Bible — from beginning to end! We took some time to remember and talk through all that God has done — the way He has provided for our salvation, and the faithfulness He has to His promises.
There’s so much we didn’t get to cover in talking through God’s story, so I just want to recommend a few resources that you might find useful in exploring the Bible:
- The Bible. Read it! It’s God’s amazing, true story. I am a big fan of Bibles that have taken out the added chapter/verse markings so that it reads more like the story it is. The Books of the Bible (NIV) is a Bible that reads without additions. The ESV Reader’s Bible is another resource, and Bibliotheca is a beautiful cloth-bound set of books that gives us the entire Bible that reads like a regular book.
- Don’t forget to download our booklet that we created to go along with this series — more info and resources there!
- Commentaries — although I love reading the big story of the Bible, I still do use my study Bibles and commentaries to help me understand more of what’s going on in the Scripture. I have found commentaries by Christopher J.H. Wright and John Goldingay to be really helpful. I also like reading Jewish Torah commentaries — although they do not have a Christian perspective, it is sometimes helpful to know how the Jewish people have understood their own Scripture.
- Resources that help us understand the culture of the Bible — so much of my deeper understanding of the Bible has come from understanding the culture of the Ancient Near East. The books, Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus and Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus, along with the That the World May Know DVD series are all wonderful, non-boring resources that take you on a fascinating journey through the culture of the Bible.
- I recently discovered a beautiful children’s book that talks about the victory of Jesus, the Snake Crusher! The artwork is amazing and, although I bought it for my son, I love reading it myself! Check out The Biggest Story!
- Look for ways to get immersed in what God is doing in His continuing story! Come serve with us here at the church! Explore more about discipleship and fellowship through our groups. Consider attending events that will help you go deeper — I am hoping to host a Passover Seder right before Easter in April this year. We are also going to be doing a churchwide equipping event on May 27 — a chance to come learn about a variety of topics from our staff.
Ultimately, God’s story is a beautiful one, and we are so blessed that He has invited us to be a part of it. He has worked to solve the problem of sin and to bring us back to the garden where everything is as it is meant to be. This week, consider pondering these questions along with me:
- What part of God’s story stands out to you the most?
- What part of the Bible do you want to learn more about?
- How does it change you when you think about being part of God’s ongoing story right now?
This week we asked the question, “Why does the resurrection matter?” Christians believe that not only did Jesus die to save us from our sins, but God raised Him from the dead three days later — sealing His victory over sin and death. I loved the song “Resurrecting” that the worship team did during the offering this week — proclaiming the power of Christ’s resurrection. These lines gave me goosebumps:
The tomb where soldiers watched in vain
Was borrowed for three days
His body there would not remain
Our God has robbed the grave
Our God has robbed the grave!
The soldiers watched in vain — the tomb was simply borrowed. God robbed the grave and brought Jesus back to life!
The resurrection of Jesus is an important tenant of Christianity and it changed His disciples and everyone around them forever.
Although Jesus had been saying it for a long time, everyone was still shocked to discover that He had risen. And I guess I would have been too. It’s not a thing that happens! I love that Pastor Dan pointed out that it was women who discovered that the tomb was empty. I don’t love this because I’m a woman, but because of the two things Pastor Dan pointed out — that it showed that God does things in such counter-cultural ways, and because it helps prove the point that this story was not made up. If you were creating a fairy tale story in the Ancient Near East, you would not choose to have women as your witnesses.
So, after the resurrection, then what? Where is Jesus now?
The Bible tells us that Jesus ascended into heaven where He is seated at the right hand of the Father — His work to defeat sin perfectly accomplished through His death.
It is also important that when we talk about the ascension of Jesus we recognize that He, as a real person, went into heaven. Pastor Dan mentioned a “creepy” view of heaven that some of us have. I had this creepy view of heaven for a long time. I remember being young and being afraid of Jesus’ return. I didn’t want Him to come back yet — I wanted to live my life before I had to go to heaven, which I pictured as all white, clouds, and singing. I was afraid to rattle around in my giant mansion all by myself. I pictured heaven as boring.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I think my view of heaven, and maybe a lot of our views, had actually been influenced by the idea of Gnosticism, a heresy that goes as far back as when the Gospels were first written. Gnosticism was a type of thought that was influenced by the philosopher Plato. He promoted the idea that the physical world was bad and the spiritual world was ultimately good. Your goal was to become connected with your soul and disconnected from the evils of your body. When Paul and John write books of the New Testament, we can see them combating this philosophy in their writings. Some people were saying that if Jesus was God, there was no way He could have had a real physical body because the physical was bad. So John makes sure to emphasize that He saw Jesus literally die and that real blood and water flowed out of Him when His side was pierced. Paul has to remind the Corinthians that being married and enjoying marriage was not bad because it brought about physical pleasure.
Although the New Testament fights against Gnosticism, it is still a belief that worked its way into Christianity. This, I think, has affected our view of heaven. Instead of reading Revelation and seeing the beautiful garden city — the real place — that God creates at the end of time, we have images of harps and clouds and boringness. But this is not how heaven is ever described in the Bible. It is a real place and we have real bodies and do real things. It will be better than we can ever imagine!
So, if Jesus ascended into heaven, what is He doing now?
The Bible tells us that Jesus is reigning. And as Pastor Dan reminded us, this is a comfort in a world so filled with uncertainty, corrupt politicians, and a host of other problems. The truth is that Jesus reigns — in the past, present and future. I so appreciated the reminder of Habakkuk 2, that one day the whole earth will be filled with the glory of the knowledge of the Lord!
The Bible also tells us that Jesus is interceding for us — praying for us. It’s amazing, really. The Son of God spends time praying for you and me.
Jesus also said that He’s preparing a place for us. Remember that big empty mansion I was scared of when I was little? As I studied the Bible and its culture more, I learned something pretty cool about this whole idea. There’s a lot of wedding imagery in the Bible, and it is used for us and our relationship with Jesus. Those of us who are saved are called His bride. In Jewish culture when a man got engaged, he would leave and work to add on living space to his father’s house. This would be where he and his bride would live once they got married. They would become part of his father’s household and live in community with family. This would have been what people would have automatically thought of when Jesus said that He was preparing a place for us. To me this sounds much more fun and less lonely than a mansion by myself. Jesus is preparing a place for us in His father’s house and it will be amazing!
I love C.S. Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia” which is an allegory of much of the gospel story. In “The Last Battle,” the final book of the series, Narnia is recreated, and it is a picture of heaven.
The Unicorn sees the new Narnia and says, “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…Come further up, come further in!”
Ultimately, as believers of Jesus and people who proclaim His resurrection, we now live with an upward and outward look. We wait eagerly for Christ’s return — what a glorious day it will be! And we go into the world preaching the gospel so that more have an opportunity to repent and join us on that day.
Jesus ascended to heaven and will return for us one day. He will bring us to the land we’ve been looking for all our lives and it will be better and better with each new day.