A Matter of Life and Death
Note: There are seven versions of this story. Each one distills the 1500 pages of the Bible to about 650 words, but each comes at the story from a slightly different angle, bringing out one particular part of what it means to "see ourselves in Christ." How do we, the storytellers, see ourselves? Who are we? That's why we call this the W.A.W. story--"Who Are We?"
God, the Real GOD, creates a beautiful world with life everywhere, but people are tricked into thinking he is still withholding something from them so they take and try for themselves the one thing he warned was poisonous. Sure enough, death gets loose and the world gets ugly with shame, violence, abuse, and funerals.
But God does not give up. He takes things to a new level. Through Abraham, he creates a whole God-tribe to show all the other tribes the key to life, and this is the key—when your life depends on it, do what God is telling you even if that does not look like what is best for you.
Down through the centuries, we see how this works out in a whole string of rescue stories for Abrahamand his descendants like Joseph, Moses, David, Elijah, and Esther. We also see the tragic end for people like King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, who trust their own judgment more than God’s guidance.
During the ups and downs of Abraham’s descendants, God keeps sending messengers with an astonishing prediction—sometime, somehow, the Real GOD will send the ultimate life-bringer, the most important descendant of Abraham ever.
Forty-two generations after Abraham (you can read the list in Matthew 1), the prediction comes true. The “Messiah,” the one-of-a-kind God-person, was born. They name him Jesus, which means, “The Real GOD rescues.”
He tells the whole nation descended from Abraham, “This is it! God is bringing heaven’s life to earth now! Follow me and see what I mean.” Many are thrilled to follow him, but the leaders think he is a fake, and his life is threatened. He sees death coming, and he has to decide whether he will trust God’s strategy and accept death or trust his own judgment and look for a way out.
He trusts God, gets arrested, and gets executed on a cross. But here is the best part of the story—God the Father puts new life, un-killable life, back into him, and he walks out of his grave more alive than ever! For 40 days Jesus keeps visiting his followers and explaining what is going on. Then the Father takes him to heaven and installs him as King of Life. It’s like God is saying, “This is how I treat people who totally trust me.”
And do you know the first thing Jesus does as King? He gives his followers a super-injection of his life. He sends his Spirit, life, and power down into them so they know he is way more than a memory. He is alive, and he is with them. Out they go, radiating his life, showing and telling that he really is the Messiah, the key to forgiveness and life for everybody everywhere, including right here right now.
Not all these messengers are physical descendants of Abraham, but they all become his spiritual descendants. It is like they have been born all over again, this time with the “Abraham gene.” Now they can trust God more than their own judgment, like their forefather did.
Some people eagerly ask for that gene, and they get it. Others can’t bring themselves to trust God quite that far. Some even see Jesus as a threat to life as they know it. They try to shut the messengersup, but it doesn’t work. The messengers are able to show the same mercy and courage Jesus showed when he was tortured. His life keeps bubbling up inside them no matter what.
That’s how things stand for the time being, but when the set time comes, the King of Life will come back to earth in person to destroy death and reconnect the whole world to God’s life once and for all.
So that’s our story. That’s why we live the way we live and make life better for everybody we can. Who are we? We see ourselves as Abraham’s heirs and Jesus’ messengers. We are life-bringers, sneak previews of a world of life and peace.
Perhaps you have already said, “I’m in! Give me that Abraham gene and bring me into SYNC with the King of Life.” If so, Jesus Christ has already rescued you from death and turned you into an agent of his Life.
So let’s get the party started, celebrating with a huge “Yes” to all five of these things:
Yes,God is proactively bringing heaven’s life to earth. He isn’t just keeping score and reacting to what we do.
Yes,God’s whole life-giving plan revolves around Jesus, the Rescuer who makes earth more like heaven and less like hell.
Yes, Jesus has put his Spirit, life, and power into me, plugging me into the God-movement that goes all the way back to Abraham.
Yes,I am taking my first life-giving step by the Spirit’s power—forgiving everybody for everything like Jesus has forgiven me.
Yes,I realize my life may get very hard because some people don’t want the life I am bringing, but I am trusting Jesus and his Spirit to get me through the pain.
If you have not yet said “I’m in. SYNC me!” what else would you like to discuss about this story before you would say “yes” to these things and join the celebration?
Jesus won’t force you in, but once you say yes, he brings you in. He moves into your life, frees you from the death-grip of evil, and sends you out as part of the life-giving plan that started with Abraham. That is what the rest of your life will be about—finding out what Jesus meant by “God is bringing heaven’s life to earth now.”
You won’t get to run your own life or build your own kingdom any more, but you will be more alive and better SYNCed than you have ever been, and you will bring life to your world.