The Gospel 4. The Gospel’s complexity part 1 (Exile and homecoming)
Key Text: John 5:39-40
We all have a sense that we somehow don’t belong. This is not a cultural problem, it is definitely not simply a teenage problem, it is a human problem.
Carl Marx (Father of Communism) and Martin Heidegger (Existentialist) both agreed that you cannot understand the human condition without the concept of alienation. We have a feeling that we are not at home in the world. This is such a deep reality of human existence that we spend most of our lives trying to pacify this sense on not belonging.
The bible gives us insight into this reality and hope for it in the gospel.
For the previous week of our series through the gospels we have seen:
(week 1) Enemies of the gospel: Legalism and Moralism
(week 2) The gospel is a declaration of what has been done
Last week we looked at the Gospel’s simplicity:
It starts with God
We messed it up with sin
Jesus makes it right with his life, death and resurrection
And faith connects us with this reality
This week we will start looking at the complex narratives (or stories) of the gospel that are weaved throughout scripture. These stories build the worldview of the gospel and answer the problem of man through Christ. These greater narratives are:
1. Exile and Homecoming
2. Yahweh and Covenant
3. The Kingdom
Tonight we will be looking at Exile and homecoming. So if you have your Bible please turn with me to John 5:39-40. In this passage Jesus is addressing the Pharisees.I this passage Jesus is answering the Jews who refuse to accept who He is so he says to them:
“39You studythe Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me,40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”
All of the Bible speaks of Christ and the gospel it can be gleaned from every page and every story it all leads up to and points to the hope of the world: which is Jesus Christ.
So we have seen that the gospel is simple however; there is also a more complicated yet deeply profound story weaved in the Scriptures of the gospel; this is the story of “Exile and Homecoming”.
As I started this message we all have a sense that we somehow don’t belong in this world.
This narrative, or story is set up in the first book of the bible and it all starts with the fall, which leads me to our first point:
1.Exile and Restlessness
The Bible gives us a clear understanding why we feel like we don’t belong in the world that we were born into.
In Genesis we see that God did make us a home and gently put us in it and then called us to enjoy it and care for it. However, it shows in Genesis 3 that we have lost it!
And now because of this the world we live in doesn’t fit us - it doesn’t suit us! The world we live in doesn’t support who we are! We were and still are destined for eternity; however, we see death all around us and it doesn’t gel.
CS Lewis puts it as only CS Lewis could in Mere Christianity –
“Though being hungry does not prove I will get food. Surely, being hungry proves that there is such a thing as food. You say the material universal is ugly, unjust, you don’t like it. But if you were just the product of a material universe and that’s all you are, why don’t you feel at home in it? Do fish complain about the sea for being wet?”
We have a sense in our lives that we are made for more than this. Humanity has this as a core fault. And the scriptures make a growing narrative of this. We see this in the call of Abraham, in the establishment of the nation of Israel and their subsequent slavery. We see this in the capture of the state of Israel and her being driven into exile. These all point to a reality that is present not only in the history of the people of God but deeper still in the heart of every person who has ever walked the earth: we feel lost; or exiled from where we belong. And the problem is that we have no idea how to get home!
We can’t just find our way home. Sin by its very nature isolates and alienates. Sin by its nature keeps us from our home. The example of lying is a great illustration of this.
When we lie we immediately create a barrier between ourselves and the person we lie to. We create space of who we truly are and with the person we long to know us.
It amazes me how we so deeply long to be loved by someone intrinsically and yet by nature we do things that will drive those people away. This is the consequence of sin.
The penalty of sin is to be banished, to be exiled.
Now Scripture doesn’t leave it there it gives us hope…
2. Jesus Joined our Exile - and so welcomes us home
Now before I go to the life of Jesus; we have to see that this theme starts in the Old Testament; God throughout the history of Israel (and most notably in the Prophets) we see God calling His people to come back to Him. It is most notable that during the prophets to the exiles to Babylon we see the call almost intensified.
All through Ezekiel, Jeremiah and Isaiah - There are many prophecies talking about God bringing his people home.
Go look at these prophecies the claims are enormous. Isaiah 35 is a great example:
The desert and the parched land will be glad;
the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, 2 it will burst into bloom;
it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the Lord,
the splendor of our God.
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
Elsewhere it says the wolf will lie down in the lamb. The Prophecies of the return were so over the top that they have never have been fulfilled. They can never be fulfilled in this life.
What does it mean? Israel coming back is an image of a deeper image - all human beings are made for a home that they have lost. When God speaks of healing us of our exile it is God calling us back – calling us back to himself, but also calling us back to that eternal relationship that we long for; that eternal blessing of being His!
Now when we get to the New Testament Jesus incarnates this reality.
Philippian 2 speaks of this;
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature[a] God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
Jesus left His home and joined us in our homelessness; our exile our restlessness; why so that he could call us back home.
We see this narrated throughout the gospel; He was an outcast; although He drew crowds; they were not the aristocracy or the in crowd; in fact as the gospels progress we see Jesus spending more and more time outside of Jerusalem and then only coming back to atone for the city.
More than this we see Jesus Crucified outside of the city. As an exile an outcast; Jesus went into the exile that we deserved and faced the alienation from God so that he could welcome us back home. Remember on the Cross what did Jesus cry; “My God, My God, why have you… forsaken me!”
Jesus went into the ultimate exile and estrangement so that he could as a brother welcome you back home; to where you belong.
This breaks me! Because that which I could not solve the deep aching of my soul is pacified by love! Real, deep, eternal love!
Everyone longs for lasting love; don’t we? We long to be loved for who we are; not what we bring, and we want that love to last forever. But unfortunately all love in this life is tainted by death.
You find the love of your life; however, you will experience eventually estrangement. You hold your child and think this needs to last forever, and then in a second they turn 4 and you realise that they are quickly on a road out of your life.
Nat’s and I were just chatting the other day and we realised that if Nic decides to study overseas (which could be a real possibility) then by all likely hood he will stay there, that means that that would most likely happen when he is 18; that means we have 14 more years of him being close.
That reveals our exile the fragility of love in this life! All of us experience this in one way or another. And so we need homecoming; we need a love that lasts.
And church in the gospel there is a love that lasts; it lasts past death and stretches for all eternity; the love of God in Christ Jesus!
I want to encourage you church this love, this sense of home is not only for the life to come; because…
3.Resurrection secures our homecoming
You see church, this world; its decay and systems are not your home; they feel strange and they should feel strange because we were not made for them.
It is kind of like making the ocean your home. You won’t ever feel like you belong; because you weren’t made for it. However, the danger comes in when we say that this world is not our home, we are aliens and sojourners here, so our only hope is to leave. That is not what the gospel homecoming is about.
This is never the hope of the Old Testament, nor the New Testament. Jesus rose from the dead! He showed us that our hope lies in resurrection!
I love the way that The prophets in the Old Testament put it and the way it is put in Revelation. In Rev 21 we see the Holy City; heaven making its home on our planet.
This world is not your home; however, the Bible says it will be… We do leave to go to the city (our home) it comes down!
God is going to come and he is going to make the whole world into the garden of Eden! He is going to make this world our home again!
And I believe much of the New Testament is written to encourage us to live in this reality.
In Ephesians 5:16-17 where it says;
15Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.
I love this; redeem the time, because the days are evil. How? Through understanding the LORD’s will. Prayer connects us in beautiful relationship to God and motivates us to live as He would to have His concerns as our concerns.
When we recognise that God is coming to reclaim a resurrected earth we live with a sense of responsibility for it. We hope to bring about justice, God’s love and reign to this world as best as we can; in the light of opposition because the King is coming!
Church we live with a beautiful expectation and hope. We have found where we belong and this gives us peace and satisfies the deep longing in our hearts. Therefore, we can now live properly in the world we find ourselves!
I pray that you might discover God’s wonderful invitation to come home, and that you too would somewhat embrace the exile of the world so that you too could invite others home; back to their Father God!