The Life

“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly (John 10:10b).”

Second best

What does that mean to you? I think maybe a penultimate tier to thinking about that statement—as it necessarily indicates that, obviously, Jesus came to give me “the good life”—says I am entitled to everything under the sun. That is, “life, and breath, and all things;” (Acts 17:25). No big deal. Paul, in that reference from the book of Acts, is talking to a crowd of people to whom the Gospel of Christ appeared to be “foolishness” (Greeks; see 1 Corinthians 1:23). It’s so easy to live in the abundance God provides, take it for granted, and then in turn turn around and think that it’s our right to enjoy the bounty Jesus alludes to in the verse at the top of the page and then here again in the Sermon on the Mount:

“And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” (Matthew 6:29)

But there’s more to it. Consider this statement from John’s first letter:

“And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life (1 John 5:12).”

That’s a little narrower, don’t you think? Here we see some of what might look to be the closed-mindedness that comes with a fundamentalist Christianity. I think that if we see Jesus as “just some guy” who came to do magic tricks and leave us feeling full and contented, we’re not seeing him as all he is. As an aside, Jesus talks about “life” and then John goes one further and says “life eternal”. Time is indeed flowing. But if you take a moment (i.e. an indeterminate period of time) and “be still” (see Psalm 46:10), you can separate yourself from time’s undercurrent—and feel the timelessness of eternity. It works. But again, with reference to the whole “glut of stuff” thing, think about what happened after the story of the five loaves and two fishes (from Mark’s Gospel). It says “neither had they in the ship with them more than one loaf (Mark 8:14).” And that’s enough. Jesus chides them in the next verse saying “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.” That one loaf sits there in the hold of the ship with the disciples (whose hearts, metaphorically speaking, were harder than day-old bread left sitting out). The twelve disciples who had forgotten all about the miracle of abundance by which they had just been directly influenced and in which they all partook. Jesus warns the disciples against submitting to an attitude—from either the Pharisees or Herod—that would not only negate the blessing of God but also make stale the memories of what he (Jesus) had provided.

Think about it: “And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes (Mark 6:43).”

This, from a mere five loaves of bread and “two small fishes (John 6:9).” And Jesus says “Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost (John 6:12).” That single loaf of bread spoken of in Mark’s Gospel serves to remind us of the—in a word—prosperity that God can give. I mean, assuming you see Jesus’s miracles as more than magic tricks, how in the world did those few ingredients not only end up providing repast (dinner to the full) for 5000 people? And then overflow into the abundance of twelve baskets of leftovers? Amazing. But that’s the God we serve: cornucopious, as it were.

“And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace (John 1:16)”

Spoiled

Take that one loaf and hold it in your hand. Can you feel the grittiness of the flour and the rough crust? It’s still warm from the oven and it smells delicious. I’m sure the inside is hot and soft and the pockets the yeast has opened invite you to crawl inside (assuming you were the size of an ant or something) with some butter and eat to your heart’s content. There’s a difference between being spoiled and then being spoiled rotten. God provides so much for us; gratitude is the order of the day. But if we neglect Christ—the Christ that came from God and that God provided for us—in favor of all that he can and has given us, we won’t ever be full.

Here’s the thing: none of the things Jesus provides are to be a substitute for knowing him. He’s the kindest, most approachable and liberating individual I have ever met. It truly takes a lifetime to know him and to get to know him. It’s so worth it. He loves you.

“Because Thy lovingkindess is better than life, my lips shall praise Thee. Thus will I bless Thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in Thy name (Psalm 63:3).”

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