This morning I preached a sermon that has developed out of some spiritual awareness I have had recently. I have been thinking a lot about God’s nearness. God has been much nearer than I have known and felt. As I was preparing my sermon, I began tracing God’s presence throughout history in the Bible. I worked my thoughts into my sermon and thought I would share them here.
When God created the world. His desire for intimacy with his creation is seen as God walks in the garden in the cool of the day. God is near his People and now we claim that nearness as our own.
When Abraham feels as though the Covenant God made with him is being threatened by a command to sacrifice the very son promised to him. God’s story shows us a God that is so close He can halt a dagger as it pierces the air before it pierces the son of a covenant.
As a half million former slaves leave Egypt for a land promised to them, God’s presence leads them by fire at night and by smoke during the day, only to marvel this baby nation by paving the way through a mighty river.
As two rebellious nations make Israelites choose sides, God’s story brings us “in your face messages” ending with “thus saith the Lord” from reluctant prophets.
God’s story takes us into a foreign land where Jews mourn the loss of a Holy City. Other prophets emerge to help them know that while they are in a distant land they worship a not so distant God who shuts lion’s mouths and visits friends in a fiery furnace.
From the least likely places God shows just how involved he is by moving the heart of King Cyrus to deliver his people back to the promised land. His involvement guides prophets to expect an even more incredible deliverance from a coming Messiah.
Here God’s story takes the most exciting turn yet. Limiting the distance more than ever, God comes down to dwell in one man. Emanuel, God with us. The very God of creation walking and talking, breathing and hurting among those he created.
Just as quickly as God makes his dwelling on Earth, it appears that he makes an about face and leaves his own Son to die. In reality his ultimate attachment to you and to me is shown by attaching his own son to a cross.
When we think that God couldn’t get any closer to showing his love for us than a nail splitting wood, God’s own spirit splits our hearts and once again God’s dwelling place is not just among his people but now inside his people.
As we join God’s story we remember Jesus words before leaving his disciples. That as we go out into the entire world Jesus says, “Surely I am with you always.”
God is near.
I wonder what Jesus saw when he looked at this man. As soon as Jesus gets out of the boat this man comes out of the tombs to meet him. Did Jesus know that he too would one day be spending time in a tomb? Perhaps he also knew that, like the demon possessed man, no one could bind him. Chains could not hold the demoniac, hell couldn’t hold Jesus. The man knew who Jesus was instantly. It was as if all the evil in the world, bound up in this one man, knew the power of “Jesus, Son of the Most High God” to put an end to the suffering. As a fellow chain-breaker, Jesus knew what freedom would mean for this man. The man (or rather the demons inside) did not want Jesus to send them away, but Jesus – perhaps seeing in the man his own after death experiences, sent them away, leaving the formerly demon-possed man in his right mind. Later something interesting happens. Everyone around wanted Jesus to leave and the man, now without demons wanted to go with him. Throughout the entire book of Mark, Jesus is commanding people not to tell about their healing. Over and over again, he commands them to keep quiet. Here, but not only here, Jesus commands him to go and tell. The only other place in the entire book that Jesus commands someone to go and tell is after his own resurrection.
When tombs become empty, then people are told to go.
“Death has been swallowed up in victory!
Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death is your sting?
The sting of death is sin
and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God!
He gives us victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ!”
1 Corinthians 15:54b-57
Today we celebrate! We celebrate because we can give thanks to God that Jesus holds the victory over death and the victory over sin. I love this passage because of the imagery. I think about a worker bee who is trying so hard to create something that at times seems so sweet. The honey that sin offers can be enticing at times. But going after the honeycomb means that you are likely going to get stung. For some, being stung by an actual bee can mean death. For all being stung by sin meant certain death. Until….
Until DEATH WAS SWALLOWED UP IN VICTORY. Jesus drank the honey—he swallowed it up so its deadly work has NO POWER in our lives. Today as we celebrate His resurrection, we should remember that he took our sin and nailed it to the cross with his own body. The death he died for us carries the power to free us from the sting we were destined to feel.
Paul continues on in verse 58 to encourage Christians to “Stand firm, letting nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord.” His death frees us from sin. His resurrection gives us hope. Stand firm. He will return for you!
Try and guess the stories below!
(Permission granted from “Brick Testament” creator for use of all pictures)