Good news of peace (Ephesians 2:11-22)

It was a day in 1945 my Mum remembered vividly. She was a teenager working in a pharmacy in Roma (Qld) when a great hullabaloo broke out. People were dancing and hugging in the streets. Cars honked, making jubilation laps in the street. Joy swept through the whole town at the news, “The war is over!”

We have a message that’s even greater. Jesus is the end of hostilities on earth!

Have you heard the good news? Continue reading “Good news of peace (Ephesians 2:11-22)”

In Christ: humanity restored (Ephesians 2:1–10)

What we are in Christ — it’s more than we think.

Many people love Ephesians for the way it explains who we are in Christ. That phrase (or in him) turns up 20 times in the first three chapters.

But if the phrase has you thinking about your personal identity, you’ve barely scratched the surface. Ephesians makes a gigantic claim: God is restoring the broken fragments of humanity, bringing us all together into communal life under King Jesus.

Imagine a world released from its dead existence under evil, raised to life in God’s anointed, participating in his resurrected life as he restores us all into community under his kingship.

Continue reading “In Christ: humanity restored (Ephesians 2:1–10)”

What does ‘Son of God’ mean (Matthew 16:16)?

There was this special day when Jesus discussed his identity with his followers. It must have been important for Jesus to take them 40 kilometres north of Galilee, a two-day journey to the headwaters of the Jordan River at Caesarea Philippi.

According to local legend, the cave there was the entrance to the underworld. There were two temples: one dedicated to the Greek god Pan, and another temple to honour Roman emperor. Surrounded by these competing claims for power — spiritual, religious, and political — Jesus asked them how they understood his identity: “Who do people say I am? … And what about you? Who do you say I am?” (Mark 8:27, 29).

This was Peter’s great confession. The synoptic Gospels record his answer slightly differently:

Mark 8 29  Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”
Matt 16 16  Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Luke 9 20  Peter answered, “God’s Messiah.” (NIV)

There’s no problem with the differences. Biographers regularly condense dialogue, and occasionally they expand it for emphasis or to explain the sense. The question is, Did the Gospel writers think Peter had made two significant statements about Jesus, or one? Continue reading “What does ‘Son of God’ mean (Matthew 16:16)?”

Living in the cross-hairs

If the gospel is good news for the whole world, what’s it like to live the gospel? Surely it’s the best life we could possibly have?

That’s true in the long term. Life under Jesus’ kingship is indeed the best life earth could ever know. There will be no more selfishness when the poor inherit the kingdom, no more abuse of power when the meek inherit the earth.

But in the short term, it’s not quite so simple. Can we live selflessly while people take advantage of us? What happens if we live powerlessly in the face of abusive powers? Won’t we get crucified?

Continue reading “Living in the cross-hairs”

Finding it hard to believe? (John 3:16)

If you find it hard to believe, you’re not alone.

Forty-three years ago, a bulk ore carrier struck the pylons of a bridge in Hobart, and the central sections of the bridge fell into the Derwent. Some Tasmanians still refuse to drive over that bridge. You can show them the bridge is safe and they’ll believe you, but they can’t trust it with their lives. They want to believe, but after the trauma it’s not so easy. Continue reading “Finding it hard to believe? (John 3:16)”

God’s gift to the world (John 3:16)

The gift that’s exactly what we need.

We’re reading John 3:16 as the story of the kingdom of God, the lens Jesus used. God is sovereign. The world resists him. The sovereign persists in loving his resistant realm. He does so by sending the most amazing gift.

Queue the questions:

  1. What does it mean to say God gave his Son?

Continue reading “God’s gift to the world (John 3:16)”

God and his world (John 3:16)

What do we mean by “God loves the world”?

If Jesus made the kingdom of God the centre of everything, surely we can learn to hear Scripture as he did. This lens reframes everything, even familiar texts:

John 3:16 (NIV)
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Let’s ask some fresh questions: Continue reading “God and his world (John 3:16)”

The king who heals creation (Exodus 15:22-27)

Open Exodus 15:22-27.

The euphoria of coming out from Pharaoh’s oppressive rule didn’t last long. The Hebrews soon discovered they were still in a broken world.

They had not returned to Eden’s Garden where the rivers of God’s presence gushed forth in all directions to water creation (Genesis 2:10-14). No, they were in parched wilderness, without water, for three days (15:22). Continue reading “The king who heals creation (Exodus 15:22-27)”

The significant song (Exodus 15)

Open Exodus 15:1-21.

What makes a great song? Lyrics that voice what you feel? Rhythm that moves you? Layers of rich harmony? Chord progressions that take you places?

A song rang out over the  MCG at the final siren on 29 September 2018. It was the song every Eagles fan wanted to hear. The right song in the right moment sweeps you up and carries you like a raft on a white-water stream.

The first song in the Bible was that kind of song — the greatest victory song you could imagine. We waited 65 chapters to hear it. There’s only been one mention of a song, a song Jacob turned down. After 20 difficult years, Jacob slipped away quietly, rejecting the party Laban offered with mirth and song pretending everything is okay  (Genesis 31:27). Our world is still full of escapist songs that don’t quite ring true.

Finally we get the true song, the authentic celebration. The song celebrates the moment they were released from serving Pharaoh to serve a new king. With his chariots on the sea floor, Pharaoh had no power to enslave them again. You can’t stop the music: Continue reading “The significant song (Exodus 15)”