Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Jesus and Genesis: His Creation
John 1:1-18 (RSV)
An astronomer was giving a public lecture and he announced, “I have swept the universe with my telescope, and I find no God.” A musician stood up and objected. “That statement is just as unreasonable as it is for me to say that I have taken my piano apart, and examined every piece with a microscope, and I have found no music.”
The Bible shows us the music. The Bible shows us God in the universe.
The first book of the Bible, the book of Genesis, is a book of beginnings and foundations. It shows us the spiritual principles and the spiritual foundations of the universe, and of this planet in which we live. The first chapter of the Gospel of John does the same.
John shows us Christ in the universe; Christ in the very beginning. John shows us that Christ is not a late comer. Christ and his cross are not an afterthought.
John tells us that we can see the fullness of God in Christ. Christ makes God known. (John 1:18)
Christ is God. And John tells us that we can only see the universe and this planet of which we are a part if we see Jesus for who he is, because, “All things were made through him and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:3-4) This means that, in his light, we see his life: his nature and his character. And in his light we see how that life is reflected in what he has made; how creation functions in the light of his nature. We see how to live as his children in his creation.
We can only understand the universe in the light of Jesus. The part of the universe we know best is the part we call the earth, and the earth (for all its wonder and beauty) is full of stuff that frightens us or angers us. The world often outrages our sense of what is good. If God is love (1 John 4:8) then the part of the universe we know best is very much alienated from God. It often acts as if it were the very enemy of God and what God stands for.
The Bible, itself, clearly tells us this. The Bible tells us that the prevailing ways of this world are dark, and they are unable to comprehend the light that reaches out to bring life to the world. The world seems driven to overcome the light wherever it finds it.
But the Bible also tells us that it is the very nature of Jesus to give himself up for the forgiveness, and the healing, and the peace, and the transformation of wrong in the world; starting with humans, starting with us. Jesus is the Word that was in the beginning; the word that spoke the universe into being and began it all when God said, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3)
Jesus is the light that gives us life because the voice that said, “Let there be light,” essentially said, “Let there be a cross. Let me give myself and die for the sins of the world.” Jesus is the living word that says “let there be light” and “let there be a cross”. We cannot understand a world so full of wrong unless we know that it was made by a God whose nature it is to make things right by his own sacrifice, his own suffering, and his own death.
The word “word” in Greek means a message. It means “meaning”. The universe is encoded with a message and with meaning, but the message and meaning only reveal the God we can see in Jesus, who lived, and died, and rose from the dead for us.
The reason for this is because, “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” The one who was going to die for the sins of the world left his mark on the world from the moment he first made it. We can only understand the universe in terms of redemption; in terms of the cross; in terms of someone who lays down his life to set others free. (Matthew 20:28)
In a real sense we live in a universe that only works when there is someone who does something for others. This is the music. This is the message. This is the most basic of the principles and foundations of the universe. This is the light that gives life to men, and women, and children, and to the whole world. This is the light that shines in the darkness. This is the work that God does in Christ, who is God.
John says, “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” The Gospel of John teaches us a lot about the oneness of God the Father and God the Son. John is saying that all things were made through Jesus and with Jesus, in a partnership between Jesus the Son and his Father.
The Spirit is there, too, only John doesn’t explain that. He knows that Genesis has told us enough.
The point he makes is that they were all there before there were days to count; and before time itself. They were all one. They were all God.
There is a kind of partnership built into the universe; built into the world of which we are a part. It is not just the human race that is part of this partnership. “All things were made through him.” All created things show the nature of the partnership of the Trinity.
The world we live in works best when we live as partners and not as lords of creation. The Bible teaches us that the human race was designed to subdue the earth and rule it, but we can only understand our role as rulers of the creation if we understand the role of Jesus as lord of the creation.
How does Jesus subdue us? How does he rule us? He does this in love. He does this in taking care of us. His rule as the lord of creation works by the same principle we see in his incarnation; his becoming a human in his own creation. He rules through his nature as a servant, as a mediator of grace. Jesus rules through the same patterns we see in his life, and in his willingness to offer himself sacrificially on behalf of his own creation.
When he made us in his image it means that he shares his work of creation with us. It also means that he shares his method of working with us. This is one of the foundations and principles of the universe, and things don’t work right unless we work his way.
But this isn’t just what we were created for. It is what we have been saved and set free for, by Christ.
When we were created, our having been made in God’s image was our authority to be partners with God in his creation. Since things have gone wrong we have to know the Lord as our Savior, as the one who has laid down his life for us so that he could give his life to us.
John tells us that when we receive him, when we let him bring his light into our darkness, and his fullness into our emptiness, and his strength into our weakness, then we become children of God. When Jesus makes us children of God, it comes in the form of a power, or an authority. Jesus makes his Father our Father and we become part of the family work again; the work of being a partner and a care-giver in the work of doing something redemptive for others.
This is our calling as the family of God together, as the church. This is our calling, among ourselves. Jesus will say, “By this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)
But this is also the face we show to the world. The world is God’s creation. The world is the scene of God’s redemptive love on the cross. The world is also the scene of our creating and redeeming work, as children of God, as partners of God. Our family, our community, our nation, our world are all the setting for our work.
A friend of mine was telling me about the marriages in his family: his own marriage, his brother’s marriage, his sister’s marriage. He said, ‘We have all had to learn to make our marriages work in our own way. We have all had to ask, “What do I have to do to make this work?”’
This is our job as Christians, if we are sincere about being children of God. We look at our family, at our church, at our livelihood, at our community, at our world, and we ask: “What do I have to do to make this work?” The need to answer this question is built into us by our creation and by our salvation. The need to answer this question is one of the principles and foundations of the universe.
It has to be remembered that we are God’s partners in his creation and his redeeming love. We are God’s partners, but we are not God. We do not experience God’s power except as grace and truth coming to us from beyond ourselves. Grace is God’s beauty and mercy. Truth is God’s reality and God’s reliability. This is what he wants us to experience and share with the world.
John tells us that, “The word became flesh (became one of us), and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) He still promises to dwell in us. “Dwell in me.” “Abide in me, and I in you.” (John 15:4)
Life seems designed to remind us of our neediness, but knowing Christ is like being given an inner fullness that you could never hold onto, on your own. “And from his fullness have we all received grace upon grace.” (John1:16) When we meet Jesus in our Genesis (when we know what it means to be created through him) this is what we find.
This is what gives us power to be children of God, “who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12) This is part of the music, because it comes from God. And since we are made through Jesus, it is a part of us.