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Jesus Answers the Headline News: Life!

I came that they may have live, and have it abundantly. John 10:10

Throughout these past weeks we have been exploring the great challenges that confront us in the headline news: intolerance, politics, violence, poverty, the plight of children, estrangement, and all too often they find their most tragic culmination in an untimely, cruel an unjust death. It is why it is so hard for us to read these headlines because the endings are too often filled with despair and sadness with the sense that evil can win.


It was how the story concluded for this Nazarene who had begun a movement to seek to address these same challenges in His world 2,000 years ago. 


It ended the way all of these stories seem to end

          with a person of great moral

          being killed

          through the collusion of corrupt powers 

          seeking to destroy 

         the one who sought to wrest their stranglehold over the people.


It ended with His disciples

          scattering; fearing for their lives.


It ended with the women He loved weeping at the cross

and then solemnly sitting at the tomb, disconsolate and broken.


And yet, and yet, this time, this one time, this one time in all of history the story did not end in death! And so today on this day of resurrection we discover Jesus’ all-encompassing answer to the headline news… life, but not just any old life – abundant life! Which means much more than it seems to at first. 


In fact, the concept of life is of primary concern to John’s gospel.


Life is one of John’s characteristic concepts. He uses the term 36 times, whereas no other New Testament writing has it more than 17 times …Thus in this one writing there occur more than a quarter of all the New Testament references to life. (John, page 82, The New International Commentary on the New Testament).


Furthermore “life” has layers of meaning in the Greek.  


There is bios, which characterizes all life, including the microbe and us. Words such as biology are derived from this root. Next is psuché which refers to the life of the soul, the mind, and the will, that which makes a person unique. From this root words such as psychology derive.


But neither bios nor psuché is the life that Jesus offers. 


An ancient tale describes an encounter between a Roman soldier and Julius Caesar. The soldier’s life is utterly bereft of meaning and he asks Caesar permission to kill himself; he lacks any vitality or sense of purpose. Caesar looks at him whilst saying, “Were you ever really alive?” In a sense Caesar is saying this soldier had only lived bios, a mere physical existence, but nothing more.


The hole in this soldier’s heart and the hole in our hearts spring from a realization. Animals feel pain; they don’t feel existential agony. This agony is a painful awareness that we are meant for more than bios or even psuché


We are meant for zoe; the third and highest form of life in Greek thought. Zoe refers to the eternal life of God. John also uses this word to describe the essential character of Jesus’ existence; zoe is the divine spark God wove into the human creature at creation. * 


Critically, it is the type of life that Jesus died and rose again to restore to us which He tells us in John 10:10; “I came that you might have zoe, and have it abundantly.”  When the Bible describes eternal life, it is zoe not bios that is promised! 


It is a life in which the awe of existence pours from our hearts like that of the great poets. 

 

The world is charged with the grandeur of God. – Gerard Manley Hopkins


You may write me down in history With your bitter, twisted lies, You may trod me in the very dirt But still, like dust, I'll rise. – Maya Angelou


Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” – Mary Oliver 


“Life is beauty, admire it…Life is too precious, do not destroy it” – att. Mother Teresa 


This is the gift that Jesus bestows upon us, not just existence but superabundant life. Like the disciples though this zoe can be clouded from our vision. The tragedies are real and devastating, which makes it harder to see the signs all around us.


The signs for Mary Magdalene were right in front of her; literally Jesus was staring her in the face, but she could not see Him. Jesus told the disciples the signs; He would be betrayed; He would be buried three days; at the Last Supper He warned them times would be hard; but it would be through these hard times that the promise of superabundant life would come to all. Having eyes and ears awake to the signs can help us to find hope and even joy.


Some years back when the devastating tsunami struck the shores of India (amongst other places) there was a people, the Moken, who still live off the land the way their ancestors have for thousands of years, out on the water, who knew the signs and rowed to safety. They did not spot a massive wave and head for the hills. Instead, they noticed rolling waves in the midst of the ocean that barely disturbed their boats. You and I would have ignored it, but they knew it for what it was. 


They also knew there was no time to row to shore and head for the hills. So, they went the exact opposite direction instinct would dictate.


They rowed for deeper waters. 


And in those deeper waters the tsunami could not build to sufficient height and power to threaten them, and all the Moken’s survived that day.


Our ability to see the signs have been clouded by the headline news and it can be especially hard to see them; when life strikes us like Mary, who is almost inconsolable, we want to shrink from our faith and console ourselves with fond memories and let go of our trust. Trustdoes not come by sight, but by faith. The Moken did not see the tsunami, they only saw the signs. 


And John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, did not see Jesus, he only saw the burial clothes lying by themselves which was the sign he needed to believe; Jesus had risen! Like the Moken the call is to row deeper. You and I in the face of the resurrection can face any tsunamis life brings us through rowing deeper into our faith in God. That zoe, superabundant life, will come to all.


This power Christ holds of life over death, of not only bios but zoe means a tremendous amount to me personally. For though my father, Robert Maxwell Evans, still has his BIOS, that is his physical existence here on earth, his ZOE has been stripped away by a terrible disease – Alzheimer’s. And I know many of you in this congregation know exactly what I'm talking about. How your parents or your friend or your spouse have also been robbed of their abundant life –that which makes life something more than the mere beating of a heart, but something profound and incredible and beautiful and unique and amazing and lovely. Those moments with my father on the golf course are gone forever. Those moments of debating liberation theology and Karl Barth have evaporated as his mind has been stolen. And it is so heartbreaking that I don’t even want to think about what is lost, but sometimes I cannot help myself and it simply overwhelms, and then I remember what my preacher-dad has taught me since I was very little — God wins! When he preached it, he would say, “Boom, there it is!” Just to be sure no one would miss the point. God wins! Zoe for all! Boom! There it is.

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