“Resurrection Life Builds Commitment”
Sunday, May 14, 2017
The Fifth Sunday Of Easter
Acts 7: 55 – 60/ Psalm 31: 1-5; 15-16/1 Peter 2: 4 – 10/ John 14: 1 – 14
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
Israel was the name of God’s people in the Old Testament. God was wrestling with Jacob, whose name means deceptive, and God said, “From now on, you will be called Israel.” This was the start of the nation Israel. Israel means “one who wrestled with God.” God gave this name, changed it from Israel to Jacob after they wrestled.
Israel, the nation, wrestled with who God is. They did not know and received Jesus as the exact representation of God. When He visited them, they did not recognize Him. Isn’t this sad that the very people of God, with whom He should have a relationship with for millennia, did not know that God was right in front of them? Israel was supposed to be the chosen people of God who had a relationship with Him, but when He came in the flesh, they did not recognize Him.
In the Old Testament, God was portrayed as violent, as a murderer, but also sometimes as compassionate. There is a belief system called voluntarism, which says that anything that God does is good, even if it would look evil if man does it. It is like if God wills for you to die, that is His sovereign will, and it is good; but if a person does it, it is bad. This is not God. God does not kill. It is the enemy who comes to steal, to kill, and to destroy. Jesus, representing God, came to give life – not to destroy, to kill or to steal. God came to bless us and to make us live. This is how we come to know God – through Jesus.
Paul, when he was Saul of Tarsus, thought he was doing something for God by putting the Church’s disciples to death. This is not God. Paul had an encounter with God by meeting Jesus. He found out that God is not like what he thought He was. Compare this to the witness of Stephen who witnessed who God was. Instead of saying, “Destroy my enemies, O Lord, and in your wrath, just wipe them off in the face of the earth,” he said, “Forgive them. Do not put their sin against them. Be merciful to them.”
We see that these characteristics in Jesus Christ, who is God’s final word. He is who the Father is, and if we have seen Him, we have seen the Father, as Jesus said. Our Father is not violent; He is not unforgiving. Our Father is merciful, compassionate, and there is no confusion about Him. How do we know this? This is because Jesus is like this. Jesus forgave the tax gatherers. Jesus forgave the adulterer. He did not condemn their sin; in fact, He told them, “Sin no more.” He did not judge or condemn them, but He forgave them and He showed mercy on them.
A priest said, “Jesus did not come to change the mind of God about humanity; it didn’t need changing! He came to change the mind of humanity about God.” There is this teaching that almost illustrates God as a bad cop, and Jesus as the good cop, where God is bent on putting us all to death. Jesus tells Him not to, and because of Jesus, God changes His mind. The mind of humanity is that God is an old, grumpy God with a big stick waiting for us to make the first mistake so that He could whack on the head and kills us. Jesus came to change our mind about God. Instead of us needing to sacrifice and to spill blood to get to God, to satisfy Him and to appease Him, we have God spilling His blood to get to us.
We can know God with whom we were meant to have fellowship with, and Jesus is the Way, He is the Truth, and He is the Life. This is the good news – God reconciling the world to Himself not counting men’s sin against them. This is our God! We need to change our mind about an unforgiving God, about a legalistic God. God is Who Jesus is.
Jesus says, “In my Father’s house, there are many dwelling places; and I go to prepare a place for you.” The Father’s house is our home. Dwelling place is not a physical location, but a state of being that God wants to restore us back to. Like the prodigal son, we deviated from this state. We were designed in the image of God, bearing His image and likeness, and in a relationship with Him. We deviated from this path, and we need to get back home. This is why Jesus helps us. We call Him, “Very God of very God; very Man of very man.” He is one hundred percent God and one hundred percent man. This means that He is a perfect example of who Adam was but Adam failed to continue to be. God wants us back as sons. The relationship He shares with the Father, Jesus also wants to share with us.
Our goal is to be like Jesus and thus, be home. Otherwise, we will be like a fish out of water, and we will be homesick. Jesus uses domestic language to express the Father’s desire, to express His will, and for us to be back home like the father of the prodigal son. Jesus wants us back home. The dwelling place is not a location, but a relationship that Jesus already shares with His Father and is now bringing us to. It is a mutual indwelling, mutual abiding. Jesus said, “I am in the Father, and the Father in Me. The Father abiding in Me does His works.”
Mutual indwelling is what God wants from us and what He is preparing for us. It is a form of residence that John emphasizes from the beginning – the mystical indwelling of Jesus, the Word of God in the Father – from the creation of the world. In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God. They already had a mutual indwelling of each other. John uses location as a symbol for relationship. Jesus says that to know where He is from is to know His relationship with the Father. Jesus said, “I came from above where the Father is in heaven because I have a relationship with Him.” It is not about a physical property in some geographical heavenly location, but a place of relationship within a family through our adoption as sons.
The New Testament talks about our adoption as sons in a relationship with the Father just as intimate and as close as Jesus has with the Father. This is what He is offering us and wanting us to have. In John 14, Jesus said, “I will not leave you orphans. I will not leave you without a family. The Holy Spirit, from the same family, will come to you when I go. I will send Him to you, and you will be with a Helper. You know Him, with a relationship with Him, because He will be in you and with you.” The place that Jesus is preparing for us is a familial position – not a celestial, real state. More importantly, we will know God and we will be restored into a family relationship with Him. There will be a mutual indwelling between us and God. God, in Christ, initiated this – His dwelling in us by grace. Christ lives in us. Jesus helps us and prepares us to be with the Father. It is a process of restoration towards the fullness of our mutual indwelling.
Our goal is not to get to a house, but to belong to a home, to the Divine family. The house is not necessarily a home. It is the family and the relationships in it that makes a house a home. In Tagalog, “Lahat ng tahanan bahay, ngunit hindi lahat ng bahay ay tahanan.” We are not after a house, but a home. We are after belonging to the household and the family of the Head of the heavenly home. Jesus is making room for us in the Father’s household.
Ephesians 2:11 says, “You were formerly excluded, but now belong to the household of God.” We have been adopted as sons. We were excluded before, but now, we are included in the household of God. Eternal life, in Jesus words in John 17, is to know God. Eternal life is knowing God as in a marriage relationship. It is not something that is secured by satisfying a judicial requirement. Some Christians think of Christianity and eternal life as something legal and judicial. It is not a legal status, but it is something that you grow in by being in and by experiencing in.
In marriage, which is to me the best metaphor for God and man’s relationship, the motive is not to be officially married to obtain a legal status, a financial security or a position of prestige. The point is to grow in the relationship in the knowledge of the person you are in a relationship with. May we not be Christian gold-diggers whose motive are only financial security, blessings, and eternal security. God wants us to have a relationship with Him for us to grow in the knowledge of Him. It is not so that we can avail of His mansions or condo unit in heaven, but to have eternal life – to know God and for us to grow in a relationship as His children and as His sons.
The right motive is to live together in the bond of love and commitment and to grow in the knowledge to whom we have a relationship with. Then, we get the fullness of the benefits. We don’t enter a relationship so that we can receive, but what we should be in for is so that we can give and give. This is how we grow. We are not Christian gold-diggers that says to God, “Lord, what is in it for me? What are Your blessings for me today?” We don’t have to worry about this, because God is ever-blessing anyway. What we need to worry about is how to know God more, to grow in Him, and how to become like Him.
Jesus said that we are to grow. He said, “I am going to prepare a place for you so that where I am, there you may grow up to be also.” There is a restoration process. May we see the value of what Jesus is acquiring for us. 1Peter 2:7 says, “This precious value is for you who believe, you who mature, and you who mature and grow in the relationship.”
We belong to God’s family. It has characteristics that the world does not have. The heavenly family is a divine family. The world has the opposites of the characteristics of God’s family. We are warriors; we are in spiritual battle, but the weapons of our warfare are not of this world. It is not the sword, guns, violence, not pananamantala, panggugulang, paninira, pangaapak, deception, exploitation, mudslinging, self-advancement at the expense of others like the system of the world. As warrior and soldiers, we are to be armed with an extra cheek. If somebody slaps us on one cheek, we can offer the other. We are supposed to be armed with an extra piece of cloak, so that if somebody takes a piece of clothing from us, we can give another. This is how we fight and conquer.
We need to be armed with strong legs so that if we somebody requires us to walk one mile with them, we can go two miles with them. We need to be armed with words of mercy, of forgiveness, of love, of edification because this is how Jesus conquers, and this is how we conquer. We call Him our “Mighty Warrior” dressed for battle. His sword is the Word of God, the good news of the Gospel which says, “God loves you. God has forgiven you. God is not angry at you. God will never leave you nor forsake you.” This is how we fight our battles.
As a Mighty Warrior, we are dressed for battle and He is raising up an army to proclaim the Kingdom, to declare His Word, and we are to gear our sword on our thigh. The sword is the Word of God and the Word of God is the Prince of Peace. We wage war by proclaiming God’s peace.
Some failed to understand this so God sent His final Word. Jesus said, “If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father. Now, you know God. The mystery was once hidden for ages and generations. Now, it is unfolding before your very eyes. I am Who the Father is.” Jesus says, “Look at Me so that you can see the Father.”
As St. Paul and St. John said, the challenge to us, as children of God, as those adopted into God’s family, is to say, “Look at us so that when you see us, you have seen Jesus – His love, His mercy. See our family and see what our family is like so that you will also want to belong to the same family.” Our fellowship is with the Father, and as John says in his epistle, “We want you into this fellowship as well.”
Our goal is to be like Jesus so that we can proclaim the gospel to the world. It is a gospel according to us being proclaimed to the people. This is our goal and this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.