A few years ago I was sitting on my back porch looking over the beautiful scenery that is the historic district of Elgin, Illinois reading a book that flipped my understanding of Jesus on its ear. It was as if I never knew him. I felt like I would probably feel if someone told me Santa Claus or the Great Pumpkin didn’t exist. It was like I was meeting Jesus for the first time all over again.
If I asked you to sum up the mission of Jesus in a sentence or two, what would you say? Seriously, don’t breeze by this. Stop reading for a moment and think about Jesus’ mission. If you had to sum it up in a sentence or two, what would you say?
Most of you probably said, “To die for our sins,” or “To pay the price for my sins, so that when I die I can go to heaven.” Or maybe you said, “The Messiah came as a substitutionary sacrifice to redeem man and transform our fallen natures to holiness to allow blessed access to Heaven.” If you said that last one give your brain the break that it probably needs from seminary right now and engage you heart.
If you asked 100 Christians to sum up the mission of Jesus I’d bet dollars to doughnuts that that ninety-five would essentially say Jesus came to forgive our sins so that we can go to heaven when we die. Was that you? There’s no shame if it was. You’re in good company, but boy howdy have I got some good news for you. (I’m serious this time.)
Jesus gives a whole other explanation of his mission. He said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) What did you say, Jesus? What was you mission? Why did you come? To give us life? Abundant life?
Jesus says His mission is to bring life to a people who didn’t have it. He didn’t say, “I came that once they die they may to go heaven and begin eternal life.” He came to bring you life, and the real good news, my friend, is that eternal life doesn’t wait until heaven to start.
2 Corinthians 5:17 says that, “Anyone who is in Christ is a new creation, the old has gone and the new has come.” Notice the tense Paul uses. He didn’t write, “Anyone who is in Christ will be a new creation when they die, the old will go and the new will come in heaven.” He understood that Jesus intends for us to have abundant life now, beginning the moment we take Him as Messiah.
Jesus didn’t die so that we can experience eternal life after an earthly death. He died so we can experience eternal life, period. If it was only about atonement we would celebrate Good Friday as the key holiday on the Christian calendar, the day our debt was paid. But that’s not our most important holiday. That right is reserved for Easter, the day Jesus demonstrated LIFE, not death!
Too many of us hold the idea that eternal life begins once we die, that our salvation is nothing more than glorified fire insurance. Too many of us live with our bags packed, just waiting for that day when our eternal, abundant life can begin.
Oh of course Good Friday is necessary, but it is not the end. Mourn this Friday in the knowledge that our Messiah had to suffer an excruciating death for my sins and yours. But celebrate this Easter Sunday that after Jesus died to pay for our sin, He rose from the dead proving that not even death can overcome the abundant life He brings.