09 Dec The before and after story of a sickly individual made whole and healthy
I remember when I was young and reading comics I often came across a picture of Charles Atlas as the epitome of robust healthy manhood, the ‘before’ illustration was a skinny young man having sand kicked into his face by the local bully. This made a lasting impression. This before and after goes back even further, our western calendar is based on a before and after story, we know it as B.C. and A.D.It is the story of us, the human race, and concerns a problem we just cannot fix on our own. To illustrate the before and after a man called John appeared out in the desert somewhere in the Middle East. He was not a man you would want to hear if you wanted to feel good about yourself, in fact he referred to his listeners as ‘a Brood of vipers!’ you can read all about it in Luke 3:1-20. John was one that pointed out the problem, it was something that needed to happen because if one cannot see there is a problem then one will never seek the solution. That is the biggest problem we can have, for if we know that we are broken, lame or whatever, then we will be ready to listen. In John’s day there were a group of people called Pharisees and Sadducees, and they did not see that they had a problem within themselves, just with some outsiders called Romans. The ones that knew they had a problem were baptised and John told them there was one coming after him who would be the answer to all their problems, and indeed He did turn up as John said.
Now this one we know as Jesus, He said something that seems quite alarming, He said “For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”(Luke 7:28) This news does not sound good, Johns asceticism seemed a very high bar indeed, and it was even worse for the Pharisees and Sadducees who loved all their religious rule keeping, Jesus referred to them as “Hypocrites! … a wicked and adulterous generation”, you can read about it in Matthew 16:3-4. So now the problem seems insurmountable, we do not have the solution by anything we can do ourselves, even John the Baptist, known as the greatest does not make the grade.
Now there is only one who is perfect and He is the answer, actually he came to be a perfect sacrifice. The answer to all our problems is in one small sentence; “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus is the totally free gift to us, He exchanged our sin, He took all that we deserved on the cross, and all that He is, and all the good He has, He gave to us. It is not conditional in any way, it is not according to anything we do or do not do, it sounds scandalous, surely we have to do something. Well there is only one way to activate it, that is to just believe. Believe that there is a problem and He is the total answer to the problem.
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