Tuesday, December 31, 2019

“ARK” Series, Week 5: The Ark of Completion

I think the majority of us knows that feeling of accomplishment, when we’ve worked hard on a project and at the end we step back and and think, wow, I did that. Over the summer,  I built a cabinet as a birthday, slash, anniversary present for my wife. It took several weeks, a lot of trial and error, the blood, sweat, and tears of me and my three kids, but sometime in October, I finished the project. It wasn’t quite what I had envisioned, but I think it turned out pretty good for my first cabinet.
I was pretty proud, and excited to show Marika. So I began the process of moving it to the parsonage. But I quickly realized that I had built it extremely heavy, and it would take more than just me to move it. So I got one of our teenagers, Karl, to help me. But after putting on the trailer and arriving at the house, I realized I needed more help. So I got one of our adult leaders, Gabe to help me and Karl lift the cabinet on to the porch. And that’s when we ran into another problem.
See, when I first drew up the plans for the cabinet, I had envisioned it being two separate pieces that would connect in the middle. But for stability and strength, I built it as one unit. Well, when I did that, I created an unforeseen problem, it was now too big to fit through either entrance door to the house. 
That cabinet stayed on the porch for the next two months, after which we finally moved it into our new house, through a 4x4 window we took out.
But once we got it in to the house, the sense of accomplishment finally came to me. I was finally done with this cabinet, now I could move onto something else.

But it’s this sense of finality, that brings us into our last week of our Christmas series on the Arks of the Bible. In the last four weeks we have covered three Old Testament arks, and one New Testament ark. And if you have your Bibles, we’re going to be looking at one final ark in the New Testament. This last ark is actually a combination of three and we’ll start looking at these starting in the 19th chapter, verse 23 of the Gospel of John.
And as we open up to John 19, verse 23, let’s understand what has gotten us to this point in our Ark series.

We started this series focusing on the word tebah, which is the Hebrew word for ark. The definition of this word describes a box or a chest. But when we looked at the application of this word in the Old Testament, we saw that it was only used in two instances. The first was to describe the boat that God used to save Noah, his family, and the land creatures from the flood. The second time we saw this word used, it described a small basket, which saved Moses from the infanticide that was happening to the Hebrew people. Neither one of these instances matched the definition of tebah, which is a box or chest.
And so we asked the question, is God using this word to help us understand something greater? And as we looked closer, we saw that the first ark represented God’s regret that he had to bring judgment on to his creation in the flood. In the second ark, we saw God hearing his people’s cries of agony as slaves to the Egyptians, and his plan to rescue them from it.
Then something happened, we saw that a new word was introduced that also meant ark, the Hebrew word aron. And like tebah, it’s definition was also that of a box or chest. Except this time, it really was a box or chest. This was the ark that God commissioned the people of Israel to build. This ark went on to be known as the Ark of the Covenant, and became the symbol to the Israelite people of God’s presence with them.
It was here, that we began to see a story of God’s work with humanity. Humanity is sinful and requires the judgment of God to happen, but God’s desire is not for humanity to be destroyed, and so in our agony God moves to enact a plan of rescue, where by he himself will rescues humanity by being present with them. It was here that we talked last week, about how the manger, even though it doesn’t have the word of ark, works as an ark. The manger encompasses the entire story of God and humanity, because it represents every ark that came before it. Which is the story of Christmas: humanity in trouble because of our sin, awaiting the judgment of God that will deal with that sin, but God hears our cries for mercy, and he enters into time and space himself, as Jesus, to take on the punishment that the judgment will bring. And it’s at the moment of the pouring out of God’s judgment on Jesus that we come to our last ark.

Let’s read together John chapter 19, starting in verse 23 where we find Jesus already nailed to the cross.

23 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.
24 “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.”
This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said, “They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.” So this is what the soldiers did.
25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

The Ark of the Manger and the Ark of the Cross are two interconnected moments in time. The manger represents the moment God entered the world to complete the work he had started in the garden of Eden, when one human, Adam, failed in keeping the command of God, and so allowed sin to be brought into the world. The judgment of God was then placed on every human following, but in God’s mercy, he heard our cries, and provided a way to take the judgment off of us. He himself, came as Jesus, the fully God, fully human being that lived the perfect life that we were created to, but have failed at. And because one man brought sin into the world, all it took was one man to take the judgment of God on himself for all of humanity (Romans 5:12-21).
And in Jesus’ last words, “It is finished,” he is not simply speaking of the pain and suffering he had to endure from the beatings and the crucifixion, but rather, he is speaking of the finishing of ark of Regret. The judgment that the first ark represented, was now carried out in the ark of the cross. All the punishment that we are deserving for our sin, is laid upon Jesus in that moment. And as he draws his final breath, everything that was spoken about this moment in the Old Testament was complete.

But that is not the end of it. It’s what follows the ark of the cross that finalizes the other arks of the Old Testament. In the second ark, the ark of Hearing, we talked about how the manger represents Jesus being the bridge between us and God. He is the advocate on our behalf, our connection with God. Through him, we are made right before God the Father, and he speaks on our behalf. Jesus is what Job was calling out for in Job 9. But if Jesus was dead, that advocacy could not be there, so instead, the pathway to Jesus being our advocate opens.

This is pathway is opened because of the ark of the tomb. At the end of chapter 19, we’re told that Jesus’ body is taken down from the cross and buried. After that we get these words in the 20th chapter, “1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.

The tomb is empty, because Jesus, God the Son, has raised from the dead, and after 40 days of interacting with his disciples, returns to God the Father, and now, advocates for humanity. This ascension to advocacy, then opens access to the final ark. 

We talked about the third Old Testament ark, being the ark of Presence. We talked about God’s desire has always been to dwell with his people, and how the word Immanuel means God with us. The life time Jesus spent with humanity, was only the beginning of that presence experience. It is through the empty tomb that the way to a moment by moment experience of God’s presence was opened.

Earlier in John chapter 14, Jesus says these words, “15 If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

At Jesus’ resurrection, the presence of God through the Holy Spirit is given to those who accept Jesus’ work on the cross on their behalf. When we accept that we’re a sinner, and we call on Jesus to be the Lord of our life, the Holy Spirit is given to us. God dwells with us, as he has desired to do all along. 
God the Holy Spirit dwells with anyone who accepts Jesus’ sacrifice on their behalf, acknowledging and turning away from sin, calling on Jesus as Lord. And God’s Spirit dwells with us, because the ark of the tomb is empty, Jesus has returned to God the Father, and Jesus’ words are fulfilled.

These three arks connect us back to the story of all the arks. The ark of the cross connects us to the ark of regret, where God regretted that judgment had to come upon humanity. The ark of the tomb, connects to God’s hearing the cries of the people which the tomb provides an open communication between humanity and God. And the final ark, connects to the ark of the presence, you and I are that final ark. God’s dwelling is with humanity, because he dwells within everyone who has accepted Jesus as their Savior. These three arks, is what I like to call the Ark of Completion. Because within each, everything is finalized. God’s judgment is taken care of on the cross, the empty tomb gives us access to the God who hears us, and the Spirit dwelling in those who have accepted Jesus finalizes God’s desire to be with his people.

This is the end of the Christmas season, that we would fully realize that scope of God’s work on our behalf.  There’s a song called, “I Heard the Bells,” in the second verse of the song, the singer laments that he looks around and there is no peace on earth. And it can be so easy for us to look around this world and lament that God’s work was not accomplished, that Christmas story was just a story, but the peace it said it brought really didn’t happen.
But God wants us to understand that all that needed to be accomplished to bring humanity out of judgment and into the presence of God, has been accomplished. But that’s not the end of his work. And it’s this work that we’re going to pick up in our New Year series starting next week.

But for this week, I want to challenge you with this: If you haven't’ accept Jesus as your Savior, what is holding you back? I would love to have a conversation with you about it. There is no topic I won’t talk about, no challenge that I won’t discuss. What is holding you back from the God who loves you, when all it takes is a recognization of you own sin that we all have, and calling on him as Lord of your life?
If you have accepted Jesus as your Savior, then I want to ask you, is your life that God is dwelling in right now, honoring him? Do you speak as God speaks? Do you listen as God listens? Do you love, show forgiveness, and seek the good of others as God would? People talk about New Year’s resolutions, I want to challenge you to seek a more God honoring dwelling this year for him. As Jesus himself says in John 14:21, "Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me.”
Let us show the world that we love God, by following him even closer this coming year and having his dwelling in our lives show it.

Let us be God’s people that live in the completion of his work on our behalf through the ark of the cross, the tomb, and our lives. Amen.

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