读经： 诗110:1-7 弗2:1-22 赛55:1-57:13
What Difference Does Jesus Make?
- ‘My life has completely changed. I now look at the world through different eyes… I feel love for everyone and an inner peace that I never imagined could exist.’
- ‘I had been living my life in a dark hole, I was carrying a great weight on my shoulders… that burden has gone… and I am filled with great hope, joy, excitement and love, and all I want to do is to serve Christ in whatever form he chooses.’
- ‘I feel like I have found love and conquered death in one day.’
I have interviewed hundreds of people around the world who have come to faith in Jesus. The question I ask over and over again is, ‘What difference has Jesus made?’ and the genuine answers above are typical. As we read in today’s passages, the difference Jesus makes is massive, eternal, and impossible to comprehend fully.
1. Permanent forgiveness
Psalm 110:1-7Jesus made forgiveness possible through his one perfect sacrifice for our sins. He was uniquely qualified to do so as the ‘King of kings’ and ‘Great High Priest’.
Jesus clearly saw this royal psalm of David as referring to himself (v.1, see Matthew 22:42–45; Luke 20:42–44). It is one of the most frequently quoted in the New Testament. Two lines of Old Testament prophecy come together in this psalm.
- King of kings
Although it is about a human king, it points forward to a divine King who will be King over all kings (Psalm 110:5).
- Great High Priest
The writer of Hebrews quotes this psalm as referring to Jesus (see Hebrews 7:17–22) as the one who is the priest forever in the order of Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4). Neither Melchizedek nor Jesus were Levites. But both were priests – not on the basis of their ancestry, but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life (Hebrews 7:16).
Whereas the Old Testament priests were temporary, Jesus’ priesthood is permanent: ‘He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself (v.27). ‘You’re the permanent priest’ (Psalm 110:4, MSG).
King Jesus, thank you that you made the one perfect sacrifice for my sins so that I can be forgiven and my life can be utterly transformed.
2. Peace and reconciliation
Ephesians 2:1-22‘Peace’ is a word that sums up all the blessings Jesus brings to our lives. Christ came and preached the possibility of ‘peace’ to everyone (v.17).
Jesus is seated, after his resurrection, at the right hand of God, as prophesied in the psalm for today (Psalm 110:1). Being seated implies rest and peace. You died with Christ, were buried with him and have been raised with him and are now seated with him in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:6). You can enjoy his peace and rest as you go about your daily life.
Paul describes life without Christ in these terms:
- ‘you were dead in your transgressions and sins’ (v.1)
- ‘you followed the ways of the world’ (v.2)
- ‘gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts’ (v.3a)
- ‘objects of wrath’ (v.3b)
- ‘separate from Christ’ (v.12a)
- ‘outsiders to God’s ways’ (v.11, MSG)
- ‘foreigners to the covenants of the promise’ (v.12b)
- ‘without hope’ (v.12c)
- ‘without God in the world’ (v.12c)
- ‘far away’ (v.13)
- separated by the ‘dividing wall of hostility’ (v.14b)
- ‘strangers or outsiders’ (v.19, MSG).
Paul describes the difference that Jesus makes in these contrasting terms:
- ‘raised up with Christ’ (v.6)
- ‘seated with him in the heavenly realms’ (v.6)
- ‘God’s handiwork’ (v.10)
- ‘created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do’ (v.10)
- ‘brought near through the blood of Christ’ (v.13)
- ‘reconciled to God through the cross’ (v.16)
- ‘access to the Father by one Spirit’ (v.18)
- ‘fellow-citizens with God’s people’ (v.19)
- ‘members of God’s household’ (v.19)
- ‘a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit’ (v.22).
The contrast between the prior alienation – from ourselves and from God – and the peace and reconciliation that Jesus brings, could not be greater. It is Jesus who makes the difference. We are made alive with Christ (v.5). We are raised up with Christ (v.6). We are saved through faith inChrist (v.8). It is in Christ Jesus that we are brought near (v.13). It is through Jesus that we have access to the Father by one Spirit (v.18). Jesus Christ himself is the chief cornerstone of the new temple, the church.
The only command that Paul gives us in this passage is simply to ‘remember’ this amazing transformation that Jesus brings to our lives (vv.12–13). So often we can forget that being a Christian is all about what Jesus has done for us, and get caught up in what we are doing. This passage helps us to stop, remember, and give thanks to our amazing saviour for all he has done for us.
Lord, thank you for your great love for me. Thank you that you are rich in mercy and have made me alive with Christ. Thank you for the utter transformation you bring to my life.
3. Purpose and meaning
Isaiah 55:1-57:13The Bible is one long invitation to come to God. In the opening chapters of Genesis, after Adam’s rejection of God’s perfect plan, God calls to Adam with an anguished cry, full of both love and anger, ‘Where are you?’ The book of Revelation ends with the invitation from the Spirit and the Bride who say, ‘Come!’
Jesus often invited people: ‘Come to me’ (Matthew 11:28), ‘Come to the wedding banquet’ (22:4), ‘Come to me and drink’ (John 7:37). In this chapter, God once again issues an invitation to come.
‘Hey there! All who are thirsty,
come to the water!
Are you penniless?
Come anyway – buy and eat!
Come, buy your drinks, buy wine and milk.
Buy without money – everything’s free!’ (Isaiah 55:1, MSG).
The invitation is urgent and universal. It is addressed to those who are unsatisfied. The New Testament sees it as Jesus’ invitation to us (see Acts 13:34–35). In this chapter we see four reasons why we should come to him:
- Jesus alone can satisfy the hunger in your heart
Without Jesus we are thirsty (Isaiah 55:1). We labour for what does not satisfy (v.2). The opening verses echo the cries of those selling their wares in Babylon, the centre of commerce in the ancient world. The message is this: material things do not satisfy. Without God we are always partly empty, experiencing a lack of fulfilment and a feeling of dissatisfaction.
The offer of Jesus is free. It is to ‘you who have no money’ (v.1). It is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). The promise is that as you come to Jesus ‘your soul will delight in the richest of fare… your soul will live’ (Isaiah 55:2,3). Those who come to him are deeply satisfied. God does not offer you junk food, but a feast. His words are ‘life-giving’ and ‘life nourishing’ (v.2, MSG).
- Jesus’ love and mercy is great
Repentance is necessary in order to enjoy God’s presence fully (vv.6–9). It involves turning away from sin: ‘Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts’ (v.7a). I like the child’s definition of repentance: ‘being sorry enough to stop’.
Repentance involves turning to God: ‘Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon’ (v.7b). No matter how far we have fallen, God will forgive us. He is ‘lavish with forgiveness’ (v.7, MSG).
- Jesus is the life transformer
‘You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thorn bush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow’ (vv.12–13).
The immediate application of this passage was to the departure of the Jews from Babylon. Israel was to ‘go out’ from Babylon and go back to Jerusalem in ‘joy’ and ‘peace’.
However, the prophecy will not reach complete fulfilment until the return of Jesus Christ. Then, nature itself will be renewed and restored. We have a foretaste of this now, in this life, but the ultimate fulfilment of these verses will come when Jesus returns, in the new heaven and new earth.
The Bible is not only the story of the human race, but is the story of the whole of creation in which the human race plays a central and crucial role.
- Jesus has a purpose for your life
God’s blessings were never intended to be enjoyed selfishly (vv.3b–5). They were to overflow to others. You can’t offer to others what you have not received yourself. But when you have enjoyed a blessing, pass it on.
As Paul puts it in today’s New Testament passage, you are ‘God’s masterpiece’. He created you anew in Christ Jesus so that you can do the good works he planned for you long ago (see Ephesians 2:10, NLT). Your life has a purpose. Your story is important. Your dreams count. Your voice matters. You were born to make an impact.
Lord, thank you that you invite me to come to you to drink the water of life. Thank you for the massive difference you make to my life, both now and into eternity.
‘For we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has prepared in advance for us to do.’
One of the reasons we were created is to do good works. I wonder what God has ‘prepared in advance’ for me to do today.