26. Jesus, life bringer

Jesus in John’s Gospel : 26 : Jesus, bringer of Eternal Life

Jn 3:14,15 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life

Today, on average, we live a lot longer than say a hundred years ago. Scientists say that better health and better food means we will live longer, but we still all know that at some point our body will stop functioning and we will die. In folk lore there are stories of elixirs, and in science  fiction there are tales of happenings, that enable a man to carry on and on and on. It is a strange idea but one that catches the imagination.

And then we come to the Bible and are presented with the concept of eternity – existence that has no beginning or end. God is so described: Abraham…. called upon the name of the LORD, the Eternal God(Gen 21:33). Moses declared, The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms (Deut 33:27). For references to ‘eternal life’ we have to wait until the New Testament. It is interesting to note that Matthew uses ‘eternal’ 6 times, Mark 3 times, Luke 4 times, but John who has contemplated these big issues of life for much longer, 16 times. Eternal life is a big issue with John, this life with  no end. Perhaps a similar word is ‘everlasting’ which is used quite often in the Old Testament but only 3 times in the whole of the New Testament. ‘Everlasting’ seems to mean time that goes on and on, whereas ‘eternal’ suggests timelessness. Thus God is described as both everlasting (e.g. Isa 40:28) and eternal. He goes on and on throughout time but He also exists outside of time and is not affected by it.

In Matthew, the first of the few references to ‘eternal life’  is: Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” (Mt 19:16). Our verses today are the first of a number of such references in John. What is clear here is that belief in Jesus results in eternal life, a new form of life without beginning or end. But surely if we receive it at some point in time, it has a beginning?  That is only true if we see eternal life as a state of existence, one minute we are in ordinary life, the next we have stepped into a new dimension where life goes on and on and on. However, that is not the heart of the meaning of it, for we saw above that God is eternal and in fact nothing else is eternal, only that which emanates from Him. Eternal life is the actual life of God. Jesus said,For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself.” (Jn 5:26). The Father has this life, this characteristic, and the Son also has it. What the Gospel declares is that whoever receives the Son receives God’s very presence into His life, and that presence is eternal. When we become a Christian we receive this eternal presence into our life and of course He has no beginning or end.

A little bit earlier Jesus said, I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” (Jn 5:24). Our life before we became Christians was considered death. It was existence that was strictly limited. When we receive him, we receive his life and he in us, his Spirit united with our spirit, means that now we have moved into an eternal existence. Physical death for us is merely a releasing of the real us to live in God’s eternal presence eternally.  Without Jesus there is eternal death (Mt 18:8, 25:41,46), presumably eternal because spirit cannot end once created.  With Jesus there is blessing upon blessing which continues on without interruption – eternal life! That is the promise.

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