Who is your favourite pioneer, or explorer? Why?
We admire pioneers because they put their own lives at risk in order to break new frontiers for the rest of us. One such person is Sir Edmund Hillary, the first person to climb to the top of Mt Everest. (slide 1) He was able to achieve what many people have failed to do. What was so pioneering is that he was able to blaze a path for others to follow. (slide 2) He and his team went ahead of everyone to come and put safety pins and clamps into the rocks and across the crevasses, ropes and ladders, so that future expeditions could happen.
The pioneers went ahead and prepared the way for others. They faced the uncertainty, fear and the unknown, to find the best path up to the summit. (slide 3&4). Now others follow in their path, relying on their anchor points, their route, and their safety advice. From these photos we can see others climbing to the summit.
It is not the same to send a robot up a mountain or to the moon or wherever, only when one of us, a human being, breaks the new ground, reaches the goal, the summit, can we be certain the feat can be done; only then do we know that we too can reach the same summit.
Did you know that there is an even greater summit that has been reached by a pioneer; a far greater feat has been achieved by another human being; a human, just like us, who has gone before us and has prepared a way for us to the greatest of summits.
(slide 5) Jesus Christ, true God, yet true human being, like us in every way, but without sin, has reached the summit of heaven. Jesus, like Edmund Hillary on Mt Everest, has gone before us and blazed a path into heaven itself; he is the first pioneer of salvation, to make a way into the presence of God. And in true pioneering spirit, he has made the path open for all to enter heaven through his achievements. Sound unbelievable? Listen to this from Hebrews ‘In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through suffering.’
Did you hear that ‘In bringing many sons to glory’, that’s humanity, that’s you and I, we are being brought into glory; being brought into heaven itself …by the pioneer of our salvation, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the pioneer of the human race, the first of the new Adam, the new man, to enter glory. And he is the one who brings the rest of his brothers and sisters, those who are baptised and believe, into glory with him.
What a feat, no wonder the writer calls Jesus a pioneer! We know that one of us is already in heaven; one who blazed the way for us, making the path open so that we may join him. What comfort it is for us to know that it can be done, the summit can be reached and that heaven is meant for humanity, for you and I to be with God; and we can be assured of this for the scriptures say ‘since the pioneer who saves and those he brings into glory are of the same origin. Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.’ We are in the same family as the one who saves; Jesus Christ. We will share in his victory.
This pioneering act, which opened the way to heaven, had its beginnings at the first Christmas (slide 6). Here in a manger, wrapped in cloths is the pioneer of our salvation. This unassuming baby is the Son of God, born to Mary and a son to Joseph, truly human in every way, yet God, and begins his trek to the summit of heaven by sharing in our humanity; being one of us so that he may lead all of humanity into glory. This is the mystery and miracle of Jesus the Christmas child; that he is God in human nature; not two separate parts, not human now God later, no, both truly human and truly God; in Jesus God became one of us, a human.
Being totally human, Jesus experienced every emotion, suffered pain, had joys and sorrows, wept and laughed. God made himself so vulnerable in Jesus, that his parents had to flee Bethlehem because he would have been killed by Herod. Yes, if Jesus was not really human, and could not be killed, there would have been no need for him to be hidden in exile. And if he were not human he would not have suffered temptation, but he did. St Mark begins Jesus earthly ministry with the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness and closes it with Jesus’ temptation to reject the cross and the will of his Father in the garden of Gethsemane.
And since Jesus has suffered every temptation, in our darkest hours of trial, when we struggle with temptation, in Jesus we have someone who knows temptation and has over come it, and can help us. Like Edmund Hillary, who forged a path up the mountain and over come the trials, and who put in place safety lines and anchor points for those to follow. Jesus has led the way leaving us anchor points to place our hope during these trials. One such anchor point is our baptism. It is the sure hope that when we fall into temptation, as a climber may fall down a mountain, we can cling to it, hold on tight and say as Luther did ‘in spite of everything, I’ve been baptised! I have the promise that I will be happy forever and I have eternal life for my body and soul’.
Yes, these anchor points Jesus put in place are there to be used, not to be admired and looked at. Who would climb Mt Everest and say, I’m not using the safety points, I’m going it alone’. That climber would be a fool and soon fall to their death. We are in the same predicament. We cannot reach the summit of heaven on our own, using our own safety nets, we will soon fall and die. We need to rely on Jesus, the pioneer who went ahead of us, and use the anchor points; baptism, Holy Communion, the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus name. All of these are the power of God to save, to be used to defeat the devil, sin and temptation which pull us off the mountain.
Sir Hillary had travelled 13 days, and 17 miles up the mountain range to reach the final camp site, just a few hundred meters from the summit. Yet the last few metres were to be the hardest trial, taking 7hrs until finally on May the 29th at 11:30am he reached the summit; the first person had reached the top of the world. The hardest trials and suffering were at the end, but once over come, led to total victory.
Before Jesus reached the summit of heaven, to bring many of us to glory, he had to first suffer. And the hardest trial and suffering came at the end. (slide 7) The writer to the Hebrews says ‘it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through suffering so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death– that is, the devil– and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.’
The pioneer of our salvation exchanged glory for human nature, then in suffering, exchanged the wood of the manger for the wood of the cross. This picture reveals the true story behind the birth of Jesus; to bring his children through death to life. And because we now know it has been done, death no longer has power over us; Jesus has released us from fear. This is why we sing these words from the carol ‘Once in a royal David’s city: ‘And our eyes at last shall see him, through his own redeeming love, for that child so dear and gentle, is our Lord in heaven above; and he leads his children on , to the place where he has gone’. The true Christmas joy in the birth of Jesus is found only in his whole life; his birth, his death, resurrection and ascension, for through his life, he has opened for us the way to heaven. Yes, Jesus is the pioneer of our salvation.