Some 4,000 years or so ago, a city of people endeavoured to build a tower, the tower of Babel which some say was to be built 91 meters high. So high that they thought it would reach to heaven, to God.
2010 in Dubai, the 828 metre Burj Khalifa tower was opened. Nine times the height of the tower of Babel, and still not a sight of the gates to paradise.
July 20th 1969, astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon, and uttered those words that have become part of history: “That’s one small step for man (and) one giant step for mankind”. Prior to leaving Neil and fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin erected a plaque that read “Here men from the planet earth first set foot upon the moon, and we come in peace”.
Back on planet earth, on that day-the first Australian women was killed in the Vietnam War.
On a later moon landing, one of the astronauts looking back at earth, looking back at this beautiful and radiant bright green, brown and blue marble, shining amongst the dark space. But knowing of its troubles made a an apt comment “what are we doing down there?”
Several weeks ago in the paper a scientist remarked that due to the state of the earth, the pollution, population increase and the resources we need to carry on-we will need to find another planet that we can colonise within the next several hundred years.
That plaque on the moon, “we come in peace”, good intentions but given our track record-what do you think are the chances?
Even the great St. Paul. A man of God- who after reflecting on himself stated “I do what I don’t want to do, and don’t do what I want to do”.
Humankinds desire to be the master of its own destiny, to rely only on itself-is a desire to be like God, to be God, or at the very least, to earn our right to be in God’s presence and to earn eternal life.
Essentially, in our society we are lead to believe the world revolves around us. The land of “I”.
How well do you reckon that’s been travelling? A bit like that plaque on the moon I would suggest.
Our Gospel today is like a history lesson of God’s plan for our salvation. The times leading to Christ. The realisation of Christ as the messiah, our Saviour, and our mediator. Christ that solved our problem of sin and brought us life and freedom – eternally and now, here on our earthly home.
The apostles are on the mountain top with Jesus, and before them appear Elijah and Moses.
Two of God’s great servants from the Old Testament. Elijah the prophet who God spoke to on a mountain top, and Moses, who on Mount Sinai God gave the law, the ten commandments.
These men and the Old Testament in general, continually testified to the future coming of the messiah. Here on this mountain top, the presence of Moses and Elijah confirm that Jesus is the fulfilment of those testimonies, that Jesus is both the focus and the fulfilment of the Old Testimont.
Yet, Jesus the Son of God, the Word, the messiah, the Holy one that all have been waiting for is standing there on the mountain top next to three normal human beings-Peter, James and John.
This is significant.
Previously when Moses had met God on Mount Sinai, God said “You cannot see My face; for no person shall see Me, and live, so while My glory passes by, I will put you in the cleft of the rock and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. Then I shall take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen”.
Why did God act in this way? He wasn’t playing charades or trying to rain on Moses parade, we was protecting Him. Due to sin, if exposed directly to the Holiness of God, Moses would have been like a piece of paper to a raging fire.
As it was, when Moses went down from the mountain, his face was glowing so brightly in God’s Glory that he had to where a veil so that others could even look at him.
Because of Human sin, brought about by the fall in the Garden of Eden, the relationship with God was fractured. We see this all through the Old Testament. In the temple, God would descend veiled in a cloud, and even them only the chief priest could approach the alter. It has been said that that in those days they used to tie a rope around the chief priests ankle, so that if didn’t make it out, they could drab him out. “Rumour” has it that for at least one this happened .
So what of Christ. You will remember that upon His death on the cross, the curtain that surrounded the alter was torn in two. The separation between God and sinful humans had been taken away by Christ dying on the cross for our sins. .
In Christ we are free to approach God in all His Holiness because he is our the mediator and our intercessor.
Christ said “I have not come to remove the law, but to fulfil the law”. The law that we know is good-but leads death if we think that we can keep it enough to gain God’s acceptance-this is what we know as self-righteousness.
But Christ has restored our relationship with God the Father with His righteousness.
In Jesus we see God, not of the law, but of compassion, love and forgiveness.
In Jesus, God does not see us clothed in our sin, but clothed in the righteousness of Jesus. Thus, we can approach God as we are and seek his forgiveness and help in our lives. Prayers that he hears because of our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Christ has brought God’s forgiveness. Not because we earn it, not because of anything we have done or will do-but because of what Christ alone has done.
In Christ we are free-free in this life to go about our business with surety of his promise. On the mountain top God told us “To listen to Him”, and what HAS Jesus told us. John 3:16. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life”.
So what of our lives now. Do we throw the baby out with the bath water? Saved in Christ, free in Christ-does that mean we just sit back and smell the roses while those around us are still building their towers of Babel to nowhere. Absolutely not.
Freedom in Christ allows us to take a step back, to see things clearly. To not allow for anguish over the things we suffer from others-but to suffer with them. To not worry of ourselves when taken advantage of-but to suffer with that person who does so. To be ridiculed, yet return to them our service. To lift up those from whom we have been downtrodden.
As free people in Christ, we take a step back and see things as they are, and seeing them in Christ they are different.
At the end of the American civil war slaves in the South were released from their bondage and told they were free to go-to do what they want and when they wanted to do it. Yet many replied, now that I am free, I will stay and work harder than I ever did-but as a free person.
2nd Corinthians 12:10 tells us that now that we are Co-labourers with God, “We are to take up the burdens that God appoints, bearing them for His sake, and ever going to Him for rest. Whatever our work, God is honoured by whole hearted, cheerful service. He is pleased when we take up our duties with gratitude, rejoicing that we are accounted worthy to be co-labourers with Him”.
American Tennis player Pete Sampras on winning the first of his 14 Grand Slam events was asked “what’s it like to be a tennis champion”, to which he responded, “I already was”.
On that glorious day when we all meet again in our eternal home before our Lord and Saviour, should someone ask you what’s it like to be free? You can respond, “I already was”.
Yes, we already are, even though this side of heaven we still carry our human traits and our sin,we still live as free people because of Christ.
Not free as if NASA has found another utopian world we can all go and settle on. Not free because we have built our own stair way to heaven, but free because of Christ. Faith not in ourselves, but faith in Christ alone.
Martin Luther stated, “Faith is a living, daring confidence on God’s Grace, So sure and certain that a person could stake their life on it a thousand times”.
On the mountain top, God said to three apostles, said to us “listen to Him”.
So we shall:
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand”.
“My peace I give to you; (but) not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid”.
“Whoever believes in Me will not perish but have eternal life”
“If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed”
Yes, we are free and the world looks different. Tears and Sadness, laughter and happiness. Mistakes and achievements, serving and being served, we do as saved and free people.
In Christ our world looks different, because it is-and we rejoice.