The Savior of the world

Since earliest times people and nations have looked to earthly figures and political powers to save them. The people of Israel hoped Egypt would protect them from Assyria. Brazilians have long talked about a salvador da pátria (savior of the nation) to rescue them from their problems. It is a human trait to wish for, await, or appeal to someone to save.

Inevitably, however, humans disappoint. The prophet Isaiah wrote about Pharoah:

Look, you must be trusting in Egypt, that splintered reed staff. If someone leans on it for support, it punctures his hand and wounds him. That is what Pharaoh king of Egypt does to all who trust in him! Isaiah 36.6.

Humans are limited in power and foresight, they pursue their own interests, and, most of all, they are subject to being overruled by the sovereign God.

So the prophet insists the people of Israel change boats in the middle of the stream:

For this is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel says: “If you repented and patiently waited for me, you would be delivered; if you calmly trusted in me, you would find strength, but you are unwilling. Isaiah 30.15.

And again, for a final prophetic admonition:

Who among you fears the Lord? Who obeys his servant? Whoever walks in deep darkness, without light, should trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God. Isaiah 50.10.

Centuries earlier, David expressed the proper attitude:

Some trust in chariots and others in horses, but we depend on the Lord our God. They will fall down, but we will stand firm. Psalm 20.7-8.

But did they learn the lesson? After 400 years of prophetic silence and centuries of oppression by foreign powers, most recently by the Roman Empire, the Jews awaited their savior of the nation in the person of the Messiah. Onto the scene appeared a humble manual laborer from a backwater town teaching the coming of the Kingdom of God and urging the people to repent. Besides his lack of credentials, what really got their goat was his opening the door for all nations. Gentiles coming in?! We want them out!

How must have John the immersor sounded when he pointed to young Jesus and declared: “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1.29. The Jews were still in Jonah-mode, waiting to see fire from heaven rain down upon a wicked Nineveh. Nothing so satisfying as roasted pagan! Even the disciples James and John wanted to call down a conflagration upon a Samaritan town. But it was the Samaritans who discovered the great truth that Jesus “really is the Savior of the world” John 4.42.

After the Messiah conquered the hearts of the disciples, rather than the armies of Rome, one of the sons of thunder, writing far from the land of Israel, thundered out with the truth: “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world” 1 John 4.14.

Finally, someone figured it out! Someone listened to the Lord!

Once people are converted and even followers are healed of their blindness, we do a 180, from congratulating ourselves on being the chosen Church of Christ entrusted with the oracles of God and true doctrine, to being driven to speak unceasingly of the Messiah who saves by the shame of the Cross.

In fact this is why we work hard and struggle, because we have set our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of believers. 1 Timothy 4.10.

Christ is the Savior of the world when people in the world believe, repent and obey the gospel. Not until then. And they won’t until we go and tell them.

God sent the Son into the world. Then, the Son sent the Spirit to empower his people. Because he sends them into the world to proclaim the gospel (not preach from a pulpit).

If we want to be obedient to Christ and to know the powerful presence of his Spirit, we must go on his order.

Otherwise, we will lose the Kingdom and become a part of the world we so despise.

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