November 2, 2016

The Miracle that Turns Barriers into Bridges

“God is on one side and all the people are on the other side, and Christ Jesus is between them to bring them together, by giving His life for all mankind.”
1 Timothy 2:5 (TLB)

Unlike the Christian faith, all other religions of the world try to build a bridge to God. They ask, “How do we reach God?” And those religions are based on the things we need to do or be in order to get to God. In essence, they are in the business of building a bridge to God. But, the distinctive of the Christian faith is that we don’t need to build a bridge to God. He has already built the bridge. And walked across it. God has come to us!

Religion says, “You better keep building.” Religion tells you, “Don’t give up on building a perfect life. Don’t give up on building perfect relationships. Don’t give up on building a bridge of good works that will take you to heaven.”

Christianity, on the other hand, says that you can stop trying to build your weak, pathetic, and faulty bridge to heaven, because the real one is already built. It says stop trying to build a perfect life in your own power, because you’re hopelessly broken. So, when you come to the place of giving up, you’re on the verge of a miracle!

The first great message of the Resurrection miracle is that God is here. He built the bridge. The second message is that God is really good at restoring broken bridges and broken people. Maybe you’re looking into your future and all you can see is brokenness. Or maybe all you can see is a huge barrier, a huge problem, and you feel powerless to overcome it. Maybe you feel you can never change.

The miracle of the Resurrection is that God loves to take barriers and turn them into bridges. That’s why I believe the greatest barrier in your life is really a bridge in disguise. Peter is a perfect example. He walked on water and, then, suddenly had that sinking feeling. At another time Jesus said to Peter,

“Get behind me, Satan!” (Matthew 16:23)

OUCH! And, the night before Jesus’ death, Peter jumped to the defense of Jesus in the garden, cutting off the ear of the high priest’s servant. Then, hours later in the courtyard, he denied that he even knew Jesus. In fact, he denied Jesus three times. I think one of Peter’s problems was that he tried too hard. And we do too. That is, we try to make our way to God. We strive to reach Him in some way, to build a bridge to God. Peter was earnest, urgent, and even reckless in building his bridge to get to Jesus.

After Peter denied Jesus three times, it’s likely he watched Jesus die. Who knows what anguish he felt deep within his soul, having tried so hard to do his best for Jesus, only to fail so miserably at a crucial moment. He must have been in despair. The bridge he had built was collapsing, and his own denials had helped bring it down. I believe Peter was at the place of giving up. Does that feel familiar? But, then, on the third day…

Yes, Jesus rose from the dead! Several times, He appeared to His disciples – Peter included. But, there was a moment when Jesus and Peter were on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, where so much of their life stories had played out together. And, at this moment, Jesus spoke to Peter in the most intimate way:

“When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love Me more than these?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ he said, ‘you know that I love You.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed My lambs.’ Again Jesus said, ‘Simon son of John, do you love Me?’ He answered, ‘Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.’ Jesus said, ‘Take care of My sheep.’ The third time He said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love Me?’ Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, ‘Do you love Me?’ He said, ‘Lord, You know all things, You know that I love You.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed My sheep.’” (John 21:15-17)

The third time Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love Me?” Scripture says that Peter was hurt. I think he was probably hurt because it caused him to remember his greatest failure. He had denied Jesus three times, and he was asked three times by Jesus, “Do you love Me?” I don’t think Jesus was trying to hurt Peter or make him feel guilty about his sin that had already been forgiven. I do think, however, that Jesus wanted Peter always to remember how much he needed God’s power. Sometimes, the hurt we feel from past failures is a good thing because it drives us into the powerful and loving arms of the Healer. Jesus wasn’t condemning Peter. Jesus was calling him to fulfill his destiny to be the rock upon which He would build His church.

The miracle of the Resurrection is this: God can take your greatest mess and turn it into your greatest message of hope. God can take your greatest pain and use it to help you fulfill your greatest purpose in life. God can take your biggest barrier and turn it into the very bridge that takes you to your calling. God loves to do that. He has a way of turning crucifixions into resurrections.