Drowning All Our Knowledge (My Redeemer Lives 4:3)

I like being in the know. Don’t you?

When people bring up topics, I like to think I can keep up with the discussion. The government shut down and economic crisis—of course I know all about it. The plight of children in Sudan—yep, I read about that this morning. The theory that led to the latest Nobel prize for astrophysics— yes, let’s discuss that over coffee this afternoon.

I do not mean to make light of difficult topics, but only to make this point: I do not know all that stuff. In fact, I know very little and I need to be honest about that. We have a problem in this culture that we think we need to know everything. We open our mouths wide instead of admitting that we need to do some checking or that astrophysics really doesn’t interest us, and that’s ok. By admitting we don’t know or aren’t knowledgeable about a topic, we can actually begin to grow and that, my friends, is where the cool stuff really starts.

Today we’re going to drown all our knowledge, so that God can teach us.

Name three things you know very little about:

Mine would be something like…how to speak Mandarin, anything related to lichen, and who is hot right now in Hollywood.

Now, name three things you know quite a bit about:

For instance, I, Heidi, know a fair amount about theological study, the impact of trauma on individuals, and how to cook supper with only a few ingredients that look like they came from a basket on Chopped.

What are your topics you bring out at a dinner party? That kind of thing.

Now notice this…how little you actually know.

Even though I am a theologian, I know only a drop in the bucket about the Bible. Even though I have more than one degree in psychological theories, I am far, far from an expert on any of them; and even though I can make food appear on the table for my family, I still don’t understand what baking powder or baking soda are and how they make baking work.

We all need to learn so much more.

A man named Nicodemus learned this lesson in a conversation with Jesus in John 3:1-15. Note, this is the same follower of Jesus that later (recorded in John 19) went with Joseph of Arimathea and wrapped Jesus’ body in burial clothes and laid Him in the tomb —

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

Nicodemus was a Pharisee, so he really knew stuff, a lot of stuff. Jesus Himself tells him in John 3:10 above,

 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?

He is still in the dark, really, even though the manuscripts of the Old Testament with the prophecies of who Jesus was and what He came for were all laid out before him. How often are we the same way? Everything about Jesus is laid before us. We think we know so much, but really, we’re just babies of the Truth.

Jesus has a different answer though, and, just like Jesus, He gives the answer before He states the problem, so that it’s in our hands, just waiting for us. John 3:5-6 —

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

God drowns everything we think we know, once, in our baptisms.

We die and rise to a new understanding, a new Spirit inside our bones. This resurrection process in baptism brings light into our darkened understanding. We look at the world from a new vantage point—the lens of the believer. We fix our eyes on Him, and He gives us Life eternal.

1 Peter 1:3-4 intricately links our baptisms with this rebirth into resurrection hope —

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you…

We think we are born to learn and grow and gain knowledge and share knowledge and be knowledgeable people, but in Christ there is a new reality.

We are born to be born again.

Twice born means hope. When we remember our baptisms, we remember the resurrection and the resurrection to come.

We know so little in our tiny time and place in history, but God has a bigger plan. We know what we need to know here, for His work in us. We learn and grow each day. We admit when we don’t know something so that we can learn more and grow more and glorify Him with all knowledge.

Then, one day, when He comes again, and we are resurrected with Him, we really will be Know-It-Alls with full knowledge and understanding of all Christ is as Savior and King.

To Him be the glory in the light of our knowledge and in light of just how little we really know.

Light When You Cannot See It (My Redeemer Lives 4:2)

Our family loves meteor showers.

Well, really, it’s my dad. My dad loves meteor showers.

The rest of us love sleep.

I have vibrant memories of my dad waking us up at 1am, 2am, or 4am, whenever the best time for viewing in our area was expected. He would wrap a blanket around each of us and we would climb into the car. We would drive about a quarter mile out into our neighbor’s field, get out of the car, and lay on the hood, all lined up, with our faces turned up to the night sky. Then, it would happen: a speck of light, then another, another, until it felt like all the light was falling out of the sky and filling the space around you. I wanted to catch the falling diamonds with my mouth or in my hands the way children catch snowflakes.

After the shower, as a kid, I wondered how all the stars in the sky could be left hanging, when so many had just fallen out of the sky. How was it we still had light when it has all just fallen and passed away?

As an adult, I found this passage, Job 9:7-10, that gave me my answer:

…who commands the sun, and it does not rise;

    who seals up the stars;

8 who alone stretched out the heavens

    and trampled the waves of the sea;

9 who made the Bear and Orion,

    the Pleiades and the chambers of the south;

10 who does great things beyond searching out,

    and marvelous things beyond number.

Now I know the difference between meteors and stars, between gaseous matter and chunks of blazing stone, but the biblical lesson still holds no matter the substance in the sky we consider.

You can’t take the stars out of the sky, and the sun is still shining even when we cannot see it.

God alone places them in their positions, stretches them out in the galaxies, and plucks white dwarfs out of the sky in their time.

We have such little minds. We continue to believe more easily that which we can see even as we grow from children into elderly.

Likewise, the resurrection of the dead is the easiest thing for us to set aside in our system of beliefs. We relegate it to unimportant, not worth arguing over, and at the very least ignored. We sleep through this important doctrine, when our Father in heaven would teach us and wake us up for His unbelievable and glorious display:

The dead rise at His beckoning. The tombs unseal and Life bursts forth.

Without the resurrection of the dead, we remain in darkness. If death is not defeated in its fullness, what is the point? We could be souls wandering around a heavenly space, but God gives us greater hope. We were made for physical resurrection.

Paul says it better. We find his argument in 1 Corinthians 15:12-28:

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

God is all in all, and we see this vaguely in the stars hanging in the sky even when it’s cloudy and our own vision obscured. We see this more clearly in His Word, like this passage we just read that proclaims Jesus as the firstfruit of resurrection, which means there are the next fruits – each of us raised with Him. One day, we will see this fully: satan stomped underfoot, and our entire world restored. We will be bodily resurrected, with perfect bodies and a celebration like no other. It makes me sit and wonder if the angels praising Him will look like the thousand glimmering specks of meteors I watched with my dad, and there we will be watching them again together, praising together.

“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,

    who was and is and is to come!” (Revelation 4:8b)

Look at 1 Corinthians 15:19 again:

If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

We have hope for so much more than this life, even so much more than heaven. We wait for the resurrection of the dead, which means I will praise and rejoice with my dad one day. This is no small hope.

I want to be a next fruit.

I want to stand on this earth again and sing with sparkling angels and all those who have gone before me.

We preach and teach the resurrection of the dead, something we cannot see, because we do not want to rob people of their hope. God gives light from the stars in the sky and warmth from the sun when we cannot see it, and hope for a life where those same stars will shine for Him again – brighter and more perfect.

The same is true of me and of you. You shine for Him now, even when you cannot see it, but oh, will you shine for Him again, praising Him

who does great things beyond searching out,

    and marvelous things beyond number. (Job 9:10)

with feet firmly planted on resurrection soil.

Night Has Its Work (My Redeemer Lives 4:1)

When I was a small child, I was terrified of the dark. My parents would tuck me into bed and go back downstairs to watch television or talk by the fireplace. I laid awake listening and waiting for something to come and get me. I would creep into the hallway and sit by the railing to the stairway. My parents would find me there an hour or so later when they came up to bed and gently guide me to my cozy pillows and blankets again.

For whatever reason, a nightlight was never enough for me. I wanted the light of my parents’ attention, their love, and, mostly, their presence to fall asleep.

The good news is I have outgrown my fear of the dark. Praise God—I was a little worried there for a while in college! Just joking. 😉

And in becoming a parent, I have noticed just how common a fear of the dark is in small children, and even not-so-small children. Why? Why is it so common, even in homes full of daily care and affection? Why is it just so hard for children to rest peacefully in the dark at night?

I think we can gain some insight into both childhood fears of darkness and all the light the resurrection gives us in one swoop today, by looking at Luke 23:44-47 –

44 It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. 47 Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!”

In this passage we see darkness at its very worst. The Scripture is dead honest in Luke 23:45:

…while the sun’s light failed.

It wasn’t just dark — the sun was not capable of giving light at the moment of Jesus’ death.The Greek root for “failed” in the text is eklipontos, from the word ekleipó meaning to fail utterly, to leave out, to come to an end, defunct.

This is purposeful darkness, and really, since the creation of the world, darkness, alongside light, has been in the hands of our God.

Children do not have the understanding to accompany these considerations. I can say to my children, “God is with you. He’s right beside you.” But for them, my physical presence is what reminds them over and over that God is near. They are learning and growing in the Word as we share it in our home, but God is building understanding and trust in them as well. They are not yet there, just as I am really not yet there when we start talking about metaphorical darkness.

The darkness presses in within our lives and it is easy to forget that God gives purpose to it. Some purposes we will see this side of heaven—light will dawn as we read the Word and God gives us insight and understanding into our situation. For other pieces of darkness in our lives, we will have to wait for understanding to dawn when the New Creation comes with Jesus on the clouds.

What else happened in the moment that the sun utterly “failed” in Luke 23:45? Look back at the passage again to remind yourself.

When the weight of our sin was poured onto Jesus and darkness entered this world in a way it had not seen before, salvation also broke through and brought Light. Hebrews 1:10-13 uses the same Greek root word, eklipontos, to describe the greatness of our Savior in contrast to the world, and even the angels from whom we seek protection in our beds as we lay in darkness:


“You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,
    and the heavens are the work of your hands;
11 they will perish, but you remain;
    they will all wear out like a garment,
12 like a robe you will roll them up,
    like a garment they will be changed.
But you are the same,
    and your years will have no end.”

13 And to which of the angels has he ever said,

“Sit at my right hand
    until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”? (emphasis added)

Darkness feels like an end. Certainly that darkness that enveloped the world at the time of Jesus’ death did for the disciples, for those gathered, but God brings Light, and His name is Jesus. Light is resurrected.

Dr Arthur A. Just, Jr. reminds us in his commentary on the final chapters of Luke, “Here during Jesus’ crucifixion, the darkness signals the imminent conclusion of God’s work of redemption.”

While darkness seems imminent, oh, is Light ever magnificent and eternal.

Night has its work. It is purposeful. God uses even this. Morning will always dawn in Christ Jesus.

Night has its work, but morning will always dawn in Christ.

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Wrapped in Love

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*Arthur A. Just Jr., Luke 9:51–24:53, Concordia Commentary, copyright © 1997 Concordia Publishing House, p. 942. All rights reserved. Used with permission of Concordia Publishing House.