Following on from the last blog, and the need for those who rejected Jesus the first time he came to realizing he is, in fact, the greatest blessing they could possibly have so that the next time he comes they totally welcome him rather than reject him, how do they reach that point?
How do any of us reach that point for that matter? From either not knowing about Jesus at all, or not wanting to know anything about him – and for some even hating the mention of his name – what creates that change of heart toward him?
Paul, for instance, wanted to wipe Christianity out. He admitted to being “the worst of sinners,” because of his outright blasphemy and violent persecution of Christians (1 Timothy 1:13 and 16). Could you find a more evil man in all human history so deserving of eternal torment in hell than Paul? No? Good, because he now becomes the perfect example of someone who can and did reach that point of seeing Jesus as a blessing, and not an object to hate.
So what happened to get Paul to that point? Fortunately, Paul himself answers that for us. First and foremost, verse 13, “I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.” It was mercy based on Luke 23:34 when Jesus, hanging on the cross, asked his Father to “forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And Paul was just such a person. He had no idea he was venting his fury on Jesus when making life hell for Christians. And even if someone had told him that’s what he was doing he wouldn’t have believed it. “Ignorance and unbelief” on his own admission had blinded Paul to any acceptance of personal blame for his actions, or that he was committing a hate crime against his Creator.
But that made him into the perfect explanation for what, at heart and core, Jesus came for and longs for. Jesus “came into the world to save sinners,” 1 Timothy 1:15. That does not take away from, or dilute, the clear fact that Jesus fully accepted we humans deserve hell and destruction (Romans 9:22) and that justice demands no sin goes unpunished (Romans 3:25), but his Father had sent him to save us, not condemn us (John 3:17). And being his Father’s beloved Son he shared his Father’s desire, 1 Timothy 1:14, to pour out his grace abundantly by filling Paul with faith and love. And this is what transformed Paul from rejecting Jesus to seeing Jesus as a great blessing. It was, and could only be, by God’s doing.
But is that fair that God did that for Paul but not for others who reject Jesus and deserve hell? But God’s reason for it was to set Paul up as an example, or better put a gigantic billboard, that Jesus’ patience is “unlimited,” verse 16, a point well worth noting for those who believe God has a ‘deadline’ for sinners to repent, or else.
Because why else would someone come round to seeing Jesus as a blessing? Why would anyone contemplating “believing on Jesus and receiving eternal life,” verse 16, follow that up if all they see and hear of Jesus are his dire threats to the religious and political leaders of his day, and not what he did for Paul, the very “worst” of them?
That’s why it’s so important that we give a full and clear description of Jesus, that he’s all for justice, oh yes, but all for mercy too. He is his Father’s Son, sent by the Father to demonstrate and reveal God’s undying love for humanity. How? Through the worst and biggest monster of all time, Paul, who would have destroyed Christianity in its infancy if given the chance to.
And in seeing that, with God’s help, it dawns on people, buried in their ignorance and unbelief, that there really is a living Being above all this mess who loves us that much. He may be invisible to us, yes, verse 17, but he also makes himself real through the faith and love he fills us with for his Son, so that we can truly see him as the greatest blessing ever bestowed on us humans.