A Second Chance
Sermon by Pastor Josh Van Leeuwen
Introduction by Phyllis Yearick
Where does our redemption story begin? With the cross and the empty tomb? With the babe in the manger and the angel choir singing Hallelujah? Many people outside the faith (and some inside it) whose knowledge of Christianity is shallow and narrow would probably point to one or both of these events. But they would be missing the beginning and most of the middle of the One Great Story, the one told in scripture, God’s love letter to his people. Because our redemption story begins not with an event, but with a promise.
In Genesis, after the creation of the world and the establishment of the first people in a garden paradise where God walked daily in the cool of the evenings and communed directly with humanity, those humans forfeited their intimacy with their creator because of their disobedience. Expulsion from the garden was a high price to pay, but it came with a promise: the offspring of the woman would crush the forces of evil. God disciplined his children, but he did not abandon them, because he is a God of second chances. Later, when the world’s wickedness grew too great to ignore, God did a hard reset, sparing only Noah and his family, giving humanity a second chance.
Time after time, events repeated themselves: God laid down the law, the people followed it for a while then disobeyed, and God disciplined, rescued, and redeemed. Always there were clues about God’s ultimate redemption promise, a Messiah, revealed in prophecies. The coming of the Christ would follow a prescribed timetable. He would be preceded by a prophet like Elijah. He would be a descendant of David, born of a virgin in the town of Bethlehem. He would be the Son of God and the Son of Man. He would do life-affirming deeds. He, though sinless himself, would take on the sins of the world. He would give himself up willingly to suffer, be crucified, and die. He would rise from the dead, vanquishing death. The ultimate second chance for the salvation and redemption of humanity.
Luke, not himself an eyewitness to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, took on the task of researching the accounts of those who had known Jesus and producing an orderly report for the benefit of believers. His report begins with the angel Gabriel’s announcement of the coming of the prophet, John, who would precede the Messiah; the man who, like Elijah, would prepare God’s people for the arrival of their Savior. Luke echoes the Old Testament prophet-priest Malachi: “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. . . . He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers.” He will also restore “the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
The old way of redemption, in which God convicted his people of their sin, the people confessed and offered sacrifices, and God forgave, worked, but it didn’t last. The conviction part was necessary, and the confession part was required, but the sacrifice part fell short. It would take a different sacrifice, a once-and-for-all sacrifice, to satisfy God’s requirement. It would take the Lamb of God. And John would be the man to preach his coming. God’s ultimate second chance for the salvation of his children. The culmination of a redemption story that began thousands of years ago with a promise: evil would not overcome the world. “In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.”
You are welcome at Westview Church! Join us this Sunday morning at 9:30 for worship (Children’s Worship and nursery care available) then stay afterward for Discovery Hour (ages preschool through high school).