By Paul Koch –
I love gardening. I had never thought I would love it, even 15 years ago, but I do. I’m not saying that I’m all that good at it either. Though, let’s be honest, it’s somewhat difficult to be a bad gardener when you live in Ventura, California. But I do love it. I find something romantic and beautiful about getting my hands dirty and working the soil. It is a return of sorts to that from which our God has created us. And though I have a gas-powered tiller, automatic watering systems, and convenient drip lines, I am still sharing in a task that goes all the way back to the beginning of humanity. Every seed that is planted in the soil holds the promise of something new, something you cannot yet see, something wonderful.
It is the promise of what each individual seed holds that sits at the core of gardening. The promise of carrots and lettuce and watermelons and tomatoes is what it’s all about. It is what gives a gardener hope. Now, the promise of something new goes far beyond gardening. The promise of the new supplies the joy and hopefulness of many areas of our life. New phones, cars, or homes fill us with excitement and childlike joy, and rightly so. New jobs or new career paths can trigger whole new ways of seeing ourselves and our place in the world. The promise of a new future is exciting. It can embolden us and encourage us. A new relationship can affect how we see the world.
When our Lord came into this world, he came with the promise of something truly new, something that would change the course of history, something that would impact lives around the world. Men knew the law. They knew the commands and the decrees. They were judged by them, held guilty by them. Some loved them, some hated them, but no one could get away from them, and no one could do them. But then the new came, a final sacrifice, a completion, a fulfillment of the old so that the new might triumph. The promise of the new brought hope and confidence. And Jesus himself is the promise of the new, as he takes your sins as his own, as he bears them as if they had always belonged to him and suffers for them all. Upon that cross, high and lifted up he looks out at each of you and declares that the new has come, as he takes his last breath he declares, “It is finished.”
It is finished—the new is here, at least that is what he said. We want it to be so. We want it to be true, but if we are honest, it doesn’t look all that new, does it? If the old was marked by death and disease, sorrow and tears, how is our present any better? Jesus came on the scene driving out demons, healing the sick, and raising the dead, so what about today? What about our demons, our sicknesses, our dead? Why must we mourn the loss of those we have loved so dearly? Why are the children of God plagued with depression and anxiety? How is it that I can sit and talk to a brother in Christ who knows that he is saved, knows that Christ has paid the price for his entry into eternal life, knows that eternal life is his and yet cannot seem to find the strength to go on one more day in this life? His feet feel like they are dragging in the mud and joy runs before him without any hope of catching it.
And so we wonder, just what did he mean when he said that it is finished? I remember many years ago when I was in my last year of study at the seminary. A good friend of mine that had already graduated and been serving a small congregation for a year came to visit me, and when I asked him about the ministry and what it was like to finally be a pastor, he said, “I’ll tell you this: people are sinners.” I laughed and said, something to the tune of “Well that’s sort of the reason why we’re going out there.” But he said, “No, I mean people’s lives are broken and painful and riddled with sin. And not just the ones you think. Even the best looking saints really struggle.” He said, “It’s ugly.” And then I was called into the ministry and realized how unfortunately right he was. Marriages barely hanging on, families fractured and well versed in hurting each other. People making gods out of their jobs or their status or their need to be right. On every single level, there was profound sin. If our Lord finished his work is this what we are left with, is this all there is?
And yet, at the very end of our Bible, at the very end of the book of Revelation, St. John records for us something crucial. He sees the promise that you have been given, a promise that drives right through the heart of your sorrow and discontent and confusion and hurt. What does he see? He says,
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away’” (Rev. 21:1-4).
He sees the fulfillment of the work of Christ. His work was truly finished on the cross, the work of paying for your sins, the work of being the faithful Son of God, the work of opening to all the gates of paradise is finished. But like a seed planted in the ground, we don’t yet see the full fruit of that work. Fully grown, it looks like something truly new, a new heaven and a new earth, a place where God dwell with man, a place where all those struggles, all your suffering all your trials and tears will be forgotten for God himself will wipe away every tear.
So, our Lord says to John, “Behold I am making all things new!” I love that line. He says, “Look do you see it, do you see what I’m doing? Do you see the wonder and splendor of eternal life, do you see the end of sin that would keep you out of the kingdom of heaven? No more pain that causes you to doubt. No more depression, fear, and confusion. No more broken promises and strained relationships. I am making it all new.”
Calvary leads to this. His sacrifice leads to this. His love creates this. And he gives this to you. For free, without payment, he gives it all to you. He promises you something new. Let that promise be your anchor in the storm, your hope in the turmoil of your lives. One day we will see it together. We will see the splendor and the glory of the new in full bloom. We will see those we that have gone before us. We will join in a grand reunion around the throne of our God and we will hear him declare, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment” (Rev. 21:6).