Is Jesus About Life To The Full?

Life in The Oval Office

John F. Kennedy (JFK) is one of the most famous of the US presidents. During his relatively brief term in office (1961–63), at the height of the Cold War, he was also probably the most powerful man in the world. During the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, JFK came as close as anyone has ever come to pressing the button to launch nuclear missiles across the globe. With decisions like that being made in the Oval Office, you can understand that it was well protected. Most people didn’t have even a slim a chance of getting in. Those few people who did needed all sorts of special permissions and high-level security clearances. It was not just anyone who got to enter the most influential office in the world to talk with the most powerful man in the world.

There were, however, two people who could get into the Oval Office anytime they wanted. In fact, these two people had such privileged access that they didn’t even need to knock. And they were so relaxed in JFK’s presence that they regularly kicked a soccer ball around the room and played hide-and-seek under the presidential desk.

I’m talking, of course, about JFK’s two kids.

John F. Kennedy was not only the president. He was also a father. Both of his kids were still young when he had the job, so it was only natural that they played freely with their dad in his office, even if most other people in the world would have never been allowed to enter it. JFK was obviously extremely busy as president, but by all reports he was still incredibly generous with his time towards his kids. At that stage of their lives, the Kennedy kids probably didn’t understand much about who their dad was. But they had an amazing relationship with a powerful and generous father.

Jesus On God Our Father

Jesus spoke about God as a heavenly Father. These are words from Jesus, from his famous ‘Sermon on the Mount’:

Would any of you give your hungry child a stone, if the child asked for some bread? Would you give your child a snake if the child asked for a fish? As bad as you are, you still know how to give good gifts to your children. But your heavenly Father is even more ready to give good things to people who ask. (Matthew 7:9–11)

Jesus talks about God in a way that is completely different to how we often imagine him. Remember the Santa Claus god: nice and friendly and all, but not really involved in everyday life in the real world? Or the SMITE god: uninterested and distant, watching us just enough to punish us every now and then? The way Jesus talks about God is completely different to both of those common ideas. According to Jesus, God is not out to get us. Quite the opposite. God is a generous father. He loves to give good gifts to his children.

At the same time, according to Jesus, God is also awesomely powerful. A little earlier in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus put it like this:

Look at the birds in the sky! They don’t plant or harvest. They don’t even store grain in barns. Yet your Father in heaven takes care of them … Look how the wild flowers grow. They don’t work hard to make their clothes. But I tell you that Solomon with all his wealth wasn’t as well clothed as one of them. God gives such beauty to everything that grows in the fields, even though it is here today and thrown into a fire tomorrow. God will surely do even more for you! (Matthew 6:26–30)

Can you see what Jesus is saying here? God feeds the birds. God clothes the flowers. Jesus’ words here echo the famous story from the first part of the Bible (the ‘Old Testament’) about how God made everything that exists. Jesus clearly took that story seriously. He knew that God brought the universe into being out of nothing. But here Jesus pushes the point even further. He says that God didn’t merely make the world and forget about it. God breathes life into the world every day. God is the one who makes the sun rise, and God is the one who sends the rain. His awesome power makes the US president look like a grasshopper. But amazingly, God is not distant or remote. This is his world, after all, and he is the one who keeps it going every day. According to Jesus, God knows and cares about every detail of his world, including every detail of each of our lives – even down to the number of hairs on our heads! (Matthew 10:30).

According to Jesus, God is neither a cosmic Santa Claus nor a giant killjoy. He is a powerful and generous father. He made the world, and because he loves us, he keeps it going every day.

God & Science

At this point, you might be thinking ‘how does all of this fit with what we know from modern science?’ ‘What about the big bang?’ ‘What about everything that science has taught us about how the world works?’ These are good questions, and it is only natural that we ask them. Our culture has trained us to think that science and the Christian faith are enemies, or even that science has somehow ‘disproved God’. To many people, it seems that if you want to believe in God, you have to ignore everything we have learned from science.

But this simply isn’t true.

To begin with, there are many scientists who are convinced that the God Jesus spoke about is real. Professor Graeme Clark, for example, who is perhaps Australia’s most well-known scientist, is a committed Christian believer. Professor Clark invented the ‘bionic ear’, which incredibly enables some deaf people to hear. There is no doubt that the work Professor Clark does is science at its best. But he has also written a book titled Science and God: Reconciling Science with the Christian faith. Despite the fact that many people think that science and faith can’t go together, Professor Clark is on public record as saying this: ‘I think that one can reconcile the two [science and Christian faith] – they’re different levels of explanation.

This is a helpful point of view. Science and Christian faith are not enemies, but ‘different levels of explanation’.

A simple example might help. If you ask a Christian scientist why it rains, they will give you two answers at two different ‘levels of explanation’. First, they will say ‘God sends the rain’. But if you push them to explain, they will say, ‘God works through the complex processes of the water cycle to send the rain.’ If you push them further again, they’ll start talking about precipitation, evaporation, condensation, transpiration and all the fascinating and complex processes that help to explain how water moves around the globe.

The results of modern science fit within the Christian faith like a hand in a glove. The Christian faith says that this is God’s world, that he made it, and that he keeps it going every day. It offers answers for the bigger questions in life like ‘Who made us?’ and ‘What is the point of life?’ Science fits well with this. It explores the details of God’s world. It helps us answer the detailed questions about ‘what’ things are and ‘how’ things work. So Christian faith and science are not enemies. They go hand in hand. You don’t need to choose between God and science.

But What About ‘Miracles’?

Thinking about God and science like this also helps us to make sense of the amazing events in the world that are sometimes called ‘miracles’. You see, if God is the one who oversees all of the detailed processes in our world that we study in science, it makes sense that he could also overrule them anytime he wants to.

This is certainly how Jesus viewed the world. According to Jesus, what we think of loosely as the ‘laws of nature’ are best explained as the result of God sustaining the world, keeping things ticking along in his world in an orderly and predictable way. If this is true – if it is ultimately God who makes the water cycle happen, for example – then there is no reason why God can’t control the weather in some spectacular way every now and then. In the same way, if it is ultimately God who keeps our hearts pumping and our lungs breathing, then there is no reason why God can’t heal a sick person or even raise someone back to life from the dead. From a modern point of view, these things seem to go against the ‘laws of nature’. But if the ‘laws of nature’ are our modern scientific way of talking about God sustaining the world, there is nothing more natural than ‘miracles’. ‘Miracles’ are God deciding to do things differently every now and then.

God & Science

The Life Of The Party

With all of that on board, we’re now in a position to consider Jesus’ miracles. The Gospels report that Jesus performed many miracles, but I’ve chosen the following one because the Gospel of John presents it first and suggests that it takes us right to the heart of what Jesus came to do.

This miracle – John calls it a ‘sign’ – occurred when Jesus, his disciples and his mother had been invited to a wedding feast.

Three days later Mary, the mother of Jesus, was at a wedding feast in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited and were there. When the wine was all gone, Mary said to Jesus, ‘They don’t have any more wine.’ Jesus replied, ‘Mother, my time hasn’t yet come: You must not tell me what to do.’ Mary then said to the servants, ‘Do whatever Jesus tells you to do.’ At the feast there were six stone water jars that were used by the people for washing themselves in the way that their religion said they must. Each jar held about 100 litres. Jesus told the servants to fill them to the top with water. Then after the jars had been filled, he said, ‘Now take some water and give it to the man in charge of the feast.’ The servants did as Jesus told them, and the man in charge drank some of the water that had now turned into wine. He did not know where the wine had come from, but the servants did. He called the bridegroom over and said, ‘The best wine is always served first. Then after the guests have had plenty, the other wine is served. But you have kept the best until last!’ This was Jesus’ first miracle [sign], and he did it in the village of Cana in Galilee. There Jesus showed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.” (John 2:1–11)

The details of this story are staggering. Jesus didn’t just turn a little water into wine. He turned heaps of water into wine – about 600 litres or 300 x 2-litre milk bottles’ worth of water into wine! Not only that, but Jesus turned the water into top quality wine, better than anything that had been served at the wedding party up until that point!

Jesus often introduced people to God at parties like this. In fact, according to the Gospels, Jesus had a reputation for being the life of the party. He loved people, and he loved enjoying the good stuff in life with them. His habit of celebrating with people even gained him a reputation for being a man who ‘eats and drinks too much!’ (Matthew 11:19). That was certainly unfair, but it does make the point: when Jesus turned the water into wine at the wedding party, it was just one example of how he celebrated the good stuff in life.

Jesus & The God Of Life

There’s more to say about this, however, because Jesus lived this way and performed this miracle for a reason. Once, when Jesus summed up the purpose of his mission, he put it like this: ‘I came so everyone would have life, and have it fully’ (John 10:10).

Jesus teaches us here that God made the world to be a place full and overflowing with life, a place that would reflect God’s great generosity and power. He knew that food and drink, friends and family, health and sex, art and beauty, are all good gifts from God to us. This is the reason why Jesus spent so much time celebrating with people.

But even more than that, Jesus knew that life is lived best when we live it with God. Jesus therefore announced that it was his life’s mission to introduce people to the creator of the universe, the one he called ‘Father’. This is the most significant reason why he turned the water into wine. He did it as a signpost to show people that he had come to give us life, and life to the full: life with God.

The Good Stuff In Your Life:

It is worth getting your head around this. A lot of people seem to think that God is on a mission to make life dull and boring. I’m not sure where people get this idea from, but it clearly doesn’t fit with what Jesus said about God or how Jesus lived his life. What Jesus shows us is that life is best when we live it with God.

What’s more, if Jesus is right, then it means that when you look out on the world and see anything good at all, you can be sure that it is a gift from God to us. If you sit down one day  and make a list of all the stuff you love most about life (family, friends, music, sport or whatever), then you can also thank God for all of it because it all ultimately comes from him. For me, the most precious part of my life is my family, and especially my wife. And because I’m sure Jesus is right, I have no doubt that – as random as it seemed at the time – it was God who got me into cycling, God who put me on that bike ride when I was in Year 10 and God who introduced me to Lynette.

Deep down, I think most of us know this. The good things in life are not here by accident. They are gifts from God. That’s why, when something really great happens, we feel the urge to say ‘thank you’ to express our gratitude to the Somebody or Something that made it happen.

Jesus called that Somebody his heavenly Father. He saw it as his life’s mission to introduce us to him. So, if you are starting to feel you would like to get to know him more, then now wouldn’t be a bad time to tell him so. Maybe, before you keep reading, you could say something like this:

Father God,

Thank you that you love us, and you love to give us good gifts.
Thank you for all the good things in my life.
Please show me more of yourself, so that I can get to know you better and learn how to live my life with you.

This article was originally published by Bible Society Australia. 

1.5 Billion people do not have access to the Bible in their own language – and for others, it is a sad reality that the Word of God is simply out of reach for them, either due to costs or simply because it is just not available. YOU can make a difference…

1.5 Billion people do not have access to the Bible in their own language – and for others, it is a sad reality that the Word of God is simply out of reach for them, either due to costs or simply because it is just not available. YOU can make a difference…