Now that Christ has come, I wonder how many ways there are for us to think of ourselves as God’s people. I wonder how many models or analogies we can find in the Bible. Here are just a few that we have encountered in recent weeks:
- On the Fourth Sunday of Easter, Jesus told us that he is the Great Shepherd and we are the sheep. That’s a tremendous comfort for us, especially to those of us who are prone to getting lost, or who need to be carried for awhile by our loving Saviour because we just can’t do it by ourselves.
- On the Fifth Sunday of Easter, Jesus taught us that he is the vine and we are the branches. That means that our life is a product of God’s vitality. It’s also pretty clear that God wants us to bear fruit.
- Or how about friends? On the Sixth Sunday of Easter, Jesus assured us that no longer are we strangers. Because of Jesus himself, the Truest Friend, we are friends of God (like Abraham), friends to one another, and friends to a friendless world.
- In one of the alternate lessons for Pentecost Sunday, St. Paul tell us that we are all adopted. He wrote this to the Christians in Rome in order to emphasize that apart from Christ we are like slaves, and that God sent the only beloved son in order to claim us as adopted children. In the Roman world, adopted children could not be disinherited. Paul is proclaiming that, because of Jesus Christ, we are God’s … forever.
- That ties in with what Jesus says in the gospels. He says that his Heavenly Father is the Father of us all. What could be closer or dearer than the love of a true and faithful family?
And now, today we are plunder. Today we are like the treasure in the great estate of a wealthy and powerful man. He takes all kinds of measures to secure his treasure. It would take a very powerful force to break into that strong man’s house and seize his plunder. Well, look out — here comes the plunderer. His name is Jesus! And you and I are the plunder. We are stolen property.
At the beginning of the gospel story Jesus is driven by God’s Spirit out into the wilderness to do battle with Satan. There Jesus is tested. And there Jesus prevails. Let’s take note, now: at the beginning of the gospel story, Jesus wins the battle with Satan.
The evil spirits and demons know it. They know he is already the victor. When Jesus shows up to cast them out, sometimes they implore him not to destroy them. They know who he is, and they know of his power. Finally comes the Plunderer! He has come to break into the household of the strong man, bind him, and steal his treasure.
Only trouble is, the plunder does not necessarily want to be taken.
First it’s the biological family of Jesus. Now, they heard that people had been saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” People said this because he cast out demons, and broke the law prohibiting work on the sabbath, which included gathering food and healing. His mother and brothers heard of it. So they tried to restrain him in his home in Capernaum.
I imagine they thought they were doing good for the community and doing good even for Jesus himself. In reality, though, they were trying to thwart the redeeming will of God, incarnated in Jesus Christ.
And then there’s the religious leadership – the scribes, the experts in the law. They inferred that Jesus must be casting out demons by Satan. And that’s when Jesus says, in parables, that he cannot be possessed by the prince of the demons, or in any way be allied with him; for if he were, he would not be able to triumph over the demons. No, he says (still in parables), he is the one who came to bind Satan so that he might plunder his house.
By this point his family just can’t take anymore. Standing outside his house, they send for him. When Jesus receives the message from his family, he says, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
Enter the Plunderer, the Anointed One of God, Jesus Christ. He is the stronger one who comes to bind the strong man in order to plunder his house. He comes to claim Satan’s possessions for his own. Because of the rebellion of Adam and Eve, Satan’s “possessions” includes everything in the world that God had created. But stronger than Satan’s claim of ownership is the claim of Christ the Redeemer: whomever Jesus frees and now does God’s will is now a possession of Jesus. You and I are members of the household of God.
Let’s take a closer look at Jesus’ method of plundering. It surprises us. He doesn’t take us by force. He doesn’t pull a sword from a sheath. Instead he wields the sword of his mouth. Jesus claims you and me by forgiving sin. Jesus lavishes the tender love and mercy of his heavenly father by absolving us of our brokenness, our alliance with Satan. By sheer grace he brings us onside, onside with God the Heavenly Father.
That as much as anything provokes the wrath of those possessed by Satan. And still Jesus refuses to exercise the kind of power that he used to banish the demons. He contains his divine wrath. He suffers his Heavenly Father’s will and the world’s resistance. He submits to our outrage. Hence the cross and the grave.
And then – because God just won’t quit! – then the Resurrection. God tricks Satan just when Satan thinks that he has won. God plunders the tomb, and raises Jesus as God’s prized possession. By the Spirit, God baptizes us into Jesus’ death and resurrection, forgiving our sin and raising us up as new creatures – now with God’s heart and mind, so that we, too, do the will of God and take up our place in the holy family.
We are the plunder that God has been yearning for. We bear the mark of the cross upon our brow. We carry in our bodies the victory that is ours by the holy promise. We live by that promise; we live by that faith.
As we walk by faith, possessed by God’s Spirit and transformed with God’s heart and mind, we will enact God’s will. We will seek the common well-being, so that all may share in the abundance of God’s creation.
And we will tell Good News! We will tell of Jesus Christ, the Holy Plunderer who has entered our world to claim us and all that we have – yes, even our institutions of religion and our families! Jesus is the hope of the world. Through him peace is restored between heaven and earth, and between you and me.
Jesus has plundered even our hearts and minds, our tongues, our feet, our hands, our possessions, and whatever we think is most important to us – all for the sake of the world God loves so dearly.
Because of Jesus, we are now God’s treasure. God won’t let us go, because God wants to employ this treasure so that God can lavish divine riches upon all the world.
Apart from the good news of Jesus Christ, I never knew I was so valuable. How about you?