All Roads Lead To Jesus - Ezra
Reading - Nehemiah 8, Romans 6
I had a terrible thought this morning while talking to my wife. I’m going to die. I am closer to that death every day. I am closer than I ever wanted to imagine. I am 44. If all goes well, I may have just a little more than those 44 years left. Things get really morbid when I think in terms of decades. In the same amount of time that I have already been married, if all goes well, I might be thinking about retirement. And in double that amount of time, I might be looking at my final days or if things go really well, my final years. If things go well.
These kinds of middle-aged thoughts can terrorize a man. Sometimes, they terrorize me. Terror is all about freedom. When we are afraid we don’t feel free. The problem is that all human beings are never free from the terror of death. Not on their own. After all of the distractions, the debating, the really non-critical but so very critical to us in the moment things, we all know it’s going to be us one day. It will be our family on the go fund me page. It will be our Facebook wall where friends and family leave thoughts and prayers. It will be our expiration date. We are all captives to these thoughts at times because we are all captive to our own expiration date.
What if, hear me out, our date with death, was our departure for the home we have always longed for? What if we didn’t have to fear home because home is where we will be truly free?
It was time to go home. Israel had been in captivity for a generation in Babylon. But now Babylon had fallen and the new King, Cyrus, made a new decree. In waves, the Jews living in a foreign land were sent back home. The first wave had begun to rebuild the temple and their homes but they soon fell into sin.
Ezra was a a descendant of the last High Priest of the first temple in Jerusalem. He had a long history of leading the people of God in worship and so it was no strange thing for the people to look to him as a leader. He would lead the second wave home.
He had no time for infidelity to Yahweh. He reintroduced Israel to the Law of Moses upon their return with great strictness. So much for separation of church and state. That wasn’t a thing in ancient Israel. When Nehemiah returned to oversee the reconstruction of the walls around Jerusalem he had Ezra read the law to all of the people. In those moments, things changed for the former exiles. They recommitted themselves to Yahweh and His covenant and there was a renewal throughout the nation.
Ezra points us to Jesus because Jesus is the perfect priest that leads us to freedom. Not only is Jesus a better priest but he leads us into a better freedom. As a priest both Ezra and Jesus made intercession for God’s people through sacrifice and prayer. They both spoke for God. But none of Ezra’s sacrifices actually atoned for the sin of God’s people. Ezra was an imperfect man who spoke imperfectly. Unlike Ezra, Jesus’ sacrifice of his body and blood on the cross was a once-for-all sacrifice that ended the need for any more shed blood. When Jesus spoke he delivered the perfect word of God because he is God.
Jesus has freed us in many ways, but I want to mention three of them. First, The freedom that Jesus provided to us as a our priest is freedom from the power of sin. We can overcome sin in our lives through his work us. Second, His freedom has delivered us from the guilt of sin. Without his priestly work we are still under the just judgment of God. Through faith in Jesus we are united to him and his work. We died on that cross with Christ and our sins are forgiven. Because Jesus is the priest who leads us to freedom from the power and guilt of sin he Is also leading us be free from the terror of our expiration date.
I am absolutely sure that the Jews that left with the second wave with Ezra to go back to Jerusalem thought of Babylon as their home. Sure, they were second class citizens, a bit persecuted, and had never experienced the freedom and glory of being a free people in their own land. But it was home. It was what they knew. Ezra was going to lead them to something better. He was leading them back home.
Jesus is leading us to a better land where death has no power. He too but better than Ezra, is leading us home. I know that I am united to Jesus and that one day the dread and terror of death will no longer be a thing for me. Every day I get closer to that expiration date, I am getting closer to my real home. When my eyes and heart and affection are truly set on Jesus and His Kingdom, I am not afraid. But like Peter, when I try to navigate the rough waters of this world and middle-age-death-thoughts on my own, I sink.
We’re all going home one day. That doesn’t need to fill us with dread. The road there may be uncertain but the promises of God in Christ are sure.
“In my Father’s house are many rooms. I am going there to prepare a place for you.”
As we get older we yearn more and more for our home in heaven. I am 66 and rejoice in my Heavenly Father who has been faithful and so patient with me. Our human nature can cause us to fear and I am thankful for God’s word and his promises. That is why we must always approach God with faith because only He can help us with our fears. Seeking to remain in Jesus every day.