All Roads Lead To Jesus - Ecclesiastes

Ecclesiastes - Jesus Is Our Meaning
Reading: Ecclesiastes 12, John 14:15-31

I’ve done a lot of cool things in my 44 years. I was raised in a Christian home by parents that loved me and my siblings well. Being raised in that context gave me opportunities and privileges to test my abilities, to seek out some of the thrills this life has to offer, to make mistakes, and to pursue my dreams and desires.

I started surfing at 11 years old. I’ve surfed among sharks and dolphins. I’ve surfed in 15-foot hurricane swells and know what it’s like to ride in the curl of the wave. I’ve played my own music on stages to open for big contemporary Christian rock bands. I’ve been in the pit at U2 concerts among 65,000 adoring fans. I’ve been to the other side of the world to meet my daughter and bring her home. I’ve seen the ancient landscapes and the depressing slums of India. I’ve helped build schools on tropical islands. I’ve ridden 108 miles on a bike in one ride. I played volleyball in tournaments against semi-pros and have won. I’ve coached girl’s volleyball and helped build a successful program in high school sports. I’ve fathered five children and have been married for 20 years. I was the lead pastor in planting a church in my hometown and joining a team of men and women to build the first Protestant church building in the town limits within the last 50 years. I’ve walked the red carpet at the biggest movie premiere in recent history. I played hockey on a team with a Philadelphia Flyer who scored one of the game-winning goals on one of the only Flyers’ Stanley Cup-winning teams. I was hit in the groin by that same Philadelphia Flyer while taking warm-up shots in goal – it hurt. Badly. I’ve driven in really fast cars. I’ve owned a bunch of Jeeps. I’ve done some things.

I’ve also had some really bad moments and failures in my life. I’ve treated people poorly from the time I was a child. I’ve shoplifted from stores. I’ve lied to my parents and to my friends. I’ve thought much more highly of myself than I ever should have. I’ve judged others for the same sins that I am guilty of. I have had streaks of laziness. I have tried to wash away pain and sorrow with hedonism. I’ve preached some really bad sermons because I didn’t prepare. I’ve crushed people with words because I knew how to argue and press buttons. I’ve hated. I’ve envied. I have slandered. I have lusted. I have gossiped. I’ve remained silent. I’ve been too loud.

I am not identified by my greatest accomplishments and I am not drowned by my worst moments. Neither my best nor my worst define what I mean to God. My best and worst moments are not my purpose. This is the wisdom of Solomon as he writes Ecclesiastes. Solomon has a much longer list than mine and he could fill both columns with much more robust examples.  I would be willing to bet his list is much more accomplished than your list as well.

Solomon spends the better part of 12 chapters in Ecclesiastes telling us everything that he has done. He doesn’t hold anything back. He has indulged in every success and every sin known to humankind. He has it all and he has done it all. And what does it all mean? Nothing.

At least, it means nothing when considered on its own and apart from God. Solomon concludes that everything under the sun in meaningless. What he proposes is that our view has to change. We mustn’t see our lives from under the sun but rather from the perspective of God who is Lord over all things.

Solomon says that knowledge on its own only leads to sorrow. Indulgence in pleasure, laughter, sex, and money all lead to a striving after the wind. After he indulged in all of the physical pleasures, he said he pursued wisdom but soon realized that both the wise and the foolish aren’t remembered for very long after their death. So, he threw himself into work. But he soon realized that his work would be placed into the hands of someone else once he died. In the end, after his long search, he realized that there is nothing meaningful under the sun. Death comes to us all and life goes on with barely a remembrance of everything we have accomplished.

If this is true of the great and wise King Solomon, what does it mean for us? All of a sudden, I become a very insignificant person in the pit singing with 65,000 fans with 4 dudes on a stage. I am just a weird dude in a Boba Fett costume at a silly movie. I am a weak pastor with weak sermons. I’m poor in comparison to my richer friends. Surfing is just another thing to distract me from doom. Kids are just another potential loss. The fact of the matter is that my accomplishments pale in comparison to King Solomon and his accomplishments pale in comparison to the finality of death. If our purpose and identity are in things and experiences, then we have no meaning at all.

Solomon doesn’t end his thoughts in despair. Instead, at the very end of his musings he writes, “The end of the matter, all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments for this is the whole duty of man.”

This is where we find Jesus in Ecclesiastes. Jesus is our meaning for living. Every step toward Jesus is a step away from meaninglessness. Jesus transforms otherwise meaningless accomplishments and failures into redemptive moments that are part of a much larger redemptive plan. Surfing becomes fellowship with brothers and enjoyment of the Creator. Attending a movie premiere is an opportunity to see more of the world and a stage for the Gospel. Singing with 65,000 fans is a shadow of what awaits in glory when every tribe will gather around a throne that actually means something.

When Jesus was asked to give his opinion as to the greatest law, he responded with something similar to King Solomon. Jesus said the greatest law is to love God with all that we are and to love our neighbors. He said that these two commands sum up all of the law. The law is God’s revealed will for how the world is supposed to work. The law reveals God’s purposes for his creation. We are to glorify God and enjoy him in this life and the next life and we do this by loving him and loving others well.

In John 14, Jesus was teaching his disciples for the last time before he would be betrayed and crucified. He told his disciples in those moments, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Jesus’ commandments are summed up in the greatest commandment to love God and others. The words of Solomon after reflecting on the meaning of life were reverberating into Jesus’ ministry. The whole duty and purpose of humanity is to keep the commandments of God. All of the commandments of God are summed up in the greatest commandment – to love God and others.

Our purpose is not found in our biggest moments or our worst failures. Solomon is right. These moments will pass. Our purpose is found in Jesus and in keeping his commandments. These are eternal purposes with eternal significance.

Whenever we set out to accomplish something or to enjoy God’s creation, it must be with a purpose. That purpose is defined for us in Ecclesiastes which points us to the words of Christ. Our purpose is to love God and to love others with all that we have.

Knowing Jesus is your purpose will transform otherwise meaningless moments into eternal moments. You mean something to God, and that fact alone is worth living.

1 Comment

Angela M. Johnson - March 25th, 2024 at 5:08pm

Ecclesiastes was read @ my husband’s funeral 8 yrs. & 8 months ago. It’s meaning and purpose today is even stronger than it was back then ❤️‍🩹🙏