We just finished celebrating Resurrection Sunday. For many when asked why Jesus came it is simply to die and rise again. But why? Unfortunately for many the whole point of his death and resurrection is simply so we can go to heaven someday.
While that certainly is the Christian story, Jesus indicated there is more to his death and resurrection than a ticket to heaven.
At one point He talked about being the good shepherd. He said, “I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved.”
But He did not stop at that statement. He added “They will come in and go freely and will find good pastures…My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” The word here in Greek is perisson meaning “exceedingly, very highly, beyond measure, more, superfluous, a quantity so abundant as to be considerably more than what one would expect or anticipate.”
What is this richly satisfying life? In our self-focused society today, we might begin to imagine a large mansion, fancy cars and the latest fashion. There are many TV evangelists that promote this kind of thinking. I have heard that theory called “name it and claim it,” “blab it and grab it,” or “prosperity gospel.”
If Jesus is our example of what it means to follow God, then the abundant life is not about material things. If so, Jesus would have been the richest guy alive. Yet He said He did not even have a place of his own to lay his head. He depended on the generosity of others for his daily needs.
Jesus said that this eternal life is that we would know Him (John 17:3). Abundant life – a rich and satisfying life – is not about material things, not about a successful career, not about a large family, not about popularity – or any of the many other things our culture would suggest brings a richly satisfying life. Rather, it is an ongoing, growing relationship with Jesus.
How do we get to “know” God. Basically the same way we get to know anyone else. By spending time with them and sharing thoughts and concerns and dreams with them. It is a growing process.
When I married my husband, I thought I knew him. Now, after almost 39 years of marriage I realize how much more I know him today than on my wedding day. How did that happen? I have spent 39 years in conversation with him. So as we spend time in prayer, in reading God’s word, in just mediating on what we have read, we grow in our knowledge of God.
This ongoing, growing relationship with Jesus is what the abundant life is all about. While clearly Jesus died and rose again to give us access to forgiveness of our sins and the hope of eternal life in heaven someday, it is more than that. Abundant life begins now – as the death and resurrection of Jesus declares “Come walk with me and know me, have a relationship with me. In this you will find a richly, satisfying life.”