The Door to Abundance

I am the Door; if any one enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.                      John 10:9-10

Most of us are familiar with the six-panel wooden door: on each side the top panel is relatively small compared with the two longer panels beneath it.  When I was smaller, my grandfather said that when he grew up in Germany, the name of that pattern was “the Cross and the Open Book,” since the central molding for the top four panels has the shape of a cross, while the bottom two panels suggests a book lying open.  In many ways it reflects our text where Jesus declares that He is “the Door.”

No matter if you are entering or leaving, each time you are confronted with the Cross, as well as how it rises out of the Bible’s two Testaments.  There are many different spiritual thoughts which this can evoke: for example, in order to enter, you can only do so through the benefits won by Jesus on the Cross, and if you choose to leave, although you may turn your back on the Cross and its blessings, the Door always remains available.  In a slightly different concept, whether you enter the comfort and safety of the home, or head out to confront the world, you must do so by realizing that Jesus with all He has won goes with you.

Similarly, for hundreds of years, an old Europe tradition for the celebration of Epiphany, the family would write with chalk the first two digits of the year, which today would be “20,” then a Cross, then “C” (or “K) ,” then again a Cross, then “M” and another Cross, then “B” and another Cross, and finally the last two digits of the year, which presently would be another “20.”   [20+C+B+M+20]

On one hand, the letters stand for “Christus mansionem benedicat,” Latin for “Christ blesses [this] house”; on the other hand, they also stand for “C(K)aspar, Melchior and Balthazar,” the traditional names for the Magi who humbly came seeking Him Who was born the King of the Jews.  The interspersed Crosses are the reminder that both house and time are under the guidance of the Lord, the year of course reminding how even time has been indelibly marked by the birth of the Savior of mankind.

Doing this has a powerful tie-in for those who know Bible history: in Egypt at the first Passover [Exodus 12], a lamb was slain, by hanging it from the house’s only window, a small ventilation opening above the only doorway to the house, and as the blood drained onto the threshold, hyssop would be used to sweep up the blood and paint it on the doorposts and lintel of the entrance.

The house now became a sacred refuge in which the People of God could rest in safety and protection from the angel of death which would visit Egypt that night.  Death could not touch anyone who entered through and under the Blood of the Passover Lamb.  So going back to the chalk on the front door, not only did it indicate blessing on the occupants of the house, but also that spoke of the greatest blessing which marks today’s People of God, that we have entered into the security of Jesus against death, Satan’s power, and the destruction of sin’s rebellion.

All these reminders point us to the depth behind especially the text read before: “I am the Door; if any one enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

“Abundance” – it comes from the Latin undō – the picture is that of surging, swelling; rising in waves, as of waves of flood waters “undulating,” overflowing, and splashing in every direction.  What do you think of when Jesus uses the word “abundance”?  success, living well in this world, having a problem-free existence; never doing without; being free of pain, suffering, problems, confusion, resistance and grief?

But how often have our lives instead experienced the opposite of these things?  Now with the COVID-19 quarantine, how many are experiencing real hardship financially?  Is Jesus then simply speaking of some sort of “pie-in-the-sky” existence in heaven, some sort of vague glittering generality which is really unrelated to our life here on this earth?

Well, what had Jesus contrasted “abundant life” with?  He said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.”  In the Greek, the word “destroy” is what is translated as “perish” in John 3:16: “that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but has eternal life.”  The verb tenses in 3:16 are important!  “Has eternal life” is present tense – it begins right now.  Is that being overconfident??   About as bold as St Paul in Romans 8 saying: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit..”
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How is that possible?  Well, that’s why we started with Jesus being the Door as represented by “the Cross and the Open Bible,” and the chalked date separated by Crosses.  It is through the Cross we have absolute assurance of forgiveness, with such confidence in the attitude of God Who would send His most-beloved only-begotten Son to pay the debt of our rebellion, which gives us such an unshakeable foundation to our certainty  It never was anything we accomplished or deserved, it was entirely based upon the God “Who so loved the world.”  And as we lay ourselves into His hands, the result is a growing peace, or as the Hebrew word means, “wholeness” to our lives, with a freedom which cannot be stolen by any tragedy, failure, or disappointment in this world.

No mistake can hold us down, no sin has any right to enslave us, no fear has any power to rule us – we will not perish!  We will not be destroyed!  We have the freedom to step beyond our sins, to step beyond being locked up by guilt, to step beyond being immobilized by the terror of doing something wrong – we will not perish!  Now instead of a narrow little tunnel of right in a vast darkness of wrong, suddenly everything is flooded with the light of the Door opened for us, with a wealth of possibilities available in Jesus Christ.  This is something that no thief, nor Satan, nor the world, can destroy, not by snide comment, nor by show of force, nor by nagging guilt.

“To kill” in the Greek also means “to sacrifice” and is the root word for describing Jesus’ sacrifice – the Passover Lamb Who was slain for us – AND also the word used when St Paul bids us to “present [our] bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is [our] reasonable service” (Romans 12:1).  “Abundant life” does not kill, but rather it comes like a fountain out of the heart of God in the sacrifice of Jesus, which as it flows through our lives compels us to selflessly touch other lives as well.

Isn’t it true that our greatest satisfactions come as we extend ourselves to help someone else, when we care about someone else, share with them ourselves, our time, our lives!  To see relief in someone’s eyes, to see a smile on what had been a distressed face, to hear the delight in the once-breaking voice – these are things that fill life to saturation – to abundance!  And then to humbly realize that this is what the Lord has done for us as well, for OUR delight and joy, this is an overflowing abundance which springs from Jesus’ proven commitment on the Cross.  As we cling to the Door Jesus has opened for us, no thief can rob us of the fulfillment and joy we experience in lifting up others in their needs.

Ironically, for our “abundant life”, Jesus has stolen from the thief Satan – He stole the victory right out from under Satan’s nose.  Satan had pulled out all the stops, had done his dirtiest, and brought his rebellion to its grand climax as he led Jesus to the Cross, there to crucify God Himself.  Yet it was this very death which destroyed Satan, robbing him of his most powerful weapons against mankind.  Even in death, Jesus was shown to be in control, as having the last say.

For our abundant life, it means that there is no situation, no crisis, no tragedy which is out of Jesus’ control.  Even when things seem very bleak, the Cross followed by the Resurrection stands as a stark reminder that Satan’s power and destruction has been stolen and Satan has only a crumbling shell which remains.  But for OUR abundant life, this means that Jesus’ ability to steal the victory from under Satan’s nose has been given to us.  As we bring someone to meet Jesus, as we sabotage Satan’s control of other people’s lives, as we thwart Satan’s oppression, we experience abundant joy as we join in on God’s work of salvation.

The story is told of Michelangelo who came one day into the studio of Raphael and looked at one of Raphael’s early drawings.  Then he took a piece of chalk and wrote across the drawing, amplius, which means greater, larger.  Raphael’s plan was too cramped and narrow, I believe that just as Michelangelo looked at the work of Raphael, so God looks down on our lives and wants to write amplius:  greater, larger.

We can afford to think that way.  When John says in 3:16, “whosoever believes in Him,” declares that there are no locks on the Door which provides abundant life.  Or to put it a different way, the Crosses in the chalked inscription on the house door are also plus signs, bearing witness to the abundant overflowing limitless mercy and grace – the fullness of God’s love and total redemption of every corner of our life, of every the flood of God’s abundance overflows and splashing in every direction.  As even more evidence is found right here at the Table of the Lord, where here is access to the wealth of Jesus’ every promise, every privilege, every power, every freedom, every delight in the Father’ will.

And now as we go in and out, we have the reminder in the Cross and Open Bible, of Jesus saying to us every time as we pass through this Door, “Yes, as you face the storms of suffering, the tumults of temptation, the wreckages of weakness, you have nothing in you.  But I am perfect Power, I am perfect Love, I am Faith, I am your life, I am the preparation for the blessing, and then I am the Blessing, too.  I am all within and all without and all forever – ‘I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.’ ‘”

And now as we pass through the doors of this worship, we find we can proclaim with St Paul, “I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me, and gave Himself for me” [Galatians 2:20].  What a wonderful joy to have such abundance, such pluses in our homes, our years, and our lives through the wide open Door of Jesus, His love, His Cross, and all His promises.

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