“Building for Builders that Build”
May 21, 2017
By John Partridge*
1 Peter 2:2-10
Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. But then what?
What has be been doing since then?
Have you ever planned a major event?
It could be anything from a backyard neighborhood barbeque, a wedding, a family vacation trip, or a great many other things. If you have, you might begin to appreciate how much planning and preparation are required from the time you have an idea until you finish cleaning up after your big event. Weeks, months, sometimes years of planning are required depending on the size of the event. For example, the invasion of Europe on D-Day was anticipated much earlier than many of us appreciate. Long before the invasion in 1944, the wheels had been set in motion to bring everything that was needed to that place and time so that it was ready when it was needed. Consider for a moment how much planning went into the human beings that were there that day, how many months and years of recruiting, training, purchasing uniforms and other equipment went into preparing the soldiers, marines, sailors, aircrews, glider crews, and so on.
But let’s also take a moment to consider how they all got across the English Channel. The ships that would be needed to invade Europe were conceived and designed as early as 1930, almost a decade and a half earlier, and construction began soon after. By 1940 landing craft of various types were being manufactured in several countries. In the United States alone these ships were being produced at a rate of over 1,000 ships per month. At one point, very near the time of the invasion, the entire effort was postponed by a month or more because there were not yet enough landing craft to carry the troops needed for the invasion.
The planning and preparation for this one day began at least fourteen years in advance in order for all the needed people, skills, equipment, and supplies would be where they needed to be, when they needed to be there. In that time, countless hours and untold billions of dollars were spent in factories, mines, office buildings, highways, and aboard ship by people around the world. All that, planned and coordinated by only a handful of people and a truly global chain of command. All that, to prepare for one war, on one continent, and especially for one day, June 6, 1944.
But as we consider all the planning and preparation that went into D-Day, what does that tell us about events that are even bigger? How much did it take to build the Suez Canal? We know that the construction of the Panama Canal was attempted at least once before the United States finally pulled it off and it still took fourteen years, in addition to the fourteen years that the French had worked on the project before that. Between the French and the Americans, the Panama Canal cost in the neighborhood of $700 million, which if spent today, would be in the neighborhood of $17 billion.
So what’s the point of all this?
As we consider the planning and preparation of such historic endeavors, imagine for a moment what must go into preparing for the return of Jesus Christ, the judgement of the entire world, the arrival of the new Jerusalem, and the coordination and housing of billions of believers in the city of God.
But before we get to all of that, let’s lay out some background from Acts 7:55-60.
55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
After the resurrection of Jesus, Stephen is given a vision in which he sees Jesus, in heaven, standing beside the throne of God. The announcement of this vision, as well as the speech that he had given immediately prior, so enraged the members of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council, that they dragged him outside and stoned him to death. But from this, we confirm that after his departure from earth that Jesus is in heaven, and rules alongside Almighty God.
We also know, from his words recorded in John 14:1-14, that Jesus has work to do while he is there.
14:1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”
5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
In the time of Jesus, homes were often built by the patriarch of the family and then, as children arrived, rooms were added onto the side of the house. When the sons were old enough to get married, they too would build a room for themselves and their new wives, attached to the family house. And then their sons did the same. When we hear the story about the bride lighting a lamp as she awaited her bridegroom, this is the picture that people would have had in their minds. The bridegroom had left, returned to his father’s house, and was building a room for his future family. When he had completed the new room, the groom would return to collect his bride and the wedding went forward. And so, when Jesus says that he is returning to his father’s house to prepare a place for us, this is almost certainly the mental picture that people would have had.
Now imagine the difficulty found in that simple statement.
Jesus has gone to prepare rooms, in his father’s house, for the untold millions of believers throughout history. Granted, this is the creator of the universe, but also consider the preparation that is required here on earth. It took thousands of years to prepare people, nations, and cultures for the moment of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, and the events surrounding his life, death, and resurrection. So I can easily imagine that the same preparations for the end of the world and the second coming are no easy task that can be arranged in an instant of time.
But also note that Jesus says, “12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”
God empowered Jesus to do the work of building his Kingdom. But as Jesus returns to heaven he assigns that work to each one of us. Think about that. Our assignment, our task, our job, is nothing less than the job that was given to Jesus. Our job is to reach the wanderer, rescue the perishing, feed the hungry, heal the sick, clothe the naked, preach the Good News, make disciples of all nations, and build God’s kingdom.
Before we finish, I want to reinforce that point one more time. In 1 Peter 2:2-10, Peter explains who we are and why we do what we do, one more time.
2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For in Scripture it says:
“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone,
and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”
7 Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,
“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”8 and,
“A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.”
They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Peter says that believers are like newborn babies that need to be fed so that they can grow. In order to grow, they need to eat. In order to eat, they need to be fed. All of that seems simple, but it reminds us of several important truths. First, we all start somewhere and where we start, we are like babies. We’re immature, we get things wrong, we do things wrong even when we’re trying hard, and there are a lot of things that we can’t do for ourselves. But those babies need to be fed and more mature believers are expected to help feed them while also taking responsibility to feed themselves. A high school kid who still wants to sit on his momma’s lap and be fed with a bottle would be ridiculous, and the same is true of Christians. Mature believers should be expected to make an effort to feed themselves and not need everything spoon-fed to them. Each of us becomes responsible for our own maturity, and so each of us likewise becomes responsible for studying the scriptures, being fed spiritually, and continuing to grow. Peter says that the expectation is that we would all grow up in our salvation.
As we come to Jesus, he takes us, as if we were living stones, and he is building us into a spiritual house. He desires for us to be, and is building us into, a holy priesthood that can offer spiritual sacrifices to God. Peter says that we “are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession” but he doesn’t stop there. Peter says that we “are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession” so that “you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” We have been called to serve God and to declare to the world the praises of what he has done for us. We are called to be witnesses, disciples, evangelists, so that we can build God’s kingdom.
So let’s review:
Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
He learned a trade from his father Joseph and became a carpenter or a stonemason.
Jesus was a builder.
He was sent to earth by God to build God’s kingdom.
He ascended into heaven where he is, even now, building a place for each one of us.
He has called each of us to take up the task on earth that he left behind.
We have become the builders.
We are now responsible for building God’s kingdom.
And so Jesus is a builder, who is building buildings for builders who build.
Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
And so, as we leave this place today I want us all to remember the task that Jesus has given to us.
Go out into the world, and build people, build them up, build up families, build up communities, help them to grow, help them to become mature spiritually and not just physically. Tell people what God has done for you. Tell people about the Good News of Jesus Christ. Make and mature disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Build God’s kingdom.
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* You have been reading a message presented at Trinity United Methodist Church on the date noted on the first page. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Trinity of Perry Heights in Massillon, Ohio. Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you. Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry may be sent to Trinity United Methodist Church, 3757 Lincoln Way E., Massillon, Ohio 44646. These messages are available to anyone regardless of membership. You may subscribe to these messages by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org. To subscribe to the electronic version sign up at http://eepurl.com/vAlYn. These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.wordpress.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.