Strangers No More

17 Apr Strangers No More

The discovery of Narnia is one of the most familiar scenes in children’s literature. Lucy enters the wardrobe and finds a world in which it is “always winter and never Christmas.” This theme in The Chronicles of Narnia is revealed through the metaphor of a door to another place. For C.S. Lewis, our experience suggests that our destiny is in another place but that we are presently on this side of the door!

Lewis had already visited this theme in The Pilgrim’s Regress. The central character is the pilgrim John and he has a vision of an island that evokes a tremendous longing. To understand this longing is, for Lewis, central to our experience. This desire reveals the complexities of our human nature and desires. We yearn for something tangible, for a place to call home, but nothing can seem to fulfill it. The Pilgrim John realizes that he is ultimately looking for the landlord, not the land. This theme of “longing for home” is not new – it is intertwined throughout the story of the Scriptures.

I feel for Abraham in Genesis 23. He is grieving the loss of his wife and he inquires about the purchase of a suitable burial site. He acknowledges himself to be a stranger, a resident alien. He knows that he does not have the right to the land. The pathos is that at the end of his life, our father, Abraham, would be known as a stranger and a sojourner, an alien and a nomad. Sarah, Abraham and Isaac and Rebekah and Leah and Jacob would all be buried in this cave on this plot, the first purchase of ground possessed by Abraham in the land of promise.

Hebrews 11 illustrates this orientation: “By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow-heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. And then again in verse 16, “They desire a better country, that is a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.”

The tough lesson of Passover is that this world is not our home. In the context of the Gospels, my Jewish people were home, the exile had ended, but they were not home. Something was incomplete; the world and Israel still needed to be redeemed. There was hope for the consolation of Israel (Luke 2:25 – 35). In every Jewish celebration, we remember the longing for our homeland and our Temple. From the words in the Haggadah to the breaking of a glass at a wedding, we acknowledge that we are not yet home.

The crucifixion must have been the devastation of that hope for His followers. This seems to explain why the two disciples on the road to Emmaus were arguing so vigorously. As biblical scholar N.T. Wright describes: “They had been traveling up a road that they thought was leading to freedom, and it turned out to be a cul-de-sac.” [1]The response from Jesus was to tell the story of Moses and the Prophets to show that within the historical promises, there was a pattern: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). This was the correct story. In this story was this truth: The Kingdom was here. Even after the events of the resurrection the followers of Jesus were still waiting for home: “Then they gathered around him and asked him, Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel? (Acts 1:6)

Jesus’ followers thought that the end of the saga was going to happen with Jesus and they were disappointed, “We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21). The response from Jesus was to tell the story of Moses and the Prophets and to show that the promises had a pattern to them, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke  24:27). This was the correct story. In this story was this truth: the Kingdom was here. All of our hope and longing was fulfilled in Yeshua, the Promised One of Israel. The Kingdom of God had come, it is here and it is yet to come.

Are you longing for home? We all are. We are home in the sense that we belong to the God of Israel. Like Lucy and the Pilgrim John we look at the wardrobe knowing that something is on the other side. We have found the landlord!

[1] N.T. Wright, “The Resurrection and the Postmodern Dilemma,” N.T. Wright Pages, accessed July 15, 2015, http://ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Resurrection_Postmodern.htm.

Written by Andrew Barron, Director of Jews for Jesus Canada.
Email him at [email protected]. You can also suggest topics for future blog posts.

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