EPIC: The Story of God & Humanity

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(Click here for the sermon video.)

God has been writing a story since the beginning of time and it is EPIC. What follows is a brief history of the universe written to help you see how it all hangs together and introduce you to the main character of the story: Jesus Christ.

Palm Sunday - Epic

Chapter 1: The Beginning

Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” This is the start of our story. Notice how I said that it’s the start of our story. Not the beginning of The Whole story. Just our part. God existed before there was ever a heavens or an earth.

So God created the universe, the stars, the plants, our world, and everything on it. And He did it in steps. There was order to creation. We don’t know everything about the beginning of time, but we do know that it did not come together by random chance. As we look through the creation story we can see that God is imaginative, powerful and is really enjoying His work. Over an over again God looks at what He is doing and says that “it is good”. He likes what He sees. He made the skies, the oceans, the birds, trees, sun, moon… all of it. God, in an amazing process, formed all of creation out of nothingness… and calling it a good thing.

And then after everything else was created… He started His greatest work. God literally saved the best for last. He decided to create humanity. All of the rest of creation was a good thing… but this was going to be the best thing. God formed a man out of the dust of the ground. The last thing that God did while creating all that has been created was to lovingly design humans, and breathe His very life into them. He bestowed upon us something unique in the world… a living spirit. Humanity was designed to bear God’s own image and carry inside of them divine breath. We are the best thing He ever made, and He loves us very much.

And He took His two favourite creations, Adam and Eve, and put them into a wonderful garden. There was endless food, total comfort, no sin, no shame, nothing to fear. Greed wasn’t a problem, relationships weren’t a problem, sex wasn’t a problem, disease wasn’t heard of, and best of all, these humans had the glorious privilege of walking and talking with God face to face. It was the best place ever. But it didn’t stay that way.

 Chapter 2: The Fall

Adam and Eve, with some help from the devil himself, decided it wasn’t good enough. God had placed them where they would have everything they could ever need, but had only one rule: Don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

A world of delicious options and only one tree from which they weren’t aloud to eat. Can you imagine a world where there is only one bad choice? Everything else on the entire planet was a good choice. There was only one bad one.

Many have asked why God would put that tree there at all. The answer is simply this: without it, there would have been no choice. In order for His creation to have free will and the ability to love, there must be the option of choice. There must be a way to choose not to love, not to obey, not to believe. If there is to be free will, rejection must be an option.

If the only flavour of ice-cream ever invented was vanilla, then it really doesn’t make sense to go around saying that your most-favourite flavour is vanilla! Of course it is. There is only meaning when there is another choice.

And Adam and Eve made the other choice. They chose not to trust their creator. They chose to believe God was holding out on them. They chose to take that which they were not allowed to have, and which they had been warned would do them harm. That choice changed the whole of creation.

 Chapter 3: Cast Out From Eden

The moment Adam and Eve decided to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, everything changed. It was at that moment when sin entered the world. God had warned them that everything would change, but they chose to anyway. He told them of the consequences, but they looked and saw that it was good looking fruit. They knew that once they ate it, they would have a special knowledge which they didn’t have before. They wanted that… and they ate. Before that moment they only knew good… after they took that bite and followed through on their temptation to sin, they would know “good and evil”.

And since God is good, perfect and holy, and He can’t be around evil – He has no part with evil or evil-doers. Their action made it so that He could no longer communicate face to face with His beloved people any more. Things had changed.

The sin not only affected them, but the rest of the world as well. They were the pinnacle and the stewards of creation, and now that they had sinned, all of creation was marred – it’s like it bled from them onto everything.

Soon after we see shame, anger, distrust, fear, blaming… weeds, toil, pain, frustration… everything changes because of sin. In an act of divine grace they were cast out of Eden so they would not eat of the Tree of Life and be sustained by it forever in their sin.

As God had promised, Adam and Eve would know death. You see, death was something that wasn’t a part of God’s perfect design. But every choice has a consequence, and the consequence of disobedience is the need for just judgement. As people who believe in justice, we understand this. A good society, a good God, punishes wrong. The punishment for sin is death.

All bad news, right? Well, even though it was all bad news, there was one glimmer of hope in the whole midst – the promise of salvation to come. Even in the midst of judgement, God shares the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, telling them that the problem they just made would one day be fixed (Genesis 3:15). God promises that there will one day, Someone born of women will finally do something to reverse all of their mess. Though it would be bleak for a while, and the consequences were dire, there would be hope for humanity.

Chapter 4: Noah

Now even though humanity had fallen and was no outside the Garden of Eden, that didn’t stop them from “going forth and multiplying”. Adam and Eve were having children, and their children were having children, and the world was being populated. The Bible says that Adam lived 930 years and someone can have a lot of kids in that amount of time!

Not only were people multiplying, but their sin was multiplying too. People were acting getting worse. The bible says that by the time of Noah things were really grim. Now Noah was Adam’s Great x 8 grandson. Eight generations had gone by, and there were lots of people on the earth, but they were inventing new ways to be evil, violent to one another and corrupt to the core. They were now disregarding their Creator completely.

The Bible says that God was grieved that had made humanity at all. He had such a great love for them, but they had so completely turned their backs on Him, His reason for creating them, and were doing such harm to each other, that He was sorry that He had made them in the first place. So He decided to send a flood to wipe them out. Not to destroy humanity, but to destroy the wickedness of that generation which had gotten completely out of control.

But again, there was grace in the midst of judgement. God decided to save Noah and his family, the one family left who were listening to Him. Was Noah perfect? No, but He did love God and seek to live He mattered. It was not that Noah was worthy to be saved, but that He was the only one listening to the message of salvation.

After, God used Noah and his family to repopulate the world again. He started over. That’s what God does. He takes in impossible situation and adds creativity, and grace, and love, and hope. Yes, they would fall again. Noah didn’t make it very far out of the ark before he and his family were sinning again.

Even this pointed to Jesus in that we are reminded that even the most righteous man on earth was not good enough to stay righteous for long – there was a deeper problem, an internal problem with humanity – a darkness and depravity that went to every human’s core – that needed to be dealt with. God promised never to wipe humanity out again because He was about to put His full plan into motion.

 Chapter 5: Abraham

Right around the death of Noah, possibly even the same year, a man named Abram was born. God’s narrative of grace continues as He decides to show love to an obscure, pagan man. Abram wasn’t anyone special, just a guy who God decided to work through. God says, “leave your country and your people and go into a different land.” and Abram obeys.

God then makes a promise to Abram – who was then a senior citizen, married to a barren wife, and had no children – that he would have many descendants and they would become a great nation. In fact, God promises that the whole world would be blessed because of his family line. He would give them a special place to live and would take care of them. God changes Abram’s name to Abraham and gets to work.

This was a pretty good deal for Abraham, but he never gets to see the plan fully worked out during his lifetime. That doesn’t mean God didn’t keep his promise, though. Abraham did have two children, and his grandson would be a man named Jacob.

Jacob was the one who would really see God’s blessings taken to another level as his children became the 12 patriarchs for the nation of Israel. It was these twelve families that would form the political and geographic system through which the rest of God’s plan would be carried out.

Chapter 6: Joseph

God needs to make sure that this family is taken care of, which is where we get the story of Joseph, one of the sons of Jacob. God amazingly uses the anger and jealousy of these brothers to save them from starvation, years before a terrible drought would hit the land. Most of us here know or have heard the story of Joseph.

His story was personally tragic as his brothers sell him into slavery, he’s falsely accused of rape, and is sentenced to jail for many years. After a while God gives Joseph the opportunity to help the Pharaoh interpret a bad dream he was having – a dream about a terrible drought to come – and Joseph is put in charge of preparing for it.

In an amazing way, God takes care of His people by bringing them down to Egypt to be saved from a famine that would have wiped them all out, and prepared them for the next phase of His plan.

Chapter 7: Moses

Jacob and these 12 brothers were down in Egypt and were more than accepted there, but then a different Pharaoh came into power who didn’t know about Joseph and the promises that the previous administration had made to his family. Instead he started to fear Jacob’s family (who were now being called “Israelites”), and instead of keeping the covenant with them, he made the whole nation slaves to the Egyptians. They were in slavery for hundreds of years. Suffering, but still having children.

One of these children was named Moses. At the right time in history, God worked some powerful miracles through plagues on Egypt. The final plague would once again show God’s mercy in the midst of judgement and point to the Saviour who was to come — the Passover where a spotless lamb would be killed and it’s blood used to save people from death.  Moses would be the person to lead His people out of Egypt as one, unified nation, ready to get back home to the land that God promised their father Abraham — an exodus to the “Promised land”.

But first, God brought them to a place where He would make a covenant with them. He wanted to make an agreement that as long as they would commit themselves to being His special people, trusting and worshipping Him alone, He would take care of them.

God, in His grace, knowing that they would sin and harm each other, just as all humanity had done for all time, He wrote laws for them to live by. Know that I am the only God, don’t murder each other, don’t steal from each other, honour your parents… all these rules were for their own good, and to make sure that the relationships between Him and themselves could continue.

God couldn’t be around sin, but He gave them a religious system by which they could finally approach their Creator, know Him better, and get temporary forgiveness for their sins.

God’s people were free from slavery, ready to take back the promised land, had a good leader in Moses, laws to protect them, and God’s promise to take care of them… But of course, still being marred by sin, broken in their souls, they rejected God and started praying to, worshipping and putting their trust into created things – even statues of their own making.

Even a good leader and a Law written by God Himself wasn’t able to keep people from committing evil and preferring sin to righteousness. And death still existed in the world. There was more that needed to be done.

Chapter 8: Sin, Suffer, Repent, Repeat.

The next chapter in human history is sort of the in-between time which I’m calling Sin, Suffer, Repent, Repeat. It was the time of the Judges, the Kings and the Prophets. In the time between the giving of the Law and when Jesus the Saviour would come a lot of things happened, but it seemed to keep to this endless cycle of Sin, Suffer, Repent Repeat.

As far as good things that happened: With God’s help they conquered most of the people that had moved into their Promised Land, and divided it up amongst the 12 different tribes. They built some great cities and became one of the richest civilizations in history. They even took down the tabernacle – the temporary tent of worship – and built a beautiful temple.

A lot of bad things that went on too. The Law that God put in place through Moses as a way to make sure that their relationships to Him and others would be strong… well, they broke all of them. They crafted idols to worship, they cheated and abused each other, committed adultery, dishonoured their parents, broke the Sabbath, and even sacrificed their own children to demons. Throughout this time God kept raising up prophets to warn them about the consequences of their bad decisions, but they kept killing the prophets!

For a long time, God was the King of Israel, but eventually they decided that they didn’t want God to be their King anymore, but instead wanted to be like all the other nations and have a human king. This was like a slap in God’s face! He had always been their ruler, their Law giver, great judge, provider, the one to keep them safe and lead their armies — and now He wasn’t good enough. God’s chosen people, the one that he picked out from among all the others, the one that He had promised Abraham would be a great nation, turned their backs on Him, just like all those who had come before.

They put the king in place, but God in His mercy kept sending prophets to show the people how to live, the dangers of their sin, and the way back to peace with God and each other. Each of the prophets would share God’s mercy, remind them of His hatred for sin, about how much He wanted the people to come back to Him, warn them that if they continued on the path they were on that He would have to discipline them for their own good.

Then, since no one would listen, the prophets would talk about Promised One that would finally come and end this repetitive cycle of Sin, Suffer, Repent, Repeat, once and for all. They reminded the people about the One who was promised to Adam and Eve, the One who would come through Abraham’s tribe, the One that would conquer evil, sin and even death. The coming of Jesus is typified, alluded to, or outright prophesied in every book of the Old Testament.

This cycle went on for years… hundreds and hundreds of years… Sin, Suffer, Repent, Repeat, and all the while God was continuing to prepare the world for the One who would finally end all of this. He was showing everyone that there was not one person who could obey the Law, not one who would worship Him. The prophets would show their weakness, the priests would fail the nation, the kings would become corrupt, the people would rebel… the Law condemned everyone.

They needed one who would be called the Messiah, hich means “Chosen One”. He would be the one who would finally break the pattern. He would finally obey the law perfectly, love God and others perfectly, be the perfect prophet, perfect priest, and perfect king. He would conquer their enemies, bring justice to the oppressed, and lead people into a right relationship with God. He would be called the Christ, the Anointed one. And for years, Israel waited.

Chapter 9: The Messiah

God waited until the world was just right (Gal 4:4). Israel was at the pinnacle of their rebellion. The Romans had built a civilization that would allow the gospel to travel easily. God waited until just the right moment to send His greatest Gift to the world. But He surprised everyone by how He did it.

Consider the irony of how Jesus entered the world. Since the beginning of time people were waiting for this One Person to come. This would be the most important person in history, the Saviour of the world from their greatest problems. And when He finally came… almost no one knew. When the Messiah, the Christ, finally arrived, He didn’t come as a mighty King on a white horse leading a huge army. He didn’t come in a bolt of lightning and a booming voice proclaiming the Judgement of God.

No, as the old Hymn says, “He was no stately form, He had no majesty, that we should be drawn to him”. He came as a baby, a helpless infant. The Son of a virgin, adopted by a poor, Galilean Carpenter. Born in a humble stable, in a tiny village – a nobody from nowhere.

No palace like King Solomon. No fanfare like King David. No blasts of fire like Elijah. The Chosen One came in so quietly that His presence went nearly unnoticed by almost all of those who were looking for Him. The Jewish scholars of the day (and today) are looking for a political leader, a military conqueror… but that’s not what they got… at least not yet.

And what did humanity do with Him? Well, His identity didn’t stay hidden forever. What did people do when they finally found out this Messiah that had come?

Today is Palm Sunday. Today is the day that the followers of Jesus worshipped Him as Messiah, laid palm branches and their cloaks at the feet of Jesus who was riding into Jerusalem, showing Himself to be the King of the Jews and the one foretold by the prophets. They were celebrating the forthcoming conquest of the Roman army, the overthrowing of their political oppressors, their new position as the most powerful kingdom in the world. They were right to celebrate, but they were wrong about how Jesus would do it. And when He didn’t do things their way… their disappointment turned to anger.

I can’t say it any better than the Deacon Stephen does to the Jewish Ruling Counsel before his martyrdom in the Acts 7. He was standing before the very people who were supposed to care for the Israelite people and teach them all about the coming of Jesus! These were the ones who should have been the first to know, acknowledge and spread the news that God had sent the Messiah!

Here’s what Stephen says to them:

“You stubborn people! You are heathen at heart and deaf to the truth. Must you forever resist the Holy Spirit? That’s what your ancestors did, and so do you! Name one prophet that your ancestors didn’t persecute! They even killed the ones who predicted the coming of the Righteous one – The Messiah whom you betrayed and murdered. You deliberately disobeyed God’s law, even though you received it from the hands of angels.”

Humanity did it again! God Himself enters the world in human form. He sends His own beloved Son, 100% God and 100% man, the only one with the qualifications to exchange His life for ours. The only one who could save us from sin and death. The perfect one to teach us how to live, love and worship. And what is our response? We condemn the Anointed One, the Messiah, the perfect Son of God, to the worst, most painful, agonizing, excruciating death imaginable… a Roman cross. We murdered Him.

One would think that that would be the end of the story. Where do you go when there is no more hope left? How can an author write a story when the hero is killed before the villain is defeated? You can’t. The story must stop when the hero is dead. Right?

For a moment, God’s pen lifts from the paper. The world looks bleak. There is no hope. The disciples are scattered. The Messiah is dead. The villain won…

Chapter 10: The Resurrection

But our God is the greatest author of all. His pen stops for only a moment. He turns the page and begins the next chapter. The death of Jesus Christ would not be the end of the story. Three days after Jesus dies God writes a story that turns the greatest defeat in history into the climax of His Epic tale. He turned silence into a crescendo!  He turns the ultimate tragedy into the ultimate victory!

God turns all of History on its head. In the story God is writing there are no mistakes. The One who was to be our Saviour… was supposed to die. His victory came because of His death. No one can write a better story than this one. There is no greater hero than one who would give His life for others. The name of this Hero is Jesus Christ. He gave His life for us.

At the beginning of the story God said that the consequence of sin would be death. The Messiah was going to come and defeat the greatest enemy of this world. Almost everyone thought that this meant that it would be a political, military, human victory. But God, the great author, reveals that humanity’s greatest enemy isn’t any person or nation or empire… the greatest enemy in this world is death – death that came because of sin.  So what needed to be conquered? Sin.

The judgement and effects of sin – physical and spiritual death, and the total removal of the grace, love and presence of God that would be found in Hell – which entered the world with Adam and Eve, and has poisoned every human soul, needed to be dealt with. His righteous judgement needed to be poured out to bring about perfect justice. We will never understand the full measure of the punishment that Christ took for those who would put their faith in Him. Jesus came as our representative – the perfect human, the only One who did not deserve judgement – and chose to take the punishment for anyone who would believe and trust in Him.

Jesus is the ultimate hero as He walks out of the grave, conquering the greatest enemy ever. He defeats the effects of sin. He beats death. That weight of judgement that all of humanity had borne for thousands of years was placed on His shoulders, and He carried it, paid for it, and then offered the freedom that He bought with His own blood, to anyone who would believe in Him.

Chapter 11: Living In The Denouement

Today, we are living in the denouement. We are living at the end of the great Epic. The story has unfolded, the villain has been conquered, the Hero has been lifted high. We are living in the days of epilogue before God brings His story to a close at the final judgement. Every day gets us closer to the end of this story and closer to next book, the story of eternity.

This Epic gives us the greatest message that can be known: That you were created for more than just what you see and touch. You were designed by a loving creator who gives you a hope and a purpose. Your life is more than just burgers, cars, money, sex, career.

You are a created being whose decisions have eternal consequence. You need not fear death, and you can trust that even your most difficult times can be turned into great victories because of our awesome God. You can experience divine love, be cleansed, and made new. God will never leave you, never forsake you, and because of the work of our Hero, Jesus Christ, you can live in His presence today and forever.

This is a great story because it is a true story. People have loved it so much, and believed in the Hero so deeply, that they have died to tell it to others. I urge you, if you have not already, to accept the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, and to tell His story to as many people as you can.

* There are lots of important pieces of the story which I didn’t share. Not because they are unimportant, but simply because I wanted to keep it short and understandable for anyone who hasn’t heard the story told this way before.