“Here am I, the servant of the Lord;
let it be with me according to your word.”
He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything.
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,
and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
Albert Einstein is reported to have said, “I think the most important question facing humanity is: ‘Is the universe a friendly place?’” I wonder how you would answer that question? Einstein knew that how we answer affects everything about us, from the way we get up in the morning to the way we treat others.
Happily, God does not leave us guessing as to the disposition of the universe towards us! We see in today’s scripture that He who is the Creator of that universe is “pleased” to be moving “all things” toward harmonious consummation in Jesus. God takes pleasure in going about His work of wrapping up all history in Jesus. We will see it all come together in Him. The contemporary Bible version, The Message, wonderfully captures the essence of today’s scripture: “…all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe – people and things, animals and atoms – get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies…”
God’s great purpose for His universe is found in Paul’s words, “to reconcile to himself all things.” It is a marvelous Greek word Paul uses here (apokatallasso), translated “to reconcile.” Paul might even have invented the word as we have no evidence of its use prior to the New Testament. This verb actually serves to intensify Paul’s usual Greek word (katallasso), translated “to reconcile” (Romans 5:10; 2 Corinthians 5:18, 19). It speaks to a world in which relationships become strained, bitter, even broken; but the relationships are reconciled and brought to peace. A. T. Robertson, a New Testament Greek scholar, writes about apokatallasso as intensifying the usual idea of reconciliation: “The addition of apokatallasso here is clearly for the idea of complete reconciliation …Sin somehow has put the universe out of joint. Christ will set it right.” (A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament)
What an astonishing, dazzling message is the Gospel of Jesus Christ: “through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of the cross.” Paul’s sweeping language meant that a universe put out of joint by sin, is set right through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus comes to bridge the chasm between God and humanity.
A few verses later in Colossians, Paul makes this ‘complete reconciliation’ personal for you and me:
“And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled (apokatallasso) in his fleshy body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him” (Colossians 1:21-22).
It is little wonder that angel choirs showed up that first Christmas celebrating: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors” (Luke 2:14). A universe ‘put out of joint’ through sin is being ‘put right’ by Jesus Christ!
I struggle for the words to say more about what God has done for us in Christ Jesus. How do we talk of, or even imagine, God’s final reconciliation of all things to Himself in Christ? Having run out of words I turn to the imagery of Isaiah’s vision of the future:
“The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and fatling together, and a little child shall lead them…for the earth will be filled with knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:6, 9b).
Yes, the universe is friendly towards us because its Creator is reconciling all things through the blood of the cross! Joy to the world! the Lord is come!
- Put yourself in the sandals of a Christmas shepherd. What do you feel in hearing angels sing about peace on earth and the birth of the world’s Savior? How would that change your life?
- Isaiah images God’s reconciliation of all things as the wolf lying down with the lamb, and the leopard with the kid. What imagery would you use to picture God’s wondrous new world?