This sermon is from our "Why, Jesus" Lenten sermon series. Members submitted questions, which the Pastors attempt to answer as part of a sermon. Here is my best attempt at the wonderful question "Was Jesus God's 'Plan B'?"
Have you ever had a day where you had to go with “Plan B?” A day that your original, well thought out plans just didn’t quite turn out the way you hoped. You had the best of intentions—Plan A: Monday, you’d start that new diet. But, then someone brought in pizza for lunch. Did I say Monday? I mean Tuesday, of next week. Plan B. You filled out those college applications and found the school of your dreams. Oh, your SAT score needed to be what? And it cost how much a year? Plan B.
Generally, we don’t like “Plan B.” It’s a sign of failure, an admission that our original plans didn’t work. Sometimes “Plan B” works out quite well, but there is often that nagging feeling in the back of your mind that this wasn’t how things were supposed to be. So, I have been intrigued by a question one of you submitted to us for our “Why Jesus” sermon series. “God, if we hadn’t sinned, what was your plan?” Or, as the person asked as they handed me their card “Was Jesus ‘Plan B’?” Was Jesus’ God’s “second choice” for humanity. I waited to consider this question until this week, when we read the story of Lazarus. This account is an incredible foreshadowing of the death and resurrection of Christ that follows not long after these events. But what about Jesus? Jesus was born to die. But, without our sin, we wouldn’t need “saving” so, does that mean we wouldn’t have Jesus? Does this mean Jesus came out of an imperfect.
You, dear member, present a very difficult question. We can’t turn to a particular passage of scripture and read “Jesus, God’s Plan A, or Plan B for the world.” But scripture, including today’s Gospel tells us about God, and through scripture His plans for humanity are revealed to us. In Genesis, God is in complete and full relationship with Adam and Eve. This is how God intended humanity to be. He wanted to be deeply connected to us. We also know that God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were present from the beginning of time, so Jesus isn’t something that God “thought up” after sin entered the world.
But, our sin is what separates us from being in full relationship with God. While sin separated Adam and Eve from God after they ate the fruit, God longed to be in relationship with His people. We see this throughout the Old Testament. This longing to be in relationship with us continues right through today’s Gospel reading. Jesus longs to restore humanity. Jesus weeps as He sees the pain of Lazarus’ family, as He personally experiences the pain caused by death and His separation from Lazarus. He has the power to restore what was broken, to obliterate sin and death, and reconnect humanity fully to Him—to God. Through Christ, the fracture that began in the Garden of Eden is restored.
Christ cries “Lazarus, come out!” and says “unbind Him, let him go!” These words are Christ calling Lazarus out of the tomb, out of the grave that separates humanity from God. Christ calls us to be unbound from sin and death, to be restored to God and to one another. Lazarus, though he died, is raised up again, as we all are. Lazarus is reunited with his family, and with his Lord, as we all are. God’s “Plan A” was that we were always in full relationship with Him, that we wouldn’t separate ourselves from Him or from each other. Through Christ, we are united in Him.
But, was JESUS “Plan B”? Would we have not had Him without sin? Friends, it is when we are forgiven, when we are no longer claimed by the power of sin that we finally HAVE Jesus fully! Adam and Eve were fully with our God: Father Son, and Holy Spirit. So, sin is what separated us from this full and beautiful relationship with our Lord. SIN is our “Plan B” not Jesus. Sin is the darkness that keeps us from being in full relationship. Humans, living in our sin, are, like Lazarus, bound and placed in a tomb.
It is Christ, who was always present, is always present, and will always will be present, Christ overcomes all that separates us from Him, even the power of death itself. Jesus is not a consolation prize to a contest we lost, nor secondary spoils in a battle we lost. Rather, Christ is the means by which God returns us to Plan A, humanity living in paradise with Him. It is this power and love that takes us, in our “Plan B” world, and restores us to the fullness and richness of life that was God’s intent from the beginning of time. Know that whatever binds you today, whatever separates you from God, whatever “Plan B” choices you feel you had to make in your lives, YOU are never God’s “Plan B.” You are God’s first, God’s full, and God’s beloved child, whom is united with Him, yesterday, today, and forever.