ATP Blog #48
As human beings, we do not like limits. Rules (limits on actions) are often seen as meant to be broken. Life (limit on opportunities) is something we desperately try to prolong and control. We know of God’s limitless character (like love), but we do not like to think about His limits. For example, the limit to His patience with persistent sinners. God is certainly more patient and gracious than we are, but the Bible makes it clear that there is an end, where we run out of options, or choices. In today’s passage, Jesus discusses an important limit with the religious leaders of His day.
Limit of Immanuel ‘I will be with you a little while longer, and then I go to Him who sent Me.’ (v33) Immanuel (Emmanuel) means ‘God with us.’ (Matthew 1:23) God set a limit for His presence in physical form among us: 33 years. Usually we think of a successful ministry lasting more than three years, but that is what Jesus Christ had. Three years to teach the crowds, but more importantly, to prepare His disciples. Jesus was clear with all, disciples and enemies, that His ministry was limited in length (and scope). It would be within this limited time period that Jesus Christ would fulfill His mission, and most OT prophesies regarding the Messiah!
Limit of Pursuit ‘You will seek Me, and not find Me …’ (v34a) We all like that verse that tells us, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) Yet, Jesus clearly tells us that there is a limit to that patience. God wants us to pursue Him, but there will come a time when the pursuit is no longer possible. In this case, Jesus is talking about the people’s pursuit of Him as the Messiah. He was giving much evidence of His fulfillment of prophesy, and many people spent time seeking Him out. Those who sought Him, had opportunity to believe in Him. The Pharisees, and other religious leaders, were determined that He was not the Messiah that they were looking for. Jesus told them that, not only was He going away (back to Heaven) soon, but that they would eventually seek after Him, but not find Him, because He had gone. For us, He is always with us in the form of the Holy Spirit, but there does come a time when we resist Him long enough, that we can no longer seek Him! Now there is a scary thought!
Limit of Destination ‘… where I am you cannot come.’ (34b) Most people seek Heaven as a destination, even if we do not fully understand what that means, or where it is. The general understanding is that Heaven is a return to the perfection of Eden, and the presence of God. Fewer people believe in Hell, the destination of Satan and the fallen angels, and the limited time for our universe, including Earth. If you thought the previous discussion was scary (running out of time to seek the Saviour), then this thought is even more dangerous! Jesus knew that these religious leaders were not interested in a Suffering-Servant Messiah before the Conquering-King Messiah, so He warned them: if they did not seek Him while He was with them, then they would not be able to go where He was going. Regardless of our technology, and advances in science, Heaven is not a place that we can find, or go to before we die. After we die, our destination is decided by the choices we have made in life regarding Jesus Christ.
Responding to the Limits Since no one knows the day or hour of his or her death (people do die at all ages – sorry to bring this up at Christmas time!), the call to seek Jesus Christ is urgent! God has set limits, so we must be diligent in seeking Him, and believing His truth, even if it is not what we expected. Time is limited, so let us make wise use of the time we have. Pursue Immanuel while you can, so that you can go to where He is, and be with Him forever!