If Osama bin Laden represents the most wanted man in the world, what would Jesus say to him tonight? If we could listen in on a one to one between Jesus and bin Laden this Christmas, what would Jesus say?
I think the first thing Jesus would probably say comes as no surprise to any of us: Jesus might say, "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. People reap what they sow." (Galatians 6:7) and "He who lives by violence will die by violence" (Matthew 26:52 adapted). I don't think there's any question in anybody's mind what Osama bin Laden deserves. He deserves to be sentenced for his unspeakable crimes in a hellish eternity, devoid of any hope, forever. And unless something happens between now and the end of his life, that's exactly where he's headed. As the recent US Marine bumper sticker put it, "Its God's responsibility to forgive bin Laden. Its our responsibility to arrange the meeting."
There's no question what Osama bin Laden deserves. While his death would make many people happy, would it make God happy? If Bin Laden represents all that is most wicked what would please God the most? Well we don’t have to speculate.
The Bible tells us that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. In Ezekiel 18 God says, “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?” (Ezekiel 18:23), and in case there is any doubt God repeats himself a few chapters later, “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways!” (Ezekiel 33:11).
The Apostle Peter says the same thing. God does not want "anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9). So the first thing Jesus says to Osama bin Laden as he says to us is “Turn! Turn from your evil ways!” (Ezekiel 33:11). First word? Turn. Second word?
There's a second thing Jesus might say to Osama bin Laden to help him understand that God has done something for him that he cannot do himself. I can imagine Jesus visiting him in his bunker, or wherever he might be hiding tonight, and saying to him, "Trust in God, trust also in me” (John 14:1), I am your only hope.” If Bin Laden is the most wanted man in the world, Jesus is the most needed. Many in our own society view Jesus as the baby in the Nativity play or a great moral teacher, or a social reformer, but they place their trust in something higher, in science or technology or the economy or the military. But none of these will deliver us from evil. And so Jesus says to us, "I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be , you will indeed die in your sins.” (John 8:24).
Make no mistake, God must and will punish sin to maintain his integrity as a just and holy God. And we can all understand that, because we are all made in the image of God. We know instinctively that somebody has to pay. When a child is abused we insist the guilty must pay.
When someone is injured by a drunk driver we insist the guilty must pay. But the dilemma for God is that the penalty for sin is death, all sin, whether hidden or revealed, venial or mortal, white or black, is sin and sin deserves judgement. Because sin separates us from a Holy God eternally. That is why Jesus came at Christmas. Out of love, He came to take away our sin. Yours, mine, and Osama bin Laden's too. That's why at the birth of Jesus the angels proclaimed Him the Saviour of the world. So what might Jesus say? First: “Turn! Turn from your evil ways!” (Ezekiel 33:11). Second: Trust "Trust in God, trust also in me” (John 14:1), “I am your only hope." Third word?
3. Tag along
There's one final thing I think Jesus might say to Osama bin Laden tonight. I think Jesus would look him in the eye and say, "Paradise is on a different path to the one you're pursuing." Jesus disciples were also confused about the path to paradise. Jesus told them, "I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10).God has a purpose for our life – top know him and glorify him for ever. What was Jesus most frequent command?
“Follow me” occurs 20 times in the gospels. (Matthew 4:19; 8:22; 9:9; 10:38; 16:24; 19:21; Mark 1:17; 2:14; 8:34; 10:21; Luke 5:27; 9:23; 9:59; 14:27; 18:22; John 1:43; 10:27; 12:26; 21:19; 21:22) Follow me and I will give you a purpose to live for, people to live with, principles to live by, a profession to live out and a power to live on.
God says to each one of us three words, Turn, Trust and Tag along. Become part of the solution to the world’s woes instead of part of the problem. The thought that Osama bin Laden could be forgiven for his sins, after all he's done, and become like Jesus, may be hard to swallow. But he will not be the first. The question is will he ever hear the real meaning of Christmas? Will someone get to share it with him?
The message of Christmas does not minimize the seriousness of his destructive life – it merely emphasizes the magnitude of God's grace. That's why we celebrate Christmas. Because its good news of great joy for all people. Jesus, the most needed person in the world who came for the most wanted – all of them. Though God has every right to destroy this world and everyone in it, he sent Jesus to rescue as many as possible. The angels traversed the universe to herald him. The Magi travelled hundreds of miles in search of him. The shepherds said, "Lets go and see" (Luke 2:15). They wanted to see Jesus, to meet their Saviour. They were all earnest in their search. Hebrews 11:6 says, "God... rewards those who earnestly seek him." I kind of like the King James translation, "He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." Diligently – that’s a great word.
This Christmas be diligent in your search and experience God’s reward – sins forgiven for the past, eternal life in the future, and a purpose to live for in the present. God rewards those who seek him. Not those who seek doctrine or religion or systems or creeds, still less those who believe it is their destiny to cleanse this world of evil by violence. The three words Jesus might say to Osama Bin Laden tonight are the three words he says to you and me – Turn, Trust, Tag along. The Day on which Jesus Christ was born was not the day the earth stood still. But one day it will. One day the earth will stand still and every eye will see him. Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead (Acts 10:42). The question is, are we ready? We date our birth by his birth. Humanly speaking we determine our destiny by recognising his.
Don’t settle for a passing knowledge of Jesus this Christmas. His reward – breathtakingly beyond our imagining - goes to those who settle for nothing less than knowing Jesus himself. Turn to him, trust in him and tag along with him this Christmas and for evermore.
Read the complete sermon (with credits) here