Kingdom Rain: Noah's Ark, the New England Patriots, and the Gospel of Jesus
By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
For the last 3 weeks, everyone I know has been congratulating me personally about the Super Bowl. Many of you here in this room greeted me with a, “Congrats!” the first time we reconvened after the big game. While I’m appreciative of the acknowledgment, I’m also keenly aware that I had nothing to do with the Patriots 34-28 victory over the Atlanta Falcons. In fact, when it was 28-3, I didn’t even think New England had a chance. I wasn’t one of those who was believing. The range of emotions that I experienced in that football game was exhausting. I started the game with eager anticipation, which quickly plummeted into despair, only to be resurrected once again watching the largest comeback in Super Bowl history.
You have to understand for a moment, for those of you who don’t know me, I was a little emotionally invested in this game. Some people, a week or two before the Super Bowl, pick a team they’re going to root for, because they want the game to be interesting. Some of you may have picked the Falcons, some of you may have picked the Patriots. But really, at the end of the day, you don’t care. You just wanted to enjoy the game you were watching. That was not the case for me. I did not simply pick the Patriots the week of the Super Bowl; I had literally watched every single snap of Patriots football this season. I was invested.
I had also planned on eating whatever I wanted during the game, no rules; I mean it is the SB for crying out loud! Pizza, dessert, everything - it was all on the table. I wasn’t going to care. No calorie counting, no paleo, none of that, because it was the Super Bowl. Well, I was one plate of bad food in when Brady threw the pick 6 and I got sick to my stomach. I could not eat another bite. By the time the Patriots had come back (by the way, in case you’ve been living under a rock, the Patriots did come back) I was too emotionally exhausted to eat anything. But when the game ended, it wasn’t me, but the Falcon fans that were sick to their stomach.
Isn’t it amazing how that game produced two different results for two different teams? I’m not talking about the mere fact that one of them won and were happy, and the other team lost and were sad, which is the case for every game - especially the Super Bowl. But this was so much bigger than that, wasn’t it?
This game was historic. Even by Super Bowl standards, it was historic. With that win, Brady and Belichick move into NFL legend with stuff that’s never been done before. They have become heirs to history: 5 rings, 4 MVPs, largest deficit overcome ever, first Overtime in the history of the Super Bowl. Contrast that with the Atlanta Falcons, who made history in a negative way. They blew the largest lead in Super Bowl history. They lost the ring that was all but placed on their finger already. I mean, it was 28 to 3! The owner of the Atlanta Falcons had already come down to the sidelines. He was anticipating that he would be kissing the Lombardi trophy when the clock hit zero, only to get a first row seat to Tom Brady performing some surgery.
Now, we don’t want to be overly dramatic, right? Those Atlanta Falcon players will live, but in terms of football – especially this offseason – they have brought judgment - football judgment - upon themselves. They were leading 28-3, and they lost the game. The victory that brought football immortality to the New England Patriots, brought devastation to the Atlanta Falcons - the same exact game.
This is but a small picture of what we are reading today in Hebrews 11:7, and what happened many years ago with a man named Noah. Noah’s obedience, born out of faith - the writer to the Hebrews says again, by faith - brought life to those who believed, and death to those who did not. The epoch of redemptive history defined by Noah’s flood and covenant brought salvation to those who had faith and judgment to those who did not. As we continue through the biblical theology of faith that is Hebrews 11, we have moved past creation, Abel, and Enoch, and now find ourselves with the curious case of Noah’s ark.
Whether you grew up in Sunday School, or have seen the Russell Crowe movie, we’re all familiar with the Noahic narrative. The Holy Spirit says that by faith, Noah constructed an ark because YHWH had warned Noah that he was going to judge the world for its wickedness. Genesis 4-6 tells us the story of the avalanche of sin that smothered the world after the fall. By the time we get to Genesis 6, the Holy Spirit says every intention of the thoughts of [every man’s] heart was only evil continually. But Noah, it turns out, is an exception to his generation. Moses tells us that Noah found grace in the eyes of YHWH (Gen 6.8). Like Enoch, Noah walked with God (Gen 6.9). It is at this point that God warns Noah about the flood.
God warned Noah of that which was seen, not yet. The floodwaters of judgment had never baptized the world, so Noah had no reference point. It was seen, not yet. He couldn’t picture the disaster that was to come. Noah had to trust in the LORD by faith. And the Bible tells us that he did. Noah built the ark in reverent fear to God. He obeyed God’s Word even when it didn’t make sense. He obeyed when he could not see why he had to. He obeyed, even when it seemed contrary to reality. Noah obeyed by faith. The result was the deliverance of his household. He literally saved – σωτηρίαν– his family.
Can you imagine with me for a moment the faith that Noah had in God’s Word? Not only had Noah never seen flooding before, Noah had never seen rain before. And now this God, the God in whom he’s placed his trust, the God who created the universe and promised redemption to his fallen creatures, the God who accepted Abel's sacrifice, and walked with Enoch, this God now comes to Noah telling him to build a giant zoo boat. Can you imagine how scared and confused Noah must’ve been?
Can you imagine the conversation that Noah had with his wife?
“Honey, we need to build an ark.”
“What’s an ark?”
“Well… it’s a giant floating house.”
“Why on earth do we need a giant floating house?”
“Because the flood is coming.”
"What’s a flood?”
Do you see how crazy this sounds? Do you see how absurd this sounds? This is uncharted territory for this entire generation. And yet, the author of the Hebrews tells us that God warned Noah about the not yet and out of reverent fear, Noah obeyed for the salvation of his household.
The pastor-writer tells us that two realities are born out of Noah’s faith. The first is that he condemned the world. I like the way N.T. Wright translates the phrase, “[Noah] put the rest of the world in the wrong.” The world was condemned by Noah’s faith because they did not believe in what they couldn’t see. There had never been a flood before. What in the world is this fool talking about?
“Hey Noah, you hear the forecast? 75 and sunshine, not a cloud in the sky. Why don’t you keep working on that giant zoo boat?”
The not yet was ignored by the world simply because they couldn’t see it. They did not have faith.
Down south during Halloween there are these events called “hell houses,” have you ever heard of it? Mostly in southern rural areas, churches put on these events during Halloween that are basically fake haunted houses. The purpose is to scare kids into trusting Christ. You’ll come into the hell house, and there will be these scenes of kids partying or doing whatever they don’t want the teenagers to do and the hell house ends with a scene of people burning in hell. There’s wailing and gnashing of teeth. It’s actually super weird. And you know what the crazy part about these hell houses are, though? The same students in the same student ministries go to these hell houses every single year and many of them still don’t follow Jesus. I guess they don’t do a good job of scaring the hell out of them. How can that be so? How can they see these awful scenes year in and year out and still reject the gospel?
How can people sit in church week after week, year after year, having heard sermons about the judgment of God and still reject the gospel? The answer is that they don’t have faith. Noah had faith and the world didn’t, thus the world was condemned.
Listen, if you’re here this morning and you do not believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ, God has me standing here this morning to give you this message. That’s why we’re here. That’s why I’m here, and that’s why you’re here. You must repent of your sin and trust in the gospel of Jesus. Apart from faith in Jesus, you stand condemned. A day is coming when everybody is going to stand before Christ in the judgment, it is appointed unto man once to die and then the judgment. I know that for many of you this morning, this may not feel real. It’s hard to see a flood coming when it’s sunny & 75. But faith requires that we wrestle with the not yet. Jesus is coming again to raise the dead, judge the world, and make all things new.
The question you have to ask yourself this morning, is where do I stand with Jesus? Pascal’s wager must be reckoned with. Are you betting your life on yourself? You cannot withstand the flood of God’s wrath that is coming for those who hate him. Please, I am begging you this morning, come to Christ. Come to Jesus. He will save you from your sin. Place your faith in that which is unseen. Noah’s generation was warned, and now you can’t say that you weren't. I’m warning you right now. If you reject Jesus, there is no excuse.
Because of their unbelief, the world was condemned, but the Scripture says that Noah was not condemned, because he had faith. Noah had assurance and conviction that God exists and that he keeps his promise. As a result, Noah was made an heir of righteousness. Noah was an heir to the gospel promise that was given in the garden. The hope of humanity continued with Noah and his family as they stepped off the ark, and into the recreated postdiluvian world. Noah was like a second Adam coming into a second world. The promise of righteousness, redemption, and resurrection rested on his shoulders. Again the Holy Spirit emphasizes that this is by faith - Noah’s faith.
Through faith, Noah is made an heir of God’s family. Through faith, Noah is given the promise of the heavenly city, the unshakeable kingdom, the New Creation. Noah’s faith led him into the ark that kept him safe from the judgment of God on sin. When he stepped out of that ark, it was onto a renewed earth - a type of the New Earth that’s coming. For just as God judged the world with water, he will judge the world with fire, and through the fires of his judgment, he will bring about a New Heaven and a New Earth.
Brothers and sisters, if you have faith in Jesus this morning, this is your inheritance too! The inheritance that Noah had, is your inheritance, as well. You have become an heir of righteousness. Take heart, you’ve been adopted by God. Your hope is in the not yet.
Rejoice this morning, church, for you have hope in the victory of Christ. Don’t let yourself be overcome with fear, or anxiety, when the world tells you that you’re crazy, or you’re hateful, or you’re “on the wrong side of history.” Faith is conviction and assurance in the not yet.
It’s true. You’re going to face adversity. Noah’s adoption into God’s family didn’t exclude him from the ridicule of his neighbors or the trauma of living through the flood. Have you ever thought about that? Or do we brush over it because we’ve grown up as children in AWANA, and Sunday School, and it’s Noah’s Ark, and it’s cute and it’s VeggieTales, and we don’t feel it? The world ridiculed him for his faith. They hated it and called him crazy. They rejected him and abandoned him. And then, Noah had to watch those very same people - his neighbors, his extended family, his friends - he had to watch them drown to death.
Did Noah feel pain? Does the gospel cost us? Can you imagine? God does not promise that he will rapture us out of tribulation. He didn’t spare Noah from pain. He didn’t spare Christ from pain. And he’s not going to spare you either. But what he does promise is that he will be with you through the pain. He was with Noah during his persecution. He was with Noah in the ark.
Church, you are heirs to the gospel promise just like Noah was. God is with you through the anxiety, God is with you through the illness, He is with you through the loss, through the pain, through the persecution. Do you have faith in that? Do you have assurance and confidence that regardless of what kind of pain or persecution floods your life that Jesus is with you? That is the faith of Noah. That’s our faith.
You know, Noah’s faith wasn’t faith for the sake of faith. It wasn’t just like a Patriots player who says, “You know we had faith! We had faith in Tom the whole time.” It’s not generic faith or belief, it’s the assurance and the conviction that God is going to keep his promise that he made in the garden. The seed of the woman must and shall crush the head of the serpent (Gen 3.15). Noah’s seed of faith comes into full bloom as we open up and read the gospel accounts.
Jesus Christ is the realization and fulfillment of the faith of Noah. And you know what? We’re in an even better place than Noah was. Noah had faith that God was faithful, but he didn’t know about a crucified and resurrected Christ. We do. Noah did not know the name Jesus of Nazareth, but we do. How much greater is our confidence on this side of Calvary?
The Noah story points us forward to what Jesus came to do for us. Just like Noah, Jesus trusted God when the world around him rejected the message. But unlike Noah, Jesus was not protected from the wrath of God. Like the floodwaters covered the earth, Jesus’ blood flooded his lungs as he died on the cross for our sins. Jesus endured the flood of God’s judgment on our behalf. And the inheritance is now the New Creation that is Christ!
Like the floodwaters covered the earth in Noah’s day, a day is coming when the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God as the waters cover the sea (Hab 2.14)! The gospel of Jesus Christ is the point of the Noah pericope and the telos of history. Jesus is confronting each one of us this morning through my words and through the Sacrament. Will you reject him and be condemned, or will you have faith in Jesus and be an heir of righteousness?
The Atlanta Falcons will have another chance next season to make a Super Bowl run. While their dreams for this year died three weeks ago tonight, their lives will go on, and they will get another chance. Please hear me this morning, it is appointed unto man once to die and then the judgment. There are no second chances.
When the door to the ark closes, and the rain starts to fall, you don’t get to decide to have faith. When the not yet arrives, it’s not faith anymore.
Faith is the assurance and the conviction that God will set the world to rights because he is just, and that through faith in Jesus Christ, we can be protected from his condemnation, and enter His New Creation.
Are you assured and convicted of that?