The Wonder of His Love
The miracles of Jesus' atonement for our sin on the Cross and His resurrection from the dead are indeed mysterious events in human history. There is something about their nature as miraculous events that is, of course, eye-catching and mind-boggling (from merely the material point of view), but there is also something incredible about the "why He did it" that simply begs exploration and inquiry.
In fact, that He could and would do such a thing is so strange a notion (from a human point of view), that a man named Isaiah wrote over seven hundred years before the fact, "Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?" (Isaiah 53:1 NIV). Isaiah was, just so you know, writing about the death and resurrection of the One sent from God centuries before it actually took place.
Both angles of doubt still nag people in regard to Jesus' death and resurrection: HOW He could overcome basic "laws" of physics and biology are beyond what we are generally willing to believe because the mystery of God's power defies our feeble senses and lies just outside the typically neat ways we like to order our ideas of "cause-and-effect". WHY, however, is perhaps even more incredible as it thrusts upon us the mystery of God's love which defies our corrupted understanding of love as being either a means to get what we want (using others) or as a weakness that makes us vulnerable to exploitation (neither of which is true in God's case).
Whether we judge Jesus' credibility based on our limited ability to perceive His power which exceeds all the energy that can be found in the universe from one edge to the other, or we underestimate Him because all our encounters with "love" throughout our lifetimes have been tainted (or, worse, non-existent), we judge Him on limited (and therefore insufficient) evidence. No wonder Isaiah opened that passage with those words, "Who has believed?"
If we do perceive the reality of His death and resurrection (the historical fact of which has withstood even recent efforts of skeptics to disprove) or if we do not recognize and acknowledge it, there remains the fact that He has both died as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of men and women everywhere and has also been raised from the dead: a lack of personal knowledge and/or experience in no way disproves the fact.
I would even go so far as to say that the mysterious qualities of these facts have less to do with eroding believability than with underscoring the transcendent and awesome nature of the Author of them.
"He (referring to the Messiah) grew up before Him (God the Father) like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground, He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not" (Isaiah 53:2-3 NIV).
Who do you know today that is like this "Messiah"? Who do you know that is willing to forgo credit and acclaim and is even willing to take the abuse and criticisms of a people that are not only ungrateful and unappreciative but are hateful and filled with contempt?
"Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed" (Isaiah 53:4-5 NIV).
We know of Jesus meekly tolerating the false accusations of those who were jealous of the hope that He proclaimed. And history recounts to us that crowds thronged about Him as He humbly endured the torment of public humiliation as well as the torture of the cat-o-nine tails and then the nails of the cross. Many who stood by as He died laughed at His pain and sorrow, assuming that His suffering was deserved, if not because He was a liar, then because He was weak enough to let them do such deeds to Him.
Yet, it was for us that He walked that road to Golgotha. It was for us that He permitted hateful hands to strike His innocent flesh. It was for us that He clung to the cross until He breathed His last. Love held Him to the cross; not nails.
"We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth. By oppression and judgment He was taken away. And who can speak of His descendants? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people He was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death, though He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth" (Isaiah 53:6-9 NIV).
The death of Jesus, God Incarnate, is indeed a mystery, yet, as we search it and plumb that mystery with both eyes and hearts open, we begin to see and understand just how great God truly is. The majesty of God is found in His power. This is true. But it is also discovered in the wonder of His love.
"It was the LORD's will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer and though the LORD makes His life a guilt offering, He will see His offspring and prolong His days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in His hand. After the suffering of His soul, He will see the light of life and be satisfied; by His knowledge My Righteous Servant (meaning Jesus) will justify many, and He will bear their iniquities. Therefore, I (God the Father) will give Him a portion among the great, and He will divide the spoils with the strong, because He poured out His life unto death, and was numbered among the transgressors. For He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors" (Isaiah 53:10-12 NIV).
Because Jesus died and paid the penalty for our rebellion against God, He is truly our Savior. The power of that salvation comes home to each of us inasmuch as we are willing to turn to Him in faith and let that power cleanse us and set us free from the condemnation of our guilt. Because God is so thorough in His faithfulness, He sent word to us through the Scriptures what His plan for our salvation would be and then sent His Son to die in our place. And then He completed the miracle by raising Him from the dead, vindicating Jesus' humble obedience to the Father, and showing us that the "end of the story" is NOT really the end when it comes to faith in God. The cross was a doorway to a new beginning for both Jesus and for all who place their faith in Him.
In a similar way, let the miracle of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday (Easter) be a doorway for you to experience anew the miracle of God's love and power. It is the best and brightest hope that anyone anywhere can have in a world writhing with the shadows of fear and suffering.
Copyright © Thom Mollohan.
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I stand amazed at His love and sacrifice for me. Amen to all that you have written. Many blessings this Easter.