“If there’s nothing redeemable,
no one that can restore,
No one to recreate, regenerate, and remedy these sores,
then it’s all in vain,
and I’m the most to be pitied.
if God is on my side,
there’s a Lion standing with me.”
Where do we get life from? There are a couple sources, right? Our parents, then food, sleep, water, etc. To be cut off from any of these things when we need them would be to kill ourselves. It’s like a branch on its tree. We’re unfailingly dependent on other things.
Standing opposite us is God. He is independent of everything. Before time existed, he existed. Before food existed, he existed. He can’t be killed because anything that might try to kill him derives so much as their ability to think about killing him from him. He is never bored, because the time that he created can’t exceed him. Nothing outward determines his inward nature. He is perfect because he defines perfect, and he cannot become more, nor less perfect. The panorama of his perfections exceed our mind because our mind can barely comprehend the size of the cities we live in, much less the galaxy, much less the One who first thought of it all. Saint Augustine ponders well:
“Do heaven and earth, then, contain the whole of you, since you fill them? Or, when once you have filled them, is some part of you left over because they are too small to hold you? If this is so, when you have filled heaven and earth, does that part of you which remains flow over into some other place? Or is it that you have no need to be contained in anything, because you contain all things in yourself and fill them by reason of the very fact that you contain them?”
Does the wind turbine determine the speed of the wind? Does the pen tell its holder what it wants to write?
Or, do umbrellas halt a sky full of rain? Can a television turn itself off without someone pressing the remote?
We’re surrounded by images of dependence and independence. The wind does not consult with the turbine to decide its speed and direction. The turbine turns as the wind wills. The pen has no volition of its own. It acts according the hand that holds it. The umbrella simply accepts every one of the thousands of rain drops that fall on it; it does not tell them how to fall. And the television, bright and powerful as it is, does not decide to turn on and off.
One is dependent. The Other is independent.
We are the dependent. Without God, we have nothing. No existence, no will, no life, nothing. Everything, especially joy, is derived from him,
and we try so hard to cut ourselves off from that.
We, the branch, trying to thrive without the tree. We, the turbine, trying to produce the wind needed to turn ourselves. We, the pen, the umbrella, the television; completely dependent, yet killing ourselves as we run from God to try and prove our independence.
And God simply says, “Come to me to have abundant life.”
As we walk through the halls of history, we witness thousands and thousands of individuals that lived such a lifestyle. A moment of success, of pleasure, of power, and then? Dead, permanently. These bodies, with no concern for the Living God, rot in graves, as their souls rot in Gehenna.
But we have an exception.
In one small section of history, there’s an unimpressive portrait on the wall. It’s a picture of a man named Jesus.
Jesus’ image is nothing to marvel at. His face is not that handsome, his wallet is pretty thin, and his hair is filthy. Your eyes would much rather look at Mozart or Walt Disney or Elizabeth I. Aesthetically and financially, He was unimpressive.
But in every other way imaginable, Jesus’ life was unique, unprecedented, and totally unexpected.
We could talk about his miraculous birth, the incredible things he was alleged to have done, or the invaluable wisdom that regularly fell from his tongue. But each of those things pale in comparison with his character.
Jesus was perfect.
Like a joyful, healthy baby, or a smooth piece of white paper, or the clear view of a beautiful sunrise, Jesus stands as the only man in history that was spotless. Nothing external determined His internal nature. He was flawless in action, and guiltless in conscience. If there’s any part of this story where words fail me, it’s here. How can we describe someone who never dishonored God? Who never broke a commitment? Who never asserted his own rights? Who never exaggerated the truth for his benefit? Who never enjoyed the smallest guilty pleasure? Who never looked at someone inappropriately? Who never grumbled at his work? Who never disrespected his parents?
It’s almost too hard to believe.
I want you to think about death for a moment. Death is not simply a consequence of humanity; death is a consequence of sin. Before the disobedience of Adam, no one died. In the Garden of Eden, man was perfectly united to the Source of Life, so death had no place. How would it have been possible to die when you already stand before God?
Jesus was infinitely better than Adam, and because he was God, he was perfectly connected to God. Adam’s glory was in his innocence. Jesus’ glory was in His righteousness. Before the fall, Adam hadn’t done anything wrong because he was born into a world where everything was good. But Jesus was born into a very different place. His family was poor and often ostracized. His government was corrupt. His siblings were abnormally difficult, and his cousin was an outcast. He was always surrounded by the least desirable people in society. Internally, Adam was destroyed by sin, even though externally, his world was perfect. Internally, Jesus was perfect, even though externally, his world was destroyed by sin. And only he could save it.
The pinnacle of the gospel, the pinnacle of my whole life, and the pinnacle of history rest in the moment where he chose to save it. It was a moment that never should have happened: an innocent man dying for the wrongs of others. Below him, an old hill. Next to him, criminals receiving their due. Around him, dozens of people upset at God for claiming to be God. Above him, unimaginable darkness. On top of him, the fierce wrath of a God whose name had been mocked and insulted by every soul he graciously created. Inside him, the authority to make all of it stop in an instant.
This is Jesus. His kindness now being killed. His goodness gave him a grave. His authority met with anarchy. His humility rewarded with hate.
And I praise him for it.
The crucifixion of Jesus was unbelievably shocking, yet totally expected. He should have never died, yet his words reflect something different. After walking with him for a time, news of his death should not have surprised anyone. Throughout the pages of the gospels, we see phrases like, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed,” “I lay down my life for the sheep,” and “the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” He was too powerful for man to take his life, and he was too holy for God to take it. He understood the fact that he was going to die, and it was totally of his own volition.
Many see such claims about offering atonement as Jesus crying wolf. We can’t see the wrath of God. There’s no way to verify the “forgiveness” and “salvation” he promised. Of course he would talk about stuff that’s ethereal and intangible; no one can say he failed.
But what if there was a way to verify it? If everything else that he said was true, wouldn’t that make you at least consider his claims about his death accomplishing something before God?
You already know where this is going, but that doesn’t make it any less glorious.
Jesus said that after he died, he would come back to life, and anyone that’s able to do that has a lot of credibility in my opinion.
He said his death would purchase forgiveness for many souls. He said he was God. He said that it had to happen this way, lest God remain unjust and men remain separated from him. He said he would rise from the dead. Only one of those things had to happen to prove the others, and it did. He rose.
Jesus is the source of love that came to reveal the love of God through sacrifice.
Jesus is the source of life that chose to die in order to reconnect us with himself.
Jesus is the source of joy that has promised to bring us to himself in joyful reunion.
The gospel changes everything.