For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.. Colossians 1:13,14
This week’s post is an excerpt from one of my favorite books, When God Weeps, by Joni Eareckson-Tada and Steven Estes. This is what Easter is all about!
Five centuries before Christ, Xerxes, King of Persia, organized the largest land-and-sea force ever witnessed and crossed the Dardanelles into Europe. His goal was to thrash Greece for its role in a rebellion against his father, Darius the great.
Five centuries later the Son of God, King of Kings, by himself crossed the chasm between divinity and humanity and walked onto earth to achieve a Rescue. His goal was to endure the thrashing due his creatures for their rebellion against his father, Jehovah.
Consider the Son of God. His gentle kingdom is described in the four gospels. The Rescue will mean more to us however if we don’t flip the pages too fast getting there. Let’s not burst into the room where he sits with his disciples. Let’s watch his reign through the keyhole first. Let’s stand back twenty centuries or so before Jesus ever came and see what led up to God becoming man.
God appears to Abraham. He promises him a baby boy and more great-grandchildren than Abraham can see stars. But the nomad’s beard is not as dark as it once was, and no midwife has ever shooed him out of the tent and told him to go boil some water. But the Lord kept his word. Abraham had a boy, who in turn had a boy, who had bunk-beds full of boys, who each married nice Jewish girls—and soon there was an Israel.
God carried the nation from birth “as a father carries his son.” When Egypt enslaved them he “heard their groaning” and “was concerned about them.” He loved them and engraved their names on the palm of his hand. When they fell into trouble, he rode to the rescue because he “delighted” in them and “could bear Israel’s misery no longer” They were his “sheep” his “wife”, his “inheritance”. Mothers would forget their nursing babies before he forgot them—he swore it.
But they forgot him. They had stood knees shaking as the mountain breathed fire, swearing up and down to stick to his wishes. Like a bride at the altar who can scarcely wait for the “I do”—they couldn’t spit the words out quickly enough, “We will do everything the Lord has said: we will obey.”
But they lied. In no time the nation’s hand was in the cookie jar. One sin led to another and soon there wasn’t a single commandment that Israel hadn’t broken. The Lord sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people. But they mocked God’s messengers. They despised his word and they scoffed at his prophets.
But it wasn’t just Israel. Every nation on earth spurned what little light it had–where God’s rain had softened the fields and his sun had ripened the grapes. God’s kindness failed—it failed to fan any spark of human righteousness—there was none to fan. Jew and gentiles alike sickened the stomach of their maker, causing him to write: “there is no one righteous, not even one.”
Is this how his kindness is repaid? There must be an accounting. War, Exile, hell-on-earth—and after death, eternal hell—these satisfied God’s justice, but that was all. For God, this was not good enough. He had created humans to mirror him, not be miniatures of Lucifer. Someone was needed to cut through the stench and Rescue this pathetic race. How to save them with out trivializing their guilt? How to mingle mercy with justice? He prepared for the rescue by donning a mortal body.
His last true comfort was that final moment before slipping from his mother’s womb. Then a borrowed feeding trough met him, and the story of his pain began. Did he taste tension in the milk of his mother as she hastily fled in the night from those searching to murder him? What did he feel when he grew up to learn what his presence had cost the baby boys of Bethlehem? How old was he before realizing what people thought about his mother and her morals.
Nazareth became his home town when the danger had passed. Nothing much happened there. We never read that as a young man he drew appreciative glances from the girls in his neighborhood. There is no story of courtship or mention of romance, and he was never to marry. “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” Instead he was known for his solitary strolls in he hills. By the time he was thirty, those long walks had done their work. He sensed it was time to go public.
This was how the Rescue began, the most unexpected, set-on-its-head campaign a king had ever launched, very unlike Xerxes. For as long as sovereigns have reigned, citizens have been asked to sacrifice for king and Country–their lands, their money, their children. But this king stepped from the merriment of his palace. He abandoned the cheery fireplace and the spread table, he resigned his luxuries and lands, and set out to perish for his citizens.
The people at first found him delightful, the way New Englanders welcome winter’s first snow before it becomes inconvenient and stays too long. They flocked so enthusiastically that merely getting around soon became cumbersome. “See that no one knows about this”, he strictly urged two men who had been blind until just minutes ago. “But they went out and spread the news about him over all that region”. “See that you don’t tell anyone,” he ordered a leper with brand new baby skin. “Instead he went out and began to talk freely spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly and stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people came to him from everywhere”.
Back at the high priest’s mansion they would gather for hushed discussions. What would they do with this Galilean embarrassment? They kept coming back to one rather extreme suggestion. The public would have been horrified to know of it, but Jesus knew, and the knowledge accompanied him everywhere he went.
By the flicker of oil lamps, he looked up from dinner and studied the faces around the room. Twelve familiar expressions. They were his friends, all but one. The miles they had walked together! Yet how could they fathom his thoughts tonight? Can the child really understand his father? These were the ones he had come for—natives of this sad planet who had never tasted what had delighted him in that other Place—so slow to learn—so dull in the most urgent of matters—always scrapping about who deserved top honors in a coming world they couldn’t possibly grasp. But he loved them.
Who can describe the whirlwind of the succeeding hours? Could so many lies really be told at a single trial? Could so much sin be poured into one court room? The drowning ones he had come to rescue screamed that he be thrown from the lifeboat. God had claimed to be God—what could be worse? God had kept his sworn promise to send a Messiah—how ridiculous! In the wee hours of that morning, Sodom and Gomorrah came to look virginal next to Jerusalem. Later, in the brighter light of day and to the background of a pressing crowd screaming insanities, Pilate washed away centuries of Roman justice in his finger bowl.
The Savior was now thrown to men quite different from the eleven. The face that Moses had begged to see–was forbidden to see–was slapped bloody. The thorns that God had sent to curse the earth’s rebellion now twisted around his own brow. His back, buttocks, and the rear of his legs felt the whip . . . From Heaven the Father now rouses himself like a lion disturbed, shakes his mane, and roars against the shriveling remnant of man hanging on a cross. Never has the Son seen the Father look at him so, never felt even the least of his hot breath. But the roar shakes the unseen world and darkens the visible sky. The Son does not recognize these eyes.
“Son of Man! Why have you behaved so? You have cheated, lusted, stolen, gossiped–murdered, envied, hated, lied. You have cursed, robbed, overspent, overeaten, fornicated, disobeyed, embezzled, and blasphemed. Oh, the duties you have shirked, the children you have abandoned! Who has ever so ignored the poor, so played the coward, so belittled my name? Have you ever held your razor tongue? What a self-righteous, pitiful drunk–you, who molest young boys, peddle killer drugs, travel in cliques, and mock your parents. Who gave you the boldness to rig elections, foment revolutions, torture animals, and worship demons? Does the list never end! Splitting families, raping virgins, acting smugly, playing the pimp–buying politicians, practicing extortion, filming pornography, accepting bribes. You have burned down buildings, perfected terrorist tactics, founded false religions, traded in slaves–relishing each morsel and bragging about it all. I hate, I loathe these things in you! Disgust for everything about you consumes me! Can you not feel my wrath?”
The Father watches as his heart’s treasure, the mirror-image of himself, sinks drowning into raw, liquid sin. Jehovah’s stored rage against humankind from every century explodes in a single direction. “Father! Father! Why have you forsaken me?!” But heaven stops its ears. The Son stares up at the One who cannot, who will not, reach down or reply. Two eternal hearts tear–their intimate friendship shaken to the depths.
The Trinity had planned it. The Son endured it. The Spirit enabled him. The Father rejected the Son whom he loved. Jesus, the God-man from Nazareth, perished. The Father accepted his sacrifice for sin and was satisfied. The Rescue was accomplished.
Not the end–only the beginning! LH
“JUST SAY KNOW” Bible Study
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