Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Amazing Love

The ultimate paradox . . .

Our King becomes a servant.

The sinless One bears all the corruption of a fallen world on His shoulders.

The Author of the Story becomes a part of the Story...He rolls up His sleeves and comes; ready to work, to suffer, to die with filthy people in a filthy world.

We are forgiven, because He was forsaken.

We are set free, because He was condemned.

       That's what sets Christianity apart from all the other religions in the world. And that's what made it so hard for the Jews to accept Him as a Savior. The King humbled Himself. He went so far as to be born in a stable. He chose to wash dirty feet, and foot-washing was something menial, reserved for the very lowest of the low. The Jews were expecting a shining conqueror riding in on a fine steed, surrounded by soldiers and servants; ready to defeat His enemies; ready to set His people free.... 

....But instead He was a baby. Born a stable. Born of an insignificant virgin girl. He grew up a carpenter, learning the trade from his father. He was friends with "bad" people - tax collectors, prostitutes, fishermen. He traveled about as an itinerant preacher, with nowhere to live, relying on the kindness of strangers. And that just doesn't sound at all like a king....and definitely not a god. 

       All the other "gods" the Jews knew of were powerful, brave, strong, handsome; they knew how to get rid of their enemies quickly and efficiently. 

       And then, there's this Jesus. People really didn't know what to make of Him. He told them things they had never heard before; things about grace, and mercy, and indescribable love. In contrast to the severity of the Old Testament laws and sacrifices, Jesus brought the bright hope of forgiveness and redemption into a hurting culture. He told them to turn the other cheek. He said that the first ones would be made last, and that the last ones would be made first. This was so strange for the Jews. They were immersed in a society that craved importance and power. To die to self was something they had never experienced. And this angered the Jews. Here was this young man coming in and telling them that they were going about it all in the wrong way; telling them that everything they knew was about to change; telling them all that He was God. 

       Jesus also told them that there was no greater love than to lay down your life for another. And He went on to show this Greatest Love when He delivered His body over to the Jews to be crucified. They tried to make Him angry by hurling taunts at Him even as He hung dying. But instead of lashing back, He asked God to forgive them.
      He died with the sarcastic words: "Hail, King of the Jews" written above Him. Look at that, the people seemed to say. He said He was the Messiah, but just look at Him now. Broken, bruised, dead. He's only a man. And we have killed Him. Look at that. 

       And all of Creation groaned as they lowered Him into that tomb. Look at that. How could that bloody body possibly be the Son of God? And if He was the Son of God, what could His Father possibly be thinking? 

     Deitrich Bonhoffer once said, "When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die." It sounds ominous, but that's not how Bonhoffer meant it. He knew - as so many other Christians have known - what a great privilege, even honor, it is to be able to take a tiny share in the sufferings of the Messiah. 

      Jesus told his followers again and again what the end of the Story would be. He told them that it was a good ending; a beautiful ending; a true ending. And that one day they would fully understand it all. And yet, as they watched their Lord die, they had forgotten. All they could see was the here and now. They were in the middle of the blackest night and it seemed as though morning would never come. But even as God turned His back on His only Son, He knew exactly what He was doing. He had not forgotten. This was all part of the Story, painful as it may be. 

It is all part of the Story. Every day, a chapter. Every sentence we speak. Every choice we make. Every pain we go through. And also every moment we are surprised by joy. 

For some reason our Creator decided to give us another chance. And that chance is worth fighting for. 

As Sam Gamgee said, "There's some good in this world, and it's worth fighting for." 

God said that He will turn the hearts of the children to the fathers, and the hearts of the fathers to the children. And that's worth fighting for. 

There will be a new heaven and new earth. And that's worth fighting for. 

Jesus said there's no greater love than the kind that sacrifices. And that Greatest's worth fighting for.

Everything that's worth anything has a price that's got to be paid. But it's all worth it. Because in the end, every tear will be wiped away and every valley raised up. 

In this life, we will have trials, but we can take heart, because our Redeemer has fully entered into, fully lived, fully suffered, fully died in this life. And He overcame it all.

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