At age 17 I realized that God is real. It was wonderful to get connected to God and experience His love. However, to me, the Godhead felt a bit crowded.
“One God is plenty”, I thought. “Why Three in One?”
I did what I always do when I don’t get something: I focused on the things that I did get. I understood that I have a Father in Heaven who loves me and left it at that.
When we were dating, my future husband Bill and I started hanging out to get to know each other. After a while he introduced me to his family. Getting to know the Trinity reminds me a little bit of dating. As time progressed I could not help but notice that besides loving me, the Father dearly loves His Son. Isn’t that how it works? We get involved with one member of the Trinity, and pretty soon we get introduced to all three of them: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The Godhead situation became pretty unique when the Trinity had to temporarily split. Jesus arrived on planet Earth! The Son of God was born into a human family and became one of us – a relative of ours! Think about that for a minute.
We celebrate Christmas because God became our relative.
We celebrate Easter because this relative of ours laid down His life for us.
We know that God is eternal. He has no beginning and no end. And yet, by becoming one of us, the eternal God, Author of life and Heartbeat of Creation, voluntarily submitted to mortality. His heartbeat literally stopped before He was returned to life and rose from the grave – all of that to rescue His creation from death.
Dying for us is one thing, but being martyred to death is quite another. Honestly, for the longest time I had trouble seeing why Jesus had to be punished so badly. It made me feel bad. Have you ever wondered why Jesus had to die the way He did – nailed to two wooden beams? If you have seen any of the quite graphic motion pictures showing Jesus on the cross, you too may have wondered about that.
Appalling as His manner of dying was, Jesus did not compete to die the cruelest death ever. Many criminals in the Roman Empire awaited the same fate. Nailed to the cross, people expired to satisfy Roman law. Jesus, however, did not die to satisfy Roman law. He definitely was no criminal. He did nothing wrong to deserve to be executed. Nevertheless, there’s a reason for Jesus’s willingness to submit to the Roman criminal justice system. His intention was to take the blame for every crime ever committed and to accept its punishment – including the crimes committed by the two criminals who were dying right next to Him.
Jesus and the two criminals were in the same boat. All three of them were nailed to the cross awaiting their death. Here is the unfolding conversation between the three dying men (Luke 23:39-43):
“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’
Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’
Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.’”
We understand that there’s more to having a real conversation than just being physically present. A Native American proverb basically says that we’re not supposed to criticize people, unless we have “walked a mile in their moccasins”. Well, being crucified with the two criminals, Jesus was more than physically present. He walked in their shoes and literally felt their pain. That’s love going the extra mile.
How could a fire department accomplish a rescue mission without ever being on the scene of the accident? That doesn’t make much sense, does it? By the same token, God decided to go through hell to pull us out of hell. That’s redemption in a nutshell! If there was a different way of saving us, I’m convinced that God would have done it. As it is, He chose His Son to perform the biggest rescue mission ever – saving the world – by dying on the cross. Thank God that He did!