At age 17 I realized that God is real. It was wonderful to get connected to God Almighty and to experience His love. However, the suffering of Christ was beyond me. Quite honestly, I could not grasp why Jesus had to be punished so badly to introduce us back to Heaven. It made me feel bad. So I did what I always do when I don’t understand something: I focused on the things that I did understand.
If I had to choose a favorite from among the members of the Trinity, it has always been the Father. Growing up without a father probably had something to do with it. Talking to our Heavenly Father, I was introduced to His love. And as time progressed, I could not help but notice that besides loving us, the Father dearly loves His Son. Isn’t that how it works? You get involved with one member of the Trinity, and pretty soon you get introduced to all of them: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It’s a little bit like dating. I got to know my husband Bill as we started hanging out together, and pretty soon he introduced me to his family.
“Cheer up, God loves you” – a well-meaning statement, isn’t it? The late Rich Mullins once observed: “God apparently has no taste since He loves everybody.” A love so vast that it includes every single person on this planet is another conundrum, hard to grasp for humans who love one person and hate another. If God loves everybody, then He also loves villains; He loves the cruel and the kind. And if we have a problem with God’s bighearted approach then we need to ask ourselves some hard questions: Shouldn’t we be glad that God loves Nero and Hitler? What hope do we have if God’s love had boundaries? Where would we want Him to draw the line? Isn’t it a better world with God’s love not limited to just a selected few? I believe it is – and this is where Easter comes in!
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 motion pictures showing Jesus on the cross, you too may have wondered about that. I mean, dying for us is one thing, being martyred to death is quite another! Of course, Jesus was not the only one dying on the cross. And since many criminals in the Roman Empire had to die that way, I don’t believe that Jesus’ death was meant to be a competition to die the cruelest death ever. Jesus died that way, because nailed to the cross is where He needed to be to talk to the criminals dying next to Him. They were in the same boat, and Jesus took advantage of that. 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. An American Indian proverb basically says that we’re not supposed to criticize people unless we have “walked a mile in their moccasins”. Well, walking in our shoes is exactly what Jesus did when He talked to the crucified criminals next to him. Being crucified with them, He was physically present and He 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 had 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!
“Birds have nests, foxes have dens
But the hope of the whole world rests
On the shoulders of a homeless man” Rich Mullins