Isaiah 53:5-6: “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

The concept of putting ourselves first has thrown the world under the bus. Jesus entered the scene of the accident with a refreshingly different approach saying: “Love God and your neighbor as yourself!” He lived these words so we can see and judge for ourselves that His way of life not only works, it is the only way how life makes sense. And I believe this is the reason why Jesus calls Himself “The Way.”

We are drowning in a lifestyle detrimental to our physical and mental health. And sometimes the only way to save us from drowning is to let out the bathwater until we sit in an empty bathtub. This is the year 2020 approaching Easter, and all around us the streets are empty, the shelves in our grocery stores are blank, public buildings such as schools and courthouses look hollow-eyed, in short: we sit in an empty bathtub.

Acts of God are as surprising and unforeseen as they come. It would be cruel to think or say that God punishes us for whatever sins we have committed. I don’t believe that is His style. God has better things to do. That is why Jesus said that He did not come to judge but to save the world. However, an act of God makes us aware of things that we could not see before. Reduced to emptiness we can appreciate what counts. Life counts. Love counts.

God’s generous love includes people who don’t accept Him. A beautiful mystery is being revealed when we become aware of God’s love. Jesus’s death and resurrection revolutionized the fabrics of all creation. In the new world to come, even animals will stop killing each other. The lion won’t have lamb for dinner and people will have learned how to be kind. It will be a safe world for our children and children’s children.

When we left Paradise we became strangers to God and His kingdom. It is a difficult pill to swallow that an innocent man was brutally murdered to make things right for everybody, but Jesus’s healing of a broken relationship will always be remembered. To be reconnected to the source of all being is the most striking experience there is. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way, but by His wounds we are healed.

Luke 9:23-24: “Then he [Jesus] said to the crowd, ‘If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.’”

Jesus’ ministry on Earth was drawing to a close when He began predicting His upcoming arrest. He was on the road to Jerusalem where He would face certain death, but He still kept on walking; His mind was made up. Approaching Jerusalem, Jesus addressed the crowd with the following words (Luke 9:24):

“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.”

True to His own word, Jesus did not defend Himself when He was arrested. He did not hold on to His own life when He was nailed to the cross. And so He died. On the morning of the third day after His execution something incredibly wonderful happened: Jesus emerged from the tomb. To everybody’s amazement He came back to life.

Human beings are invited to follow Jesus’ footsteps. As we stop defending ourselves we let God defend us. God saves us – but He saves us His way. Our way of saving ourselves is self-defense. God’s way of saving us is giving up self-defense.

Entrusting our lives into God’s capable hands we will receive a much better life in return: Life Eternal.

Jesus died so we can live.

Finding the Lord is finding life. Living life in His presence, it begins to dawn on us how much He loves us.

Our Heavenly Father believes in us – so much so that He bet His Son’s life on it and poured out His Spirit all over the earth to show us the way home. The Trinity has fully invested in us withholding nothing and giving everything. I believe this is why the apostle John wrote in his gospel (John 3:16)

John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

The beauty of our homecoming is thanks to enduring faith: God believes in us, and we believe in Him.

Ephesians 1:7: “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.”

The love of God is rich. Like the bottomless sea, His love never runs out. Neither does God’s grace. This is important to realize – if His love was scarce and His grace wanting, life would look a whole lot different. If God were stingy there would be a lack of natural resources to begin with. And without nature’s bounty our planet could not adequately support life.

Thankfully, one of His finest features is God’s generosity; thanks to His willingness to share from His abundance of grace and love, everybody wins. One spring I was able to witness an a lot of chicks waddling behind their parents as I was visiting a nature preserve. Nesting birds usually have at least four babies, which gives their species a good chance of survival. It is heartwarming to see new life everywhere.

Spring is the season of sprouting optimism and hope; It is the season of sowing and trusting that God’s resources will not run out. We can rely on God’s grace to do the same. There is no insult so offensive that would turn His grace off. His heart is welcoming, his door wide open. Like a river, His energies are streaming into one direction: to encourage life, to save life and to preserve life. God, the life-giver, is forever opposed to death.

Exactly how Jesus’ sacrifice redeems us from the tyranny of death remains a mystery – however, God’s salvation plan has come to full fruition when the Trinity split and Jesus became a human being. Jesus did not just fall down from the skies to save us; He was born a baby and grew up to become part of our human network. He had a family name and relatives. He had friends and mortal enemies. When He died on the cross His lifeblood redeemed us and all life forms. Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans (Romans 8:19-21):

“In my opinion whatever we may have to go through now is less than nothing compared with the magnificent future God has planned for us. The whole creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sight of the sons of God coming into their own. The world of creation cannot as yet see reality, not because it chooses to be blind, but because in God’s purpose it has been so limited—yet it has been given hope. And the hope is that in the end the whole of created life will be rescued from the tyranny of change and decay, and have its share in that magnificent liberty which can only belong to the children of God!”*

All of creation is presently waiting for the day of the Lord when death is expelled and life completely restored. God’s generous offer now stands – it is an offer we all can refuse. The redeemed have embraced Jesus and accepted His offer – which is God’s sincerest wish for everybody.

(*Quoting from The New Testament in Modern English by J.B Phillips copyright © 1960, 1972 J. B. Phillips. Administered by The Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England. Used by Permission.)

Deuteronomy 34:4:“Then the Lord said to Moses, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have now allowed you to see it with your own eyes, but you will not enter the land.”

Moses died on Mount Pisgah where he could see the Promised Land before he passed away. His death is highly symbolic in nature: Moses representing the Law of Moses does not have access to the Promised Land. He was allowed to see it but not enter it. In the same fashion will the law help us to see God’s values but it won’t get us into the Promised Land. We need to be redeemed to gain access and this is where Jesus, the Messiah comes in.

The Law of Moses is pointing out the blessings of adhering to them but is also spelling out the curses of disrespecting them. The curses outlined in the Torah all fell on Jesus. Prophet Isaiah wrote about the Messiah:

Isaiah 53:3-4: “He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins!”

On Earth, Jesus loved to refer to Himself as the Son of Man – or Son of Adam. I believe He did that to claim His Human identity, even though He is the Son of God who has lived long before He was born to Mary and Joseph. It was important to Jesus to identify Himself as a human being because Jesus would be the only living and breathing Son of Adam who satisfied the Law of Moses.  Not only did He follow the law in His lifetime with all the blessings that come with obeying the law, he also satisfied the law by accepting the curses coming from disobeying the law.  And since He did not have to take care of His own sins – He took care of humanity’s sins by absorbing the full punishment, including death. The wages of sin is death.  Jesus labored grief-stricken, mortally wounded, tormented and despised to absorb the full punishment of disobeying God to pay the price for humanity’s release.

That’s our Redeemer. That’s what Jesus did. After He had satisfied the law and died, God received His offering and opened up the grave to wake Him up from the dead.  After three days Jesus came back to life. And the rest is history.

“See from His head, His hands, His feet sorrow and love flow mingled down. Did ever such love and sorrow meet or thorns compose so rich a crown?” (Isaac Watts)

Romans 9:7: “Being descendants of Abraham doesn’t make them truly Abraham’s children. For the Scriptures say, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted,” though Abraham had other children, too.”

Abraham’s other children – who were they and how many children did Abraham have?

After his wife Sarah passed away Abraham married another wife before he died. Her name is Keturah. Keturah gave Abraham six children. Add Ishmael and Isaac to the equation, and we are looking at eight children with Ishmael being Abraham’s firstborn. These days we call that a blended family.

While all eight children were fathered by Abraham, three different mothers were involved to give birth to his eight children: Sarah, Hagar, and Keturah. Even though all three women gave birth to Abraham’s children they did not have equal status. Sarah was Abraham’s wife, Hagar was Sarah’s servant girl, and Keturah was Abraham’s concubine. Each respective mother’s status deeply impacted their children’s future (Genesis 25:5-6):

“Abraham gave everything he owned to his son Isaac. But before he died, he gave gifts to the sons of his concubines and sent them off to a land in the east, away from Isaac.”

When Abraham’s firstborn Ishmael was sent away without his rightful inheritance and his Concubines’ sons were sent away with “gifts” trouble was in the making. Over time, Abraham’s children grew into tribes and eventually into nations – nations who, despite their family relations tracing back to their father Abraham, have not been friendly with one another. Lasting family feuds ensued, feuds that have grown into modern day warfare and devastating terrorist attacks. Violation of firstborn rights could be seen as the original conflict.

The firstborn played a crucial role in the events surrounding Israel’s exodus from Egypt. Israel’s exodus was not achieved by nine devastating plagues (which must have left Egypt economically bankrupt). It was achieved through death of the firstborn, celebrated as Passover ever since. 

On the evening of the first Passover ever, God gave the following instructions to Israel (Exodus 13:1-2):

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Dedicate to me every firstborn among the Israelites. The first offspring to be born, of both humans and animals, belongs to me.’”

Firstborn livestock was to be sacrificed to redeem their firstborn children.  The difference between Egypt and Israel on that fateful night is the dedication of their firstborn – or lack thereof.  While the people of Israel saved their children by sacrificing lambs and applying its blood to their door frames the Egyptians lost all of their firstborn – children and livestock alike.

Dedicating the firstborn is one of the many ways our heavenly Father honors His Son. Centuries later, Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans that Jesus is the firstborn elder brother of many brothers and sisters to come (Romans 8:29):

“For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”

Surviving that fateful night prior to Israel’s exodus established a sacred role for the firstborn:

  • A firstborn is to be set apart (dedicated to the Lord);
  • A firstborn has redemptive power (as seen in the redeeming story of Exodus);

In the end, everybody benefits from Isaac’s firstborn status. Isaac is Jesus’ ancestor who is set apart to redeem all of humanity. This blessing goes way beyond any material blessing Abraham’s family members could have ever received. In hindsight, it turns out that their jealousy is actually unfounded. God knows no preferential treatment. He loves every single person on this planet and He dedicated His firstborn Son Jesus to pursue an extraordinary mission: saving the world.