The miracles of Jesus’ atonement for our sin on the Cross and His resurrection from the dead are indeed mysterious events in human history. There is something about their nature as miraculous events that is, of course, eye-catching and mind-boggling (from merely the material point of view), but there is also something incredible about the “why He did it” that simply begs exploration and inquiry.
In fact, that He could and would do such a thing is so strange a notion (from a human point of view), that a man named Isaiah wrote over seven hundred years before the fact, “Who has believed what they heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?” (Isaiah 53:1 ESV). Isaiah was, just so you know, writing about the death and resurrection of the One sent from God centuries before it actually took place.
Both angles of doubt still nag people in regard to Jesus’ death and resurrection: HOW He could overcome basic “laws” of physics and biology are beyond what we are generally willing to believe because the mystery of God’s power defies our feeble senses and lies just outside the neat ways we typically like to order our ideas of “cause-and-effect”. WHY, however, is perhaps even more incredible as it thrusts upon us the mystery of God’s love which defies our corrupted understanding of love as being either a means to get what we want (using others) or as a weakness that makes us vulnerable to exploitation (neither of which is true in God’s case).
Whether we judge Jesus’ credibility based on our limited ability to perceive His power which exceeds all the energy that can be found in the universe from one edge to the other, or we underestimate Him because all our encounters with “love” throughout our lifetimes have been tainted (or, worse, non-existent), we judge Him on limited (and therefore insufficient) evidence. No wonder Isaiah opened that passage with those words, “Who has believed?”
If we do perceive the reality of His death and resurrection (the historical fact of which has withstood efforts of skeptics to disprove over the course of two millennia) or if we do not recognize and acknowledge it, there remains the fact that He has both died as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of men and women everywhere and has also been raised from the dead: a lack of personal knowledge and/or experience in no way disproves the fact.
I would even go so far as to say that the mysterious qualities of these facts have less to do with eroding believability than with underscoring the transcendent and awesome nature of the Author of them.
“For He (referring to the Messiah) grew up before Him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not” (Isaiah 53:2-3 ESV).
Who do you know today that is like this “Messiah?” Who do you know that is willing to forgo credit and acclaim and is even willing to take the abuse and criticisms of a people that are not only ungrateful and unappreciative but are hateful and filled with contempt?
“He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5 ESV).
We know of Jesus meekly tolerating the false accusations of those who were jealous of the hope that He proclaimed. And history recounts to us that crowds thronged about Him as He humbly endured the torment of public humiliation as well as the torture of the cat-o-nine tails and then the nails of the cross.
Many who stood by as He died laughed at His pain and sorrow, assuming that His suffering was deserved, if not because He was a liar, then because He was weak enough to let them do such deeds to Him.
Yet, it was for us that He walked that road to Golgotha. It was for us that He permitted hateful hands to strike His innocent flesh. It was for us that He clung to the cross until He breathed His last. Love held Him to the cross, not nails.
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. By oppression and judgment He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made His grave with the wicked and with a rich man in His death, although He had done no violence, and there was no deceit in His mouth” (Isaiah 53:6-9 ESV).
The death of Jesus, God Incarnate, is indeed a mystery. Yet, as we search it and plumb that mystery with both eyes and hearts open, we begin to see and understand just how great God truly is. The majesty of God is found in His power. This is true. But it is also discovered in the wonder of His love.
“Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush Him; He has put Him to grief; when His soul makes an offering for sin, He shall see His offspring; He shall prolong His days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. Out of the anguish of His soul He shall see and be satisfied; by His knowledge shall the Righteous One, My Servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the many, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:10-12 ESV).
Because Jesus died and paid the penalty for our rebellion against God, He is truly our Savior. The power of that salvation comes home to each of us inasmuch as we are willing to turn to Him in faith and let that power cleanse us and set us free from the condemnation of our guilt. Because God is so thorough in His faithfulness, He sent word to us through the Scriptures what His plan for our salvation would be and then sent His Son to die in our place. And then He completed the miracle by raising Him from the dead, vindicating Jesus’ humble obedience to the Father, and showing us that the “end of the story” is NOT really the end when it comes to faith in God. The cross was a doorway to a new beginning for both Jesus and for all who place their faith in Him.
In a similar way, let the miracle of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday (Easter) be a doorway for you to experience anew the miracle of God’s love and power. It is the best and brightest hope that anyone anywhere can have in a world writhing with the shadows of fear and suffering.
(Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 23 ½ years, is the author of Led by Grace, The Fairy Tale Parables, Crimson Harvest, and A Heart at Home with God. He blogs at “unfurledsails.wordpress.com”. Pastor Thom leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org).