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2nd April, 2007

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Seeing God through Jesus' Passion

Many believers can testify that a major turning point in their lives occurred at the moment they grasped the personal dimension of what had previously been apprehended somewhat academically — that Jesus Christ was willing to die for them, individually. This personalization of Jesus' Passion often comes in a flash of illumination, and can strike believers with hammer-like force. They are overwhelmed by the love of God who was willing to send Jesus Christ to die for their sins. How many of us have said words to the effect of, “Isn't God wonderful; look at what He has done for me”? What transports of delight such insight bring. The thought is well expressed in the famous hymn:

Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I'm found
was blind, but now I see.

As good and wholesome as such a confession of faith may be, it's not good enough. Why? Because it centers the world around ourselves, as if we, individually, are what really counts. God must be good because He has done great things for me. Most believers, with the passage of time, mature beyond this personal confession to the next stage of maturity in which they confess, “Isn't God unbelievable; look at what He has done for us”. Excellent; now we're making progress. We recognize that we, individually, are only one of billions. God loves everybody else as much as He loves “number one”, and so we come to value our neighbor as highly as ourselves. We realize that what really counts in the great scheme of things is not just ourselves, but the entire body of Christ which, ultimately, will incorporate the bulk of the human family.

As good and wholesome as such a confession of faith may be, we need to progress beyond it. Why? Because it centers the world around humanity rather than around God. The final stage of Christian maturity is reached when we turn the order of the previous confession around and say, in utter humility, “Look at what God has done for us; wow, isn't He spectacular”. In the two previous confessions of faith, our thoughts lingered on people; first, ourselves, then humanity. Indeed, such confessions unconsciouly suggest that our assessment of the goodness of God is predicated on a prior commitment to human worth. God must be good because He has

recognized our potential worth as redeemed saints and shown grace towards us. Sure, we may sincerely see ourselves as “wretches” but until our thoughts linger on the majesty of a Being who would do such a thing for insignificant motes of protoplasm rather than on ourselves, the recipients of such infinite grace, we haven't taken the final step in spiritual maturity. We attain spiritual maturity when our thoughts centre entirely on God and Jesus Christ when we read the gospel Passion accounts. Scripture provides us with a brilliant insight into how we should think about the events of Calvary:

So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, "Truly this was the Son of God !" (Matt. 27:54).

They did not say, “Look at what this man has done for us” but, rather, “Who can understand such a person?” They had witnessed every pain-wracked spasm of Jesus' agony and been astounded at His lack of self-pity, His refusal to turn bitter towards those who mocked and blasphemed Him. Such behavior was beyond human comprehension. They had heard Him beseech His Father to forgive His tormentors; they knew that such thoughts could not have come from a mere human being. This man must have been very Son of God, God in the flesh. And oh, what a God! He had created the entire universe and every living creature on earth. He made man of the dust of the ground; every moment of human life and every one of its joys has its origin in the mind of God. He owes us nothing while we owe Him everything. He was willing to enter flesh, to walk among us sinners, commune with us, suffer at our hands, and die as a result of human perfidy. Incomprehensible.

Yes, Jesus' Passion proves and illuminates God's infinite love. But to see it in all its glory we need to set Calvary against the backdrop of a vital home truth:

All nations before Him are as nothing, and they are counted by Him less than nothing
and worthless (Is. 40:17).

The Father sent Jesus to die for us because of what He is, not because of what we are. Look at what God has done for specks of nothingness; how can we comprehend a being of such love? Let us worship Him in spirit and truth.

See also "Fruit flies and the death of Jesus"and "The foolishness of the cross"


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