If you were devising a plan to save yourself from eternal damnation, what sort of plan would you come up with? Whatever your plan, there’s no way you’d come up with a plan like God’s plan. The world won’t understand what God’s plan is through Jesus. Some think it’s totally crazy.
This was the Apostle Paul’s point in his message to the church in Corinth. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18
If you were describing your ideal savior, your description would probably include characteristics like strong, just, willing to fight for your salvation, destroyer of your enemies. Well, your description of your savior bears a striking resemblance to our savior through God. The difference is how they’d accomplish the salvation.
The worldly savior would likely use strength, might and overwhelming armies and forces to destroy your enemies and win your salvation. God’s heavenly savior, Jesus, saves us by giving up his might and strength. The worldly savior avoids and cheats death. Jesus willingly accepts and does not resist death at the hands of his enemies. The worldly savior rules with power and domination. Jesus rules with servanthood and sacrifice on the cross.
The contrasts between the worldly savior and God’s savior could not be more stark. That’s why the cross of Jesus makes no sense for the unbeliever. To them it is utter foolishness. But thanks be to God for his “foolishness”. Jesus has already vanquished our enemies and secured our place in heaven with God for all of eternity. Paul goes on to write: “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe . . . 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
Is God’s plan crazy? If eternal salvation is what you seek, it’s the only plan that will work.
For any parent, one of the most harrowing, savage and unimaginable portions of the Bible is when God commands Abraham to offer his only son Isaac as a sacrifice. Genesis 22:1-18. The magnitude of the requested sacrifice is huge. After all, Abraham and his wife long thought they would never have a child but were blessed late in life with Isaac. Isaac was their pride and joy. After Abraham binds his only son Isaac to an altar, and just as he is about to slaughter him, an angel of God sounds the blissful reprieve. What does this scene have to do with us? What can we learn from it? Here are three take-aways for you to contemplate during this Lenten season.
Jesus Followers are Not Free From Sacrifice
God does not promise His followers a rose garden. Quite the contrary. The life of a Christian will be filled with sacrifice. Perhaps you’ll be called to sacrifice your reputation when choosing to act in a Godly way rather than the way dictated by the crowd. Perhaps that coveted spot on a scholastic team is jeopardized because involvement interferes attending worship. Maybe your relationships with friends or family have been strained by your desire to follow Christ. When these “tests of faith” arise in your life, how will you react? Will you remain faithful to God?
Believe in God’s Promises
God makes and keeps his promises. Always. Do you believe that? Certainly there are times when it is difficult to continue to believe in his promises. Things happen in our lives — illness, loss of employment, death of a loved one, unfairness. Abraham chose to believe in God’s promise that He would send an acceptable sacrifice for the sins of mankind as he ascended Mt. Moriah. Those times of trial in our lives are opportunities to renew and reaffirm our trust in God’s promises. They are an invitation to deepen our relationship with God.
God is Merciful
At the last moment on Mt. Moriah, God sent his reprieve to both Abarahm and Isaac. God did, in fact, provide His own sacrifice. He does that for us as well. We are all sinners — we can’t help ourselves no matter how hard we try. Notwithstanding our good intentions, we lapse into sin daily. There’s nothing we can do to appease God’s wrath. The wages of sin are eternal death. Despite deserving death for our repeated sins, God loves us, has mercy on us and sends His own sacrifice. Instead of Abraham offering his own son, God offered His own son — Jesus — as the one and only perfect sacrifice for the sins of all mankind for all eternity. We don’t deserve that but nonetheless God sent a reprieve for our sins.
Comparing our willingness to sacrifice with that of Abraham when faced with a test of faith can be humbling for sure. But take heart — even if you fail the test, God is merciful. He loves you and desires to be merciful despite your failures of faith and obedience.
What is your reaction to the word “authority”? If I were to take a guess, I would guess that astonishment and joy wouldn’t have been on the top of your list. Your first reaction might be something more like suspicion, fear, and even outright rejection. Authority is not often perceived as a good in our society. It is associated with oppression or having too much power. Yet, the reaction of the crowds to Jesus’ authority on display in Mark 1:21-28 is joy and astonishment. Why?
As demonstrated by the casting out of the unclean spirit, Jesus is revealing to us how He intends to use His authority. He has come to wield His authority to liberate us from our great oppressors of sin and Satan. Jesus teaches His disciples that the world uses it authority to lord it over others; this is not the way God intends authority to be used (Matthew 20:25-28). Jesus shows us that God intends for authority to be used in service to those under it. This is precisely what Jesus does! He exercises His authority to free you and me from our sin; Jesus exercises his authority to serve you! How amazing is that?! The reason the crowds and you can respond to Jesus authority with joy and astonishment is because He uses it to serve and protect those underneath it; He doesn’t lord it over us. The cross is the prime example of this.
Let’s face it, authority is abused in our sinful and fallen world all the time. Sometimes we are the victims of that abuse and other times we are the one committing it. Who do we want to have authority? Myself or some other “good” person? No, we all fall short and misuse it. This is why it is such good news that Jesus has the authority (Matthew 28:18). Because He has and will continue to use it to serve you. He uses it to liberate you from sin, death, and the devil! What wondrous mercy and love God has for us in Jesus!
In Christ, Pastor Thompson Ascension Lutheran Church