G. K. Chesterton says in Orthodoxy that Original Sin is the only tenet of the Christian faith that can actually be proven – one only needs to read the newspapers.
We know the world is broken, sick, in need of deliverance. We know it and we feel it. I have had the opportunity in the last few weeks to discover what the Bible means by “bowels of compassion.” I have been so anxious for two members of my family that at times I have been nearly sick with it. I have laid this at the Father’s feet almost daily, committing myself to trust Him, but that does not make the experience less painful.
When Jesus was on His knees before the Father at Gethsemane, He knew how the story would play out. He had told His disciples that He would die and rise again after three days. He faced His suffering with the full knowledge that His death was temporary, that the grave could not restrain Him, that He would be as full of joy on Sunday as He was full of sorrow on Thursday night.
In spite of this, Jesus sweat blood and begged to be released from His “cup”. It was painful to even anticipate the suffering of the cross. He knew the beautiful redemptive plan unfolding, yet His humanity bound Him to that moment that I knew so well a few weeks ago – the moment when you see something dreadful immediately before you, but no way to avoid it. It’s like being tied to the railroad tracks as the train approaches.
And the cup did not pass from Him. Nor did He shrink from it. With sublime courage, He faced false accusations with truth, mockery with the dignity of silence, and the whole prolonged ordeal with dogged perseverance. The reward of His Passion is described by Paul in Philippians 2:9-11: “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (ESV).
Jesus’ death and resurrection buys our redemption. It is accepted as atonement on our behalf, and we are, in the words Ephesians, “accepted in beloved.” We are received in Christ with Whom the Father is well pleased. But Philippians promises us something more than this. The same Jesus who bore our sins upon the Cross has earned the right to judge sin. Having offered the perfect sacrifice for sin, He has authority to judge those who refuse to receive it, and to judge the very brokenness of the world that He came to heal. In Revelation 5, it is the Lamb-who-was-slain Who is worthy to break open the scroll of God’s judgment.
We are far less comfortable with the judging Jesus than we are with the gentle Jesus, but let us think on this: IT IS THE SAME SAVIOR. Christ restores the Eden that Adam lost when sin first entered the world. According to I Corinthians 15, Christ makes alive again that which is dead through Adam’s Fall. He will restore that which has been lost and heal that which has been broken.
Whatever is wrong with the world, we know this: Christ will redeem it or He will judge it, but either way, He will perfect it.
In this way, the Cross provides us with justice. It offers peace with God and peace with each other for those willing to walk in grace and forgiveness. For those who have been wronged, the Cross provides us with a qualified judge Who knows what it is to be wronged, and who will surely have compassion on those who find no vindication in this life. If Christ was willing to go to Calvary to satisfy the righteous demands of God’s justice, we should never doubt that He cares about what is fair and just in our own lives. The call to Christians to forgive is not a call to deny justice; it is a call to receive Christ’s death on the Cross as the payment for sin just as God receives it. By doing so, I place all that is owed me in the hands of Christ, and I ask Him to repair the damage done by those who hurt me. It is His to bear the cost of sin, and His to redeem the consequences.
As Easter approaches, I am praying for a resurrection of sorts for those I love – to see the death of a relationship swallowed up in the victory of life and love. God is faithful, and no one can pluck us out of the Father’s hand. As the sun comes up on the first day of the week, let us think about the earthquake that woke up Jerusalem two thousand years ago, and let us hear in the turmoil the hammer of God striking away the seal on an empty tomb.