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by Karen Burkhart
In today’s Bible passage, we read a very straight-forward message from Jesus. With unshakable confidence and without apology, Jesus reveals several truths about himself:
Jesus is from above and not of this world
Jesus’ identity is constant
Jesus is sent by the Father
Jesus tells the world what he hears from the Father
Jesus will be lifted up (on a cross, and into heaven)
Jesus does nothing on his own
Jesus speaks what the Father taught him
Jesus is not alone; the Father is with him
Jesus always does what pleases the Father
On the whole these truths are very comforting to me. I want to know my God is higher than me. I want to be assured the one I'm following knows where He came from and where he's going. I want to know the One whose words I hang on speaks on good authority. But not all these revelations are easy to accept or reconcile.
Consider Jesus’ foreshadow of his death on the cross and his statement that he always does what pleases the Father. How could any father be pleased by his son’s crucifixion—especially a perfect Father? Maybe you’re thinking the way to reconcile these seemingly contradictory statements is to consider that Jesus’ death was done to him, not by him. Looking elsewhere in Scripture, though, we see that Jesus was a willing and active participant in his own death: “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord." (John 10:18) In Isaiah 53:10, we also find this baffling statement: “…it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer...” The King James Version puts it this way: “…it PLEASED the Lord to bruise him…” It’s impossible for me as a parent to imagine a scenario where I would be pleased with my son’s injury or death. Impossible. But I’m not God; I am from below. I am of this world.
So, what compelled this Heavenly Father to will his only Son’s death? What compelled this Son to willingly lay down his life? Love. That’s it. Pure, unadulterated, eternal, sacrificial love—for us. God could not sit idly by and watch his most cherished creation die in their sins—in our sins.
"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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. " (John 3:16-18)
Make no mistake, God's promise of eternal life (aka: salvation) is conditional. But the condition isn't the one often propagated by our western culture--that we have to BE good and DO good. Aren't you glad?! The condition is that we must BELIEVE that Jesus is HE--the Messiah, the Sent One, the Great I AM. Believing is simpler than trying to weigh every thought and deed, but it's more than mental assent and not without cost.
Do you believe in Jesus? If you're unsure, I encourage you to watch this four minute video: What Does It Mean to Believe in Jesus?
Lord, thank you for laying down your life on the cross to pay my debt of sin so that I could live eternally. Teach me what it means to live like I believe in You, trusting in You with each step.