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~ Entering the Meaning of
In some evangelical circles, “foolishness” is hailed as a virtue, citing in support, “Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?...The foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength” (1 Corinthians 1:20, 25, NIV). Too often the understanding of this is corrupted into an intolerance of biblical scholarship... “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it!” “End of discussion,” unfortunately.
Jesus, however, declared, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:12-13a). “We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!” (Hebrews 5:11-12).
In all things God created there is a wonderful simplicity along with infinite depths of mystery and complexity. The psalms reflect, “If I could count all your thoughts and ways, I would have to live eternally like you, O Lord!” (And some people actually think they’ll be bored in heaven just “resting” forever.)
In the simple basic encounter, “sin is sin.” But “water is water” too. Should I wish to navigate through water, however, I must understand its ways while flowing over rocks in whitewater and waterfalls, how it falls from the sky in white crystalline snow or hard hail, how different it is when sitting in a well than when gushing out as a stream between rock crevices. Water is water, but it is also ice, frost, snow, hail, mist and invisible humidity.
From rain forests to deserts, water infused all life. It is a state of living, and condition of being. And so it is with sin that takes many forms and follows many ways. Like water, sin can be splashed around in violence or poured to inundate life... “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck...I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me” (Psalm 69). And like water, sin is a pervasive condition of life on earth even when it isn’t obviously evident. “In sin I was conceived” (Psalm 51). That is a state of being, a condition of living in the body. At the very genesis of conception, sin is imbedded in all, like our imperfect DNA strands in every cell. This is what is meant by “the fallen state” of humankind. Paul describes it as a governing principle: “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it...Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:14-20, 24b-25, NIV).
This chronic, pervasive condition of spiritual and physical death called sin is both static and dynamic, like molten rock in an active volcano that always percolates deep within as magma and episodically explodes as lava, bringing destruction to all around it. Some volcanoes are “nicer” than others, like the dormant ones, but they are still volcanoes. The sin pervading humans individually and collectively has caused more destruction, pain, violence, supreme suffering and physical, emotional and spiritual devastation than all the volcanoes, floods, earthquakes or other natural heaves of energy by the earth, a zillion times more. There are no survivors in the onslaught of sin. Just death without any hope of a resurrection or recovery.
Into this Jesus was made, “made sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21). In the “Passion of the Christ” film, the evil entity suggests to Jesus during His prayer watch in Gethsemane, “You think you can bear the sins of the whole world?...No man is capable.” To be made sin, to bear all sin, to incorporate the sin of every person who ever lived, is living now, and will be born in sin to live, is to enter the portals of death and incorporate every evil impulse, every seed of evil, every commission of evil, over all time and all creation, into oneself. Indeed, no mere man, woman or child is capable of doing that on his or her own behalf, let alone for others.
As the Christ, God incarnated into this tragically horrible human condition. “I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold...I am restoring what I did not steal” (Psalm 69). Millions of tons of dead waste from humans, animals, plants and all organisms are deposited onto the earth every day. Miraculously, the earth transforms this waste into nutrients that grow new life. Earth’s ability to “restore what it didn’t steal” gradually weakens and dies as it, too, becomes overloaded with toxins. Christ incarnated into Himself the full corruption and consequences of all sin and evil. During His passion in Gesthsemane and on the Cross, Jesus the Christ subjected Himself to the totality of human evil, pain, suffering, despair, death and more than words are able to describe. As all that surged through every fiber of His being, He became it all.
The anticipation of physical pain was dwarfed by the prospect of needing to “drink this cup.” Jesus’ soul was not “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” and He didn’t sweat blood and require angelic attending for strength to prepare for a physical crucifixion. “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am – it is written about me in the scroll – I have come to do your will, O God” (Hebrews 10:5-7). “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour” (John 12:27). We couldn’t even smell the cup Jesus was preparing to drink without curling up into excruciating throes of death.
Only Yahweh could be made into the sin of the world; only the I AM loves enough to be made into the sin of His creation. Only Yahweh can suffer the infinite depths required and die such a complete and total death. Only He could resurrect the Christ from such depths, from such a death. Death was transcended into redemptive victory and “captivity [itself] was made captive,” slavery itself made a slave. We were all there on Golgotha. “If we died with him, we will also live with him” (2 Timothy 2:11). “Death has been swallowed up in victory” (Isaiah 25:8).
“For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help. From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you will I fulfill my vows. The poor will eat and be satisfied; they who seek Yahweh will praise him – may your hearts lives forever! All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to Yahweh, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to Yahweh and he rules over the nations. All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him – those who cannot keep themselves alive. Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about Yahweh the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn – for he has done it – It is accomplished – It is finished!” (Psalm 22).
John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
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