Luke's Bookends

I've been thinking recently about what God is like based primarily on the empirical evidence provided. Sometimes it seems difficult to get an accurate depiction of God in the harshness of life. I have said on more than one occasion that I understand why there are so many skeptics - just look around. Sickness. Disease. War. Murder. Rape. Child molestation. Violence. Abuse. Slavery. Genocide. Corruption. And the list could go on and on. The world in which we live can be a cruel place.

Because we live in such a broken world I understand why the skeptic, or even the average person with a somewhat normal sense of human justice, might scratch their head and question what kind of God this God is. And to be honest, I'm not always sure the answers we construct in the name of theology do much to answer the heart of these concerns. We want to think our answers are sufficient and so we argue and defend and uphold and guard our sacred theological moorings in a way that even renders them pointless at times. After all if you are only talking within your own walls, then who is really listening?

When you consider life's cruelties, it is easy to wonder if God is there and if He is, does He even care? Yet ever since act one/scene one, the Bible asserts that God remains involved in the story. If this assumption is valid, then the brokenness is not a result of God pulling away. On the contrary, the evidence appears to suggest that God remains active even when we question His involvement. Not only does God remain engaged with His creation, but He even went so far as to become a part of it. And if we truly believe that Jesus is the supreme revelation of God (Hebrews 1), then His life stands as the linchpin of understanding who God is.

So what does the life of Jesus tell us about who God is? What does the story of Jesus tell us about the brokenness? What does Jesus tell us about God's perspective of the harshness? What does Jesus tell us about God?

If anything, the life of Jesus reminds us that God redeems the brokenness for His glory. Jesus became one of us in order to rescue sinners from the brokenness. The story of Jesus is a story of redemption - God intervening on our behalf to break the cycle of sin and death. 

There are so many Jesus stories that attest to this truth. Let's think about just two. Consider the two accounts that bookend the life of Jesus in Luke's biography. When Jesus was born, God announced to a group of ragtag sinners: "A Savior has been born."  The birth announcement of Jesus simply said Savior. Not theologian. Educator. Priest. Philosopher. Philanthropist. Scholar. King. Sage. Now any of those titles could be used to help define the life and ministry of Jesus but when it came time for God to reveal His name - He chose Savior - a title of redemption.

Fast forward to the waning moments of Jesus' life. He is strapped to a cross between two rebels - men condemned to die for their atrocities. Two of the Gospel writers inform us that these two men, along with the crowd, mocked Jesus. John provides no information about their interaction. Luke alone records a scene that reminds us of who God is. Luke tells us that one of the sinners, evidently even after mocking Jesus, makes one final desperate request of Jesus: "Remember me when you come into your kingdom."  In a moment of frantic concern, this dying sinner cries out to Jesus for redemption. Jesus' response? "Today you will be with me in Paradise." This final scene just before Jesus breathes his last breath reminds us that He came to redeem sinners - frantic, desperate, dying sinners.

Think about this criminal hanging beside Jesus. He was a sinner dying for his crimes. He has just finished mocking Jesus. And now He wants forgiveness? Doesn't it seem a little convenient that he can make one desperate faith plea to Jesus and go straight to Paradise? Doesn't it seem unfair? A little too easy? Think about the people this man has hurt. The lives he destroyed. The pain he caused. The consequences he deserved. It just doesn't seem right. But isn't that what redemption is all about? God invading the brokenness.

Jesus encounters like this one remind me that God's scandalous grace is bigger than our theologies and formulas and presuppositions and opinions and systems and definitions and charts and interpretations or even our own sense of what is just and fair. It doesn't mean those things are unimportant. They are essential. It just means that if our human constructions cause us to lose sight of the reality that we can't restrict God to our human attempts to explain Him, then we have missed the heart of His own display of Himself. God is a Savior. He redeems sinners. He came to heal the spiritually sick.

What is God like? Honestly our theological boxes cannot contain the magnitude of who God is. We are being naive to think we can restrict God to our own tainted answers and opinions. But when we examine God when He appeared as one of us, one thing is clear: He is a God who enters our brokenness in order to redeem us from our sins. God's manifestation of Himself screams, Savior. And because we are all desperate sinners hanging with a spiritual death sentence of our own making, the gospel, the story of Jesus, truly is good news.

Popular posts from this blog

A Transparent, Tough, and Needed Discussion at City Church

Dear Zac: A Father's Thoughts on His Son Turning 16

Resurrection: Deconstructed