He didn’t call Himself “the reverend Holiness Angelic Divinity III.” He didn’t insist on plush, royal robes or gleaming, golden scepters. He didn’t come on the wings of a heavenly host, live in a celestial palace, or march at the head of an angelic honor guard.
He was the son of a carpenter in a remote section of an oppressed nation. He was God’s greatest surprise. The heart of heaven wrapped in human flesh. If you’ve forgotten what He’s really like—or you’d like to get to know Him better— read on!
“You mean to tell me God became a baby…
The one posing the questions was puzzled. His thick eyebrows furrowed in doubt and his eyes squinted in caution. Though there were places to sit, he opted not to do so. He preferred to stand safely behind the crowd, unsure, yet intrigued by what he was hearing. Throughout the lecture he had listened intently, occasionally uncrossing his arms to stroke his whiskered chin. Now, however, he stood upright, punching the air with his finger as he queried.
…and that he was born in a sheep stable?”
He looked as though he’d walked down from one of the adjacent Colorado mountains: stocking hat, down vest, nylon leggings, hiking boots. And he sounded as though he honestly didn’t know if the story he was hearing was a mountain legend or the gospel truth.
“Yes, that is what I mean to say, “ the lecturer responded.
“And then, after becoming a baby he was raised in a blue-collar home? He never wrote any books or held any offices, yet he called himself the Son of God?”
“That is right.”
The lecturer being questioned was Landon Saunders, the voice of the Heartbeat Radio program. I’ve never heard anybody tell the story of the Nazarene like Landon can.
“He never traveled outside of his own country, never studied at a university, never lived in a palace, and yet asked to be regarded as the creator of the universe?”
I was a bit unnerved by the dialogue. I was fresh out of college, gung ho, enthusiastic. As a volunteer helper in the lecture series, I had come with memorized verses and responses loaded in the chamber of my evangelistic six-shooter. However, I came prepared to defend a lifestyle, not a Savior. I was ready to argue morality, doctrine, heaven and hell. I wasn’t ready to argue a man. Jesus had always been someone I just accepted. These questions were a too aggressive for my virgin faith.
“And this crucifixion story. . . he was betrayed by his own people? No followers came to his defense? And then he was executed like a common junkyard thief?”
“That’s the gist of it.”
The authenticity of the questioner didn’t allow you to regard him as a cynic nor to dismiss him as a show-off. To the contrary he seemed nervous about commanding such attention. His awkwardness betrayed his inexperience in public speaking. But his desire to know was just an ounce or two heavier than his discomfort, so he continued.
“And after the killing he was buried in a borrowed grave?”
“Yes, he had no grave of his own, nor money with which to purchase one.”
The honesty of the dialogue kept the audience spellbound. I realized I was witnessing one of those rare times when two people were willing to question the holy. Here were two men standing on opposite sides of a deep chasm, one asking the other if the bridge that stretched between them could actually be trusted.
There was a hint of emotion in the student’s voice as he carefully worded the next question. “And according to what’s written, after three days in the grave he was resurrected and made appearances to over five hundred people?”
“And all this was to prove that God still loves his people and provides a way for us to return to him?”
I knew which question was coming next. Everyone in the room knew it. It could have gone without being asked. In my heart of hearts, I was hoping that it wouldn’t be asked.
“Doesn’t that all sound rather. . .” He paused a second, searching for the right adjective. “Doesn’t that all sound rather absurd?”
All the heads turned in perfect sync and looked at Landon. All the heads, that is, except mine. My head was spinning as I was forced to look at Jesus from a new angle. Christianity … absurd? Jesus on a cross. . . absurd? The Incarnation. . . absurd? The Resurrection… absurd? My Sunday school Jesus had been taken down from the flannel board.
Landon’s response was simple. “Yes. Yes I suppose it does sound absurd doesn’t it?”
I didn’t like that answer. I didn’t like it at all. Tell the fellow how it made sense! Diagram the dispensations. Present fulfilled prophecies. Explain the fulfillment of the Old Law. Covenant. Reconciliation. Redemption. Sure it made sense. Don’t let him describe God’s actions as absurd!
Then it began to dawn on me: What God did makes sense. It makes sense that Jesus would be our sacrifice because a sacrifice was needed to justify man’s presence before God. It makes sense that God would use the Old Law to tutor Israel on their need for grace. It makes sense that Jesus would be our High Priest.What God did makes sense. It can be taught, charted, and put in books on systematic theology.
However, why God did it is absolutely absurd. When one leaves the method and examines the motive, the carefully stacked blocks of logic begin to tumble. That type of love isn’t logical; it can’t be neatly outlined in a sermon or explained in a term paper.
Think about it. For thousands of years, using his wit and charm, man had tried to be friends with God. And for thousands of years he had let God down more than he had lifted him up. He’d done the very thing he promised he’d never do. It was a fiasco. Even the holiest of the heroes sometimes forgot whose side they were on. Some of the scenarios in the Bible look more like the adventures of Sinbad the Sailor than stories for vacation Bible school. Remember these characters?
Aaron. Right-hand man to Moses. Witness of the plagues. Member of the “Red Sea Riverbed Expedition.” Holy priest of God. But if he was so saintly, what was he doing leading the Israelites in fireside aerobics in front of the golden calf?
The sons of Jacob. The fathers of the tribes of Israel. Great-grandsons of Abraham. Yet, if they were so special, why were they gagging their younger brother and sending him to Egypt?
David. The man after God’s own heart. The King’s king. The giant-slayer and songwriter. He’s also the guy whose glasses got steamy as a result of a bath on a roof. Unfortunately, the water wasn’t his, nor was the woman he was watching.
And Samson. Swooning on Delilah’s couch, drunk on the wine, perfume, and soft lights. He’s thinking, She’s putting on something more comfortable. She’s thinking, I know I put those shears in here somewhere.
Adam adorned in fig leaves and stains of forbidden fruit. Moses throwing both a staff and a temper tantrum. King Saul looking into a crystal ball for the will of God. Noah, drunk and naked in his own tent.
These are the chosen ones of God? This is the royal lineage of the King? These are the ones who were to carry out God’s mission?
It’s easy to see the absurdity.
Why didn’t he give up? Why didn’t he let the globe spin off its axis?
Even after generations of people had spit in his face, he still loved them. After a nation of chosen ones had stripped him naked and ripped his incarnated flesh, he still died for them. And even today, after billions have chosen to prostitute themselves before the pimps of power, fame, and wealth, he still waits for them.
It is inexplicable. It doesn’t have a drop of logic nor a thread of rationality.
And yet, it is that very irrationality that gives the gospel its greatest defense. For only God could love like that.
I don’t know what happened to that inquisitive fellow in Colorado. He disappeared as quickly as he came. But I’m in his debt. He forced me to see Jesus as I’d never seen him.
At first I didn’t recognize him. I guess I was expecting someone in a flowing frock with silky-white hands. But it was he. The lion. The Judean Lion. He walked out from among the dense trees of theology and ritual and lay down in a brief clearing. In his paw was a wound and in his mane were stains of blood. But there was a royalty about him that silenced even the breeze in the trees.
Bloodstained royalty. A God with tears. A creator with a heart. God became earth’s mockery to save his children.
How absurd to think that such nobility would go to such poverty to share such a treasure with such thankless souls.
But he did.
In fact, the only thing more absurd than the gift is our stubborn unwillingness to receive it.
“From Heaven to Earth with Love,” “The Choice of the Carpenter,” “Jesus, Our Approachable Savior” taken from God Came Near © 1987 by Multnomah Press.
Excerpt from www.maxlucado.com. Used by permission.