Saturday, July 14, 2012

Enduring the Unfathomable Pain of Redemption

looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:02, NKJV).
I do not understand how, during His six hours on the Cross, Jesus suffered the eternity of punishment we deserve. But that He did is crystal clear from God's Word.

Perhaps, it has something to do with Who was suffering - along the lines of supposing that what would take each one of us forever to endure, Jesus, the sinless Son of God, withstood the equivalent in six earthly hours.

Or maybe the secret of the mystery lies in an Eternal Being's perception of time. 

Or, since He was the only One who has ever (so far) been completely separated from God, something of which He was completely unworthy, that separation of God from God was so monstrously unprecedented that the scales of justice were balanced.

Maybe, it was because sinlessness itself, becoming sin for us, paid the price for all sin for all time during that momentous day.

Like I said, I don't know how exactly, but I believe without the slightest doubt that He did. And that His suffering on the Cross propitiated God's righteous wrath against human rebellion for all who will believe.

Not that I would not some day like to understand it more fully. In fact, in that day when I find myself in His Presence, when asking for anything becomes appropriate, I hope to ask for a personally guided tour of redemptive history; to see the intricate and brilliantly tragic threads of human events from the divine perspective; to be taken by His nail-scarred hand and shown all of the truth that my finite mind can comprehend.

No doubt I would fall on my face in utter gratitude at His grace and mercy and love. And my devotion to Him would forever be deepened.

Until then, I will just have to wait, and be amazed that He did endure the cross on my behalf - that He and the Father inexplicably thought my own redemption was worth such unfathomable suffering.

I suspect that there must always be pain in redemption.

And each redeemed human heart feels at least a small inkling of this pain, with the shedding of the old self, and the labor pangs of birthing the new. There is the pain of seeing the world, in all its tragedy and loss, through the eyes of Christ and a regenerated spirit - the dour and deadening spectacle of brutality, sin and selfishness which has characterized human behavior since expulsion from the Garden.

And for those of us who came to Christ in later years. we feel the additional painful burden of a life lived in the deceitfulness of sin prior to our conversion. Not that we labor under unresolved guilt, that is done away with completely by the forgiveness offered through Christ's shed blood, but that we must see and experience the consequences of those past actions, and recall the pain and damage we have caused ourselves and others.

But it is this very pain that eventually burns away the last remnants of the old man, refining us in the flames of our God, who is a consuming fire.

Jesus, guiltless and undeserving of any suffering at all, suffered it all. For us.

He endured the public humiliation, the immense injustice, the indescribable loss of fellowship, for the first time in eternity from the Father, and the unknowable (at least for us) torture of becoming sin for us so that we could become His righteousness in Him.
I can only vaguely imagine what it must have been like to carry the guilt of every single heinous act of mankind, in all its unthinkably despicable variety, before and since, until the new Heaven and the new earth has come, and there will be no more sin, or pain, or sorrow or suffering or death.

But I know with unmistakable clarity that He despised the shame, yet did not despise us, the cause of all that shame.

The Bible describes it eloquently in this way:

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. (Romans 5:8-11, NKJV).