Why Are We Not Staggered?

April 9, 2023

Good Friday. Easter. Jesus’ death and resurrection. Every Christian church celebrates. All believers look to a wonderful time of worship with others.

But I have been thinking. Are we missing something? I’ve wondered if our perceived familiarity with the “Easter story” might leave us . . . well, feeling a little too comfortable with all that is wrapped up in what God did in and through His Son. This is not to suggest that we don’t know the basic details of the Gospel accounts, but maybe we are not as staggered by what we think we know as we should be.

Isaiah 53, a passage often cited during times of reflecting on the death of our Savior, starts with these words: “Who has believed our message?” (Isaiah 53:1) Apparently, as the prophet spoke about the promised coming Servant of the LORD (mentioned in 52:13-15) even the inaugural thoughts about this promised One were so staggering that Isaiah affirmed that the message would be nearly impossible for people to believe.

As he looked into the Spirit-inspired picture of what was to come, the prophet explained an entirely shocking image. God’s Servant, treated horribly. God’s spokesperson, rejected by those who needed what He would bring . . . what He would do for them. And as Isaiah anticipated how those who would be confronted by the work of this Servant, he asked: “Who considered that He was cut off out of the land of living for the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due?” (53:8). The rhetorical nature of the question suggests that no one really pondered, weighed, reflected on, or grasped what this Servant was going to undergo on behalf of God’s chosen.

Paul spoke of the entirely unexpected nature of what the Servant came to do in writing to the Romans. He observed:

“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare to die. but God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6–8)

That idea is behind Paul’s declaration in Ephesians 2:8-9. We readily affirm that our salvation “is not of works, so that no one may boast.” But the apostle also insisted that the saving work of God is “not of [ourselves]”–meaning that not only could we not work to obtain this life God offers us through His Son, but we could not ever have even conceived of the plan. It is that incomprehensible, apart from God revealing it to us. Paul affirmed the totally shocking nature of the good news of Christ’s saving work when he declared that the “word of the cross of foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (! Corinthians 1:18).

Many of those who have come to trust in and believe in Jesus think the Gospel “makes sense.” We act as if what God has done for us in and through the work of Christ is reasonable, appropriate, sensible. But could it be that we neither recognize how desperate our before-Christ situation was nor realize how unimaginable it is that the Father would send His Son to suffer the penalty for our sins in our place? Do we realize that the only reason that we think the Gospel proclamation of Jesus’ death and resurrection on our behalf makes sense to us is that God has graciously revealed that to us?

“Just as it is written, ‘Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.’ For to us God revealed them through the Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10).

Does this grip you? Should we not be staggered by how unreasonable, now surprising, how unexpected the Servant’s sacrifice on our behalf actually was?


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