God the great and powerful (and warm and wonderful)
Thu Dec 05, 2013
by Marsha Michaelis
The top 5 posts of November
Wed Dec 04, 2013
5 reasons to open your blinds
Tue Dec 03, 2013
by Andrew Lisi
6 simple ways to write better blog posts
Mon Dec 02, 2013
by Mark Driscoll
Joy in service
Sat Nov 30, 2013
by Andrew Weiseth
A Letter about 9/11 - The Cross and Conclusion
This is a conclusion and continuation of a letter written in response to an email from my friend, Elizabeth, asking how God could allow such evil. This letter was written September 19, 2001, and different parts will be posted leading up to the 10-year Anniversary of 9/11.
The Mystery of God Become Man
To be sure, the Incarnate Son is a mystery. Finite human minds cannot conceive of an infinite God becoming human. How do we understand the idea that Almighty God, the King and Creator, Author of Life, Law and Grace Giver, Lover and Judge, would submit Himself to the indignities of human existence? I struggle to believe that the CEO Dynegy or IBM would submit himself to the life that the Son did. Omnipotence taking on frailty, Lordship submitting to mockery and whips and ultimately nails—it is hard to see contemporary elites embracing so much hardship.
God Transcendent became Emmanuel, God With Us, in Jesus. What other religion shows its God in such tight solidarity with humanity? The New Testament book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus learned obedience through the things He suffered (Hebrews 5:8). What other God condescends to become human and partake in our sufferings? God knows our pain because God the Son experienced suffering with stark immediacy.
Jesus had a friend named Lazarus who had two sisters (John 11). Jesus was close to them all and one day when he was preaching elsewhere he got word from a messenger that Lazarus was deathly ill. Jesus only replied, “This sickness will not end in death,” and then tarried. Only later did he walk to be with his friends. When the sisters encountered him at last they reproached him, saying “If you had been here he would have lived.” Jesus subsequently saw the other sister weeping and he was moved. He asked to see where the body of Lazarus had been laid and when shown the Scriptures record, “Jesus wept.” Not only was God the Son moved at the grief of Mary, but also God the Son wept over the pain and terror of Lazarus’ own death. God the Son knew this pain and ache and thus God the Father knows it, too. But Jesus’ personal familiarity with suffering didn’t end with Lazarus or his resuscitation of Lazarus.
For the people found “in Christ” all their suffering is redeemed in the end.
The Answer in the Cross
Mystery may be our realm, and contemplating the mystery of God Incarnate with respect to suffering is fruitful. However, the supreme answer is found in the Cross. As scandalous as the idea of God Incarnate is, equally scandalous is the idea of God on a criminal’s Cross. God knows our suffering intimately because He subjected Himself not only to whips and nails, but also to the judgment of the Father. The Scriptures attest in several places that morally perfect Jesus took the sins of the world upon Him and He died as a sacrificial lamb to pay for those sins. Theologians have long said that the nails were not the hideous part, but rather enduring the Father’s wrath and judgment for the sins that Jesus took upon Himself.
But Jesus didn’t stay dead. He rose from the dead and conquered death. As Paul writes to the Corinthians, death has lost its sting because Christ has triumphed over the grave. Death gives way to life in eternity. For the people found “in Christ” all their suffering is redeemed in the end. The Bible tells us that, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
All of us still face disappointment and we can either walk through the valley of the shadow of fear with our God who knows pain and suffering from His experience of it, or we can try to walk through the valley on our own.
Can God Make the Horror of 9/11 Turn Out for Some Sort of Good?
Does this mean that God can make the WTC horror turn out for some sort of good? Yes. We might not understand or even see it now. We might lack the capacity to understand the horizon that God has…a horizon of total knowledge and with eternity in mind. But the mystery of Incarnation and loving redemption work and work on a human heart, and incline the human heart to worship in the face of tragedy and to cling in an unstable, confusing world.
At the end of the day, Philip Yancey’s line is most apt for me. “So it seems that the only alternative to disappointment with God is disappointment without him.” Here Yancey plays on the meaning of “disappointment with”. What he is saying that the alternative to being disappointed with (i.e. being angry with) God is disappointment without (no comforting Presence, facing the tragedy alone in the ultimate sense) Him. All of us still face disappointment and we can either walk through the valley of the shadow of fear with our God who knows pain and suffering from His experience of it, or we can try to walk through the valley on our own.
Is this satisfying? I don’t know. It satisfies me most of the time, but on occasion I still wonder, question and doubt…and rage. Peter’s reply to Jesus when Jesus has scared off most of the disciples with his strange assertion that “unless you eat of my body and drink of my blood you have no part with me” is all I have left when I doubt. “Where else can I turn? You alone have the words of eternal life" (John 6:67-68). Peter’s answer is my answer. I’ve seen too much and I’ve received too much from God. While I may doubt and question and rage at times, not only do I bump into mystery, but also where else will I go? He alone has the words of eternal life.