By Femi Aribisala
Thanks to Jesus, God can no longer be accused of being indifferent to the human condition. In order to appreciate our plight fully, God became a man in Christ Jesus. What manner of man was he? God was a righteous, sinless man who went about doing good works. Thereby, he showed us what manner of man he created man to be. Jesus became the quintessential man.
The God man
When Balaam took up his oracle, he declared: “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should repent. Has he said, and will he not do? Or has he spoken, and will he not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19). According to Balaam, man is a liar by nature, while God is true. Therefore, he insists that God is not a man.
But I have news for Balaam. Man can no longer be said to be a liar. Jesus is a man and he never tells a lie. Thanks to Jesus, God is now a man and a man is now God. That is the outcome of our atonement with God in Christ Jesus. Today, a man is seated on God’s throne in heaven and his name is Jesus. This man is bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. Jesus is our brother in the family of God.
But God did not just become one of us; he became our brother in adversity. He was despised and rejected by men. Jesus was a man of sorrows. Thereby, he became intimately acquainted with our grief. (Isaiah 53:3).
God took everything about us on himself. He entered into our pain and our sorrows. As our physician, Jesus did not merely prescribe a cure for our sicknesses. He decided to catch our diseases first, the better to understand our aliments: “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: ‘He himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses.’” (Matthew 8:17). Indeed, Isaiah gives a graphic portrait of Christ in his passion: “Many people were shocked when they saw him; he was so disfigured that he hardly looked human.” (Isaiah 52:14).
Therefore with Jesus, we can no longer say God is indifferent to human suffering. God not only cares, he does not separate himself from our pains. In our affliction, God became afflicted, and the angel of his presence in Christ came to our rescue: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are- yet was without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15).
God cares so much he even validated our weaknesses. In the Garden of Gethsemane, God, in the person of Jesus Christ, did not thank God confidently for the opportunity to lay down his life for us. Instead, he prayed: “Father, if you will, take this cup of suffering away from me. Not my will, however, but your will be done.” (Luke 22:42). Thereby, Jesus validated our weaknesses in the flesh. This teaches us to glory in our infirmities, for when we are weak; then God’s strength can be perfected in us.
Jesus provides the answer of peace to every storm of our troublesome life.
Through Jesus, God entered into a brotherhood with man. Thanks to Jesus, we now know that God can relate to our sufferings. Today, God is the very last person we can ever accuse of being indifferent to our plight. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). Jesus affirms this again and again. He says: “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13). God himself is our shepherd who gives his life as a ransom for us.
But why would God go to such lengths just for us? Dumbfounded, the psalmist asks the Lord: “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you visit him?” (Psalm 8:4). Indeed, what did we do to deserve this great love of God?
It is not about us: it is all about God. God cannot help but be himself; and he is love. Many waters cannot quench the love of God. Neither can the floods drown it. Not even our sins, as black as they are, have been able to restrain his love. Our blackest sins are just a cry of repentance away from forgiveness and redemption. Even at the climax of the heinous crime of the crucifixion, Jesus still prayed earnestly for humanity: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34).
They feared the boat would capsize. But Jesus woke up and proclaimed peace on the storm. They mourned that he had been killed at Calvary. But three days later, Jesus rose from the dead and declared peace unto his disciples. Jesus provides the answer of peace to every storm of our troublesome life. He rose again from the dead never to die again. He rose again, bringing mankind into a mystical union with the Godhead. Thanks to the God-man Christ Jesus, we are now heirs of God. God himself is the inheritance of the believer.
The resurrected life
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the ironclad insurance and guarantee of God’s determination that the believer will never perish. It attests conclusively that death is not the end, but the beginning, of the true disciple. The life we have in Christ is therefore ultimately more powerful than death. That is why the gospel is very good news indeed. It is the good report of being born again after the death of sin. It is the good report of being born again to a living hope; to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, reserved in heaven for us. The death and resurrection of Jesus demonstrates conclusively that: “(God’s) anger is but for a moment, his favour is for life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5).
Sin is like a mosquito bite that infects one with deadly malaria. The sting of sin is death. But thanks be to God. With the resurrection, death is swallowed up in victory. Our captivity became captive. Christ pursued our implacable adversaries, overtook them and recovered all our losses. He ransomed us from the bondage of sin and Satan. The resurrection of Jesus is the revealed glory of the crosses of our discipleship. It is the revealed glory of all our pain and suffering here on earth.
“I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’ Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ And He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful.’” (Revelation 21:3-5).