It was just a game, but I was almost in tears. My teen child and I were playing a strategy board game, and it was not going well for me at all. There was my usual grumbling about “bad luck” as my loss loomed near. Moments from destruction, an impossible piece of good luck made me the last second winner. That’s when I saw it…the pained disappointment on my child’s face, and I realized just how eager my child had been to win that game. I felt the pain. I tear up again just thinking about it. It was a miserable win, and I didn’t think there was such a thing.
It is hard to see your kids in pain of any kind. I have watched my kids battle diabetes, depression, rejection, persistent intestinal distress, flu, boils, anxiety, and it kills me. You feel like you would do anything to make their pain go away, if you had the power. And I cannot even imagine the agony of seeing your child die and having with no ability to stop it.
And this is what makes the words of the Bible prophet, Isaiah, challenging to understand or receive. Speaking of the horrific death of Jesus, the prophet says of The Father:
“Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.” (Isaiah 53:10, NIV)
The King James Version translation does not dull the edge: “It pleased the Lord to bruise him.”
It pleased the Father to crush His Son and cause Him to suffer. Dare I paraphrase that He found joy in the suffering and death of His Son? I dare the word “joy” because the Bible says of Jesus: “For the joy set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2, NIV)
The Son had joy. The Father had joy. As the Son was dying.
A question instinctively surfaces: How could a loving God possibly have joy at the suffering and death of his child? It is a natural love question, but it is the wrong love question. It is a “less love” question. How can God love less than a human parent? It is the question that has led some critics to despise and attack such a heartless god. Even Christians have wondered about the goodness of God or whether Isaiah’s words could even be true. Asking the wrong love question, God’s love gets shade…and missed.
The right question is: “How could God possibly love us that much? The prophet, Isaiah—indeed the whole narrative of the Bible—describes the death of Jesus as the necessary covering for the sin of the world, enabling sinners like me and you to be pardoned and made righteous, able to enjoy the home of the Father forever. And so Isaiah reminds:
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5, NIV)
The death of Jesus for our sins secured our forgiveness, our pardon, our righteousness, our healing, and our peace, reconciling forever with the Father everyone who will receive it, and God is overjoyed.
This leads to an unthinkable conclusion: God loves us sinners (read enemies) as much as He loves His own Son, Jesus. Frankly, it looks like He loves us even more. Our pardon and reconciliation to The Father brings Him joy though it requires the death of his own dear Son. A friend recently told me: “There is absolutely no way I could ever do what God did.” Nor could I. Exactly. God’s love dwarfs any other love the world has known. No one loves friends—let alone strangers, even less, enemies—enough to joyfully see His child die for them. No one. No one else. Ever.
How could God possibly love me so much he would find joy in the suffering of His own son? That is the right question. Ask God how much He loves you, and He says: “I smiled through tears while my Son saved your life.” Do you think I am overstating things? Above my desk, in bold letters, I have a mounted quote from the Bible:
“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)
The songwriters rightly call this love amazing, vast, reckless, deep, measureless, scandalous. Insert your own.
God’s love for His Son is flawless. God’s love for us is peerless.
The wrong question: How could God love His Son so poorly?
The better question: How could He love me so dearly?
The ultimate question: How can I doubt or refuse such love?
[Feature picture by ljcor on Pixabay.com]