“He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.” – Isaiah 53:3 (NIV)
The conversation and information long expected, had finally come. Not knowing the words to speak, I listened and I prayed for some insight and wisdom to answer in love and truth.
Witnessing the passion and love of God coming from the one who prayed for Jesus to grant direction to live a life in the will of God, brought with it revelation. An admittance that God seemed very far away, emotionally distant, if He had ever really been present in this person’s life. The closeness of God, any feelings that may have been there, it was suggested, died with their loved one. Prayers to save a life went unanswered. It broke my heart to hear this; yet I believe it happens quite often when we lose someone very close to us. It leads to us questioning whether God exists and if he does, then why were our prayers not answered? I wish I could say I had a peace-filled reply that would make this situation easier to accept, but I cannot. If there was one, I do not have it, it did not come to me. What did come, was a parallel that I had not considered before. Jesus’s prayer for the cup of wrath to be removed from him, did not get removed as he would have liked, but; his faith in God did not waiver. There was an understanding and a knowing, that God knew the end, from the beginning and a trust that His love for u,s meant good would come from seemingly hopeless situations.
Long ago, when God created the heavens and the earth, the waters that divide, the birds in the air, the animals in the sea and those on land; he also created man. Adam came from dust and Eve, from the rib of man. God walked with them closely in the Garden of Eden and “in the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” (Genesis 2:9,NIV). God had given them everything they needed in this garden, along with specific instructions not to eat of these two trees. They had a close relationship with God and it was based on trust, not doubt in Him.
Now Satan, having been thrown from heaven due to pride and a belief he was greater than God, transformed himself into a serpent; crafty and deceptive. He met Eve and planted a seed of desire in her to eat the fruit that came from the tree of Knowledge of good and evil. He also caused her to doubt God. Could it be He was keeping something from them? That He really did not love them? That His plan was not what was best for them and that there was something better, that they did not yet have? Seeing the fruit from this tree in a new way now, Eve wanted to have some. It looked good and pleasing, so she ate from the tree and gave some to Adam; now the two of them had their eyes opened and they knew what they had not before, shame. “And the LORD God said, “The man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat and live forever”” (Genesis 3:22 NIV).
I have read this passage before; this time however, I saw the deep compassion God has for His people. Knowing evil existed, God wanted to protect Adam and Eve from having to endure such knowledge forever. It was because of His compassion for us that He mercifully removed us from temptation allowing death to come to us. Better, it is said,”is the one who has never been born, who has not seen the evil that is done under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 4:3 NIV) . Living forever was not an option, death would come to all people, for dust we are, and to dust we will return. Sin had now entered our world through Adam, severing our relationship with God, removing us from His presence.
Years of sin and rebellion have been the fate of our earthly home. Yet, God’s love for His people, all people, led Him to act so that we might be reconciled in our relationship with our Creator. Wanting none of us to perish, the Lord sent His angel to a young virgin girl named Mary. ‘“Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus’” (Luke 1:30-31 NIV). “And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. … He will reign … with justice and righteousness” (Isaiah 9:6-7 NIV) .
After Jesus had grown, he was baptized by John the Baptist, where those following him, heard the voice of God and saw the Holy Spirit descending upon him. The Lord spoke, ‘“You are my Son whom I love, with you I am well pleased”’ (Luke 3:22 NIV). It was the obedience to follow the word of God and do as instructed, that pleased God. Jesus’ obedience was greater than sacrifice void of obedience, which had made the law of Moses ineffective. For years, the Israelite people had continued to celebrate the assigned feast days and to make their sacrificial offerings to God, but they were done without thought or commitment to follow the precepts and laws God had set out for His people. Sinful life choices, continued to separate and divide the Lord from His people. In order to rectify this, God sent his Son in the form and likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering, meeting the righteous requirements of the law, (Romans 8:34). Jesus, a man without sin, was despised and rejected by all. “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).
For this reason, we celebrate the birth of Christ, on whom our hope and salvation came. He did not come so that we would never have to face physical death; that is the reason we were cast from the garden, so that death would come to us and we would be spared from an eternity knowing good and evil. No Christ came so that through him, the world could be saved. Jesus had to face death, to obediently walk in the will of his Father who loved him, and us greatly. The cost, would be great suffering and death. Not unlike that which we face today when disease and sickness take over in our bodies. Like the prayer offered up to heal a loved one, so too, in Jesus’ hour before the cross, he prayed for the Lord to remove this cup of wrath from him. If it were at all possible, Jesus asked for it to be removed, but giving up to God what belonged to him, the Messiah, accepted his Father’s will, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done” (Matthew 26:44 NIV). Three times he prayed to not have to walk this path before him; yet, God did not spare His own Son, but gave him up for us all (Romans 8:32). For this very reason, we can have confidence in knowing that God will hear us when we approach His throne and lay our prayers at His feet. He will answer us, sometimes not as we want, but always faithfully and lovingly in line with His will.
And so, “you will weep and mourn …. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy” (John 16:20 NIV). When we enter His gates and walk the new heaven, we will rejoice in the Lord’s will and know that He who created us all is faithful and just. What we do not understand now, will all be made clear to us then. Until that time, let us not forget the love of God, who gave us eternal life when Jesus came. Let us not ignore the need to grieve, but let us not remain in that place, questioning God and His love for us. For who else, has laid down their son to save us from an eternity of suffering and pain? If the prayers of His own son, did not change the Sovereign will of God, nor did it cause Jesus to turn from Him, then don’t let your unanswered prayers, lead you to deny or doubt in him either. Instead, turn your hearts to Him, in gratitude and thanks, as we learn to trust the Lord with our broken hearts and fragile faith, all the while rejoicing in His love and desire to save those who believe.
How good and faithful are you, to those who wish to be known as your children. How patient are you when we come with our doubts and our questions. I pray for healing and comfort in the lives of all who live in deep sorrow, because they can no longer hold their loved one in their arms. In gentleness Lord, remove the veil from their eyes so they will see and accept that you understand their pain. Beyond comprehension, you sent your Son to redeem us, to pay a debt we could never repay. The ransom for our freedom cost you and your son dearly, yet because of your great love for us, you did not remove your hand from Jesus. When their mourning has passed, and understanding gained, may they celebrate today with a thankful heart, holding on for a tomorrow, that promises eternity in heaven to all who believe in you.
In Jesus Name, Amen.