Yes, but others haven’t heard!
The whole event started the evening before. It was dark and the soldiers came to the garden carrying swords and torches. There were a great many people crowded into the garden to assist with and witness the arrest one unarmed, peaceful man. It was not much of a show, since the unarmed man went with them willingly. Although it was illegal to put someone on trial at night, this man was marched from one place to another and yet another to be questioned, during which he was whipped, stripped of his clothes, had a crown of thorns shoved down on his head as he was being mocked. All this in one night, and around 9 o’clock in the morning they placed a wood beam on his shoulders and made him walk up the hill on which he would die. They nailed his hands to the wood beam, and hoisted him up onto a tall wooden post. Once in place, they nailed his feet to the wooden post. They stood and mock him as they watched him slowly die. He pushed against his nailed feet to lift his body to get oxygen each time he spoke. His sentences lasting only one breaths worth. The sky started to get dark and at 3 o’clock in the afternoon he breathed his last. At that moment their was an earthquake, and in the temple the curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from the priests and the people was torn from top to bottom.
What just happened? Yes, a man died. Yes, his arrest and trial were illegal. Why the darkness? Why the earthquake? Why the torn temple curtain?
Because the love of God for all people and justice, which is the root of the righteousness of God, came together in one moment of time, for all time, and resulted in a cataclysmic event, witnessed by people, and left the world changed in ways that would play out to this day.
This was not an ordinary day. This was not an ordinary man who died. This was the Son of God, Jesus Christ, fulfilling the justice required, and loving those that made the justice necessary.
I remember, in my younger Christian days, thinking that the reason Jesus had to die on a cross, like a sacrifice, and on the very day, at the very moment that the yearly sacrifice for the sins of the Jewish people was being offered in the temple, was because that would be the only way the Jews could accept that Jesus died for their sins. Since a sacrifice was required, once a year, to atone for the sins of the people, then that is why Jesus had to die. Well, that is partly right, but there is more to it than that.
You see Jesus died for ALL people, not just the Jews, and I certainly did not need him to die for me, or so I thought. That’s their tradition, not mine. No, I could have been satisfied with God waving His all-powerful hand over the world and saying, “I forgive your sins.”
Doesn’t this make more sense? Especially if God wanted ALL people to be forgiven. This would have been so much easier. But it is not how God planned it. He spoke of his plans over and over in the Old Testament. The most lengthy description of his plans can be found in Isaiah 53.
Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
4 Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 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.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.
10 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.
11 After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.
Yes, Jesus died for the Jews, but he also died for you and for me. But still, why did he have to die? Re-read verses 4, 5, 6, 8, and the last sentence again. He died to pay the price of justice for our sins/transgressions. No matter how good we are, we have sinned according to God. And when we sin, we take part in pounding the nails through the hands and feet of Jesus. Who crucified Jesus? We did!
Have you told a lie? Sorry, sin. Have you taken something from work, not accidentally, but willfully? That is stealing, even if it is something as small as a pen. Have you seen the car or truck your co-worker, neighbor, boss, or friend just got and feel the sting of envy? There goes another nail. You see how easy it is to be a sinner. We sin all the time, not big sins, but little tiny ones. These little tiny sins still add up to consequences that, over time, harm us or others. And just in case you don’t know it yet, God hates sin!
Now stretch your mind to think of all the people who have lived, and all the small sins they may have accumulated in their lifetime. Now think of all the big sins added to that. All of that in the past, in the present, and in the future, Jesus carried to the cross, died and took with him the punishment for all that sin.
John 3:16 (Made more publicly known by Tim Tebow)
“For God so loved the world [that includes us!] that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
God so love us, that he gave His son for us. Wow! Please notice there is one condition to receiving that gift. It is for all persons, of all time, no matter your ethnicity, race, sex, color of hair, or birth year, it is a gift of grace for you, IF you believe in him [Jesus].
Do you? Great if you do. I hope you will if you don’t. But the biggest question I get, and you may wonder about, is what about all those people who have never heard of Jesus. What about them?
Well, I took that to prayer many times myself. Especially after my son asked me, and I had no answer. I begged God to answer that question for me, so I could tell my son.
God did answer my prayer. His answer may not satisfy you, but for me, knowing God is a loving and just God, I find comfort in His answer, and I no longer worry about those who have not heard of Jesus. What I understand from God is that I need to worry and pray for those who have heard of Jesus, and have not believed. Those are the ones I need to pray for and seek to snatch from the fire.
Are you waiting for me to share God’s answer? It has been right in front of us all along. You see neither I, nor you, will ever be able to understand all of God’s plans and ways. What we do understand is that he has been faithful, truthful, loving, just, and extremely patient throughout time, and will continue to be. Basically God said that whatever his plans are, regarding those who have not heard of Jesus, does not need to concern us.
There are countless millions of people who have lived and died, never knowing Jesus, and never having the opportunity to choose. There are innumerable people living today who, despite our best efforts and modern technology, still have not heard of Jesus and been given an opportunity to choose. God has a plan for them as well. We have seen some of that plan as we have heard about missionaries sharing Jesus all over the world. We have seen some more of his plan when we hear and see testimonies of Muslims coming to faith after Jesus visits them in their dreams. So, God has given us a glimpse, and as for the rest of His plan….we, if we needed to know, we would.
And so I have found peace in leaving these people in God’s loving hands, and knowing that loving justice will be done.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. (Is 55:8-11)
Praises to our loving and just God, by whose grace we have eternal life.