When I was younger, I believed a lot of stupid things. For example, I believed that having bangs that stuck up a mile high, defying gravity by virtue of a gallon of hairspray, was beautiful. I believed that having an armful of Swatches, a Coca-Cola shirt, Guess jeans and Keds made me cool. (Ah, the ‘80s. What were we all thinking?!) Of course, I believed other things as well. I believed that if I tried really hard to be a good person, to follow the rules and do things right, I’d be safe. Nobody would hurt me if I just did things right.
Boy, was I wrong! It was a rude awakening to realize that I could do what I believed was right and still be hurt. Still grieve. Still be taken off guard.
I wonder if that’s what Jesus’ disciples thought, staring up at him as he hung on the cross. “I did what I thought was right. I left my job, my family and friends, to follow this man. I thought he was the One. I thought he was the Christ. How could I have missed it? How could I have been so wrong?”
How could they have missed it? They saw more than most. They saw Jesus heal people nobody else could help. They saw him teach as one who had a direct line to the Father. They saw him calm storms, walk on water and raise dead people. They saw more than most.
But somehow, they missed what was right in front of them. Isaiah had prophesied:
Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors. — Isaiah 53:10–12
Many years earlier, a prophet had predicted exactly what would happen to their Christ. Isaiah had revealed not only the purpose of the crucifixion, but also the glorious end to the story! By the inspiration of God, Isaiah had written, “He shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days.” Before Jesus was ever born as a human baby, he was destined not only to die, but also to be raised to life again. But they missed it.
I can relate. Sometimes I look for what will make me feel safe and protected, and I miss what is right in front of me. Maybe we are all guilty of that when we are young and naive.
Now I know differently. Playing by the rules doesn’t keep me safe. Following Jesus didn’t keep his disciples safe. In fact, it put them in mortal danger. It caused them immense pain. Their friend suffered, even though he had never done anything wrong. The bravest of them stood paralyzed in confusion. The most fearful of them denied they even knew him.
The God we love is not confined by man-made rules. He does not keep himself safe by them. Instead, Jesus suffered loneliness, betrayal, embarrassment, abandonment and excruciating pain, all because of his great love. This love, this all-consuming love, surpassed human understanding on its way to ultimate sacrifice.
Nothing in this world will keep me safe from hurt. But Love, true Love, will risk everything to ensure my salvation. Jesus Christ broke even the rule of death on his quest to save what was lost.
If you have been playing by man-made rules hoping to be safe, I have beautifully devastating news. Following all the rules won’t protect you from hurt. But you are truly, dearly, deeply loved by Jesus. The God of the universe gave his life to make you his own. Today, in this moment, he is calling you to what is next. His victory over sin and the grave is yours too. Take hold of it, and live!