Every year about this time, I pull out Max Lucado’s book God Came Near. The pages of my copy have come loose from their binding and so I am careful to keep them in order. Max has a way of making us look at familiar stories from a different angle, through different eyes. This morning I read the chapter titled “Absurdity in the Flesh.” It recounts an experience Max had just after he graduated from college. He was working with an evangelistic ministry, and on this occasion, the leader was giving a presentation of the gospel to a group of students. A young man at the back of the room timidly began asking pointed questions about what the speaker was saying. As the young man listened to the answers he responded, Isn’t this all rather absurd?
In truth, the plan of salvation, from a human perspective, is absurd. It does not seem that way to those of us who know it so well, but to those who only vaguely know the story, it seems unbelievable. The very heart of the gospel, John 3:16-17, goes against everything that we would expect.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
Ever since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, the world has been in rebellion against God. God, the Creator and sustainer of this world, has every right to condemn this sinful world. He could, in a wink of an eye, wipe out the entire universe and start over. But instead, He patiently waited for the right time and then sent Jesus into the world. But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Galatians 4:4-5
The way that God sent Jesus into the world seems absurd. Not that Jesus was born into our world. That makes sense. It is the way he was born into our world. He was born through an unmarried virgin in a culture that would vilify and exclude her. She would become an outcast. God expected her fiancé to accept her crazy story about an angel and the Holy Spirit and to take her as his wife. God expected this young man to accept the child as his son.
From a human perspective, if God was going to send a champion to save His people, that person should be born into a powerful family at the seat of power. Instead, Jesus was born into a blue-collar family and lived in a backwater town on the edge of the country.
If God was going to send a champion, he should have arrive on the scene with a great army to overthrow Israel’s enemies and to seize power. Instead, Jesus showed up as an itinerant preacher, with a ragtag group of twelve disciples, who were not even the cream of the crop.
If God was going to send a champion, he should have stormed Jerusalem and established himself as the rightful heir to the throne of David. Instead, Jesus entered Jerusalem under a cloud of suspicion and ended up on a Roman cross.
On top of all of this, after Jesus died and rose again on the third day, He should have claimed His victory right then and set everything right. But that is not what happened. After 40 days of periodic encounters with His followers, He left the mission in their hands and returned to Heaven.
He promised to come back in power and glory. His followers have been waiting for that return for 2000 plus years. During that time, there have been multiple wars of various sizes, innumerable natural disasters, and a population explosion that has filled the world with over 6 billion people. Skeptics laugh at the idea that Jesus will return to make things right. We live today in the time that Peter wrote about so long ago.
First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, "Where is this 'coming' he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation." But they deliberately forget that long ago by God's word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. 2 Peter 3:3-10
From a human perspective, God’s plan of salvation is absurd, but I think that is the point. If we could figure it out, if it all made sense to us, then it wouldn’t have the power that it does. The only way things could have worked out the way that they did was for God to be behind it all. And that is exactly God’s intent. In fact, the absurdity of the Gospel is wrapped up in Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:8-9.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast.
God’s plan of salvation is truly absurd, and wonderful, and amazing, and beyond our comprehension. It is a gift to be received by faith.