Remember the story of Abraham questioning God prior to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah? In conclusion to that dialogue, God assures Abraham that if he finds only ten just people in the city, he will not only spare them, he will spare the entire city, sinners and all. The conversation ended there, because Abraham didn’t dare go on. What we didn’t know, at least until the appearance of the Songs of the Suffering Servant in the 6th century B.C., was that in fact, if God found one single human being who was truly just, who lived perfectly the human side of the covenant that he had made with humankind; if he found just one human being who would be obedient to him, even unto death, he would deem that one human being’s sacrifice as sufficient reparation for our consistent rejection of his covenant from the beginning, and until the end of time. Our dilemma, unbeknownst to us, was that there was no human being capable of being this one perfectly righteous, obedient servant of God. It had to be his Word, his Son. There was no other way. But that meant the incarnation. He had to become one of us, in order to be the one human being who would “take the fall”. He had to become really and truly one of us, otherwise it wouldn’t count. In the words of the letter to the Hebrews, “It was fitting that God should make the source of [our] salvation perfectly [human] through suffering, for the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified [must] all be one. Since the children share flesh and blood, Jesus himself likewise [had to] share the same things so that he might … free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death…. He had to become like his brothers and sister in every respect, so that he might … make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people.” Cf. He 2,10…17
And so it was. He became truly one of us. As such, he lived the life that the Father was longing for from all of us. When it was all over, He was raised from the death he had endured and as for us, we are redeemed, because God the Father, in his goodness, has decreed that the one perfect human life of his Son renders us all redeemed. The Son, in the theology of the letter to the Hebrews, now stands till the end of time, before the Father as a perfect High Priest, interceding for us, offering his Father, on our behalf, the atoning sacrifice of his own life, for the forgiveness of all sins, of all our ruptures of the Father’s alliance with us, for all time.
I suppose there are a great many people who would spontaneously find all of this a bit gory. That a human life should have to be sacrificed to the God of Heaven for the forgiveness of sins – this strikes the modern mind as being primitive, if not barbaric. But when one has lived long enough to plumb the depth and breadth of human sin, and considers the demands of strict justice to which we all subscribe, it becomes rather astounding that only one human life should be the requirement for the forgiveness of all. Such is our God. He locked us all into sinfulness, that He might reveal himself, together with His Son, as Love, as Mercy. Something to ponder at great length.
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On a much lighter note, even as I write these lines, I am just back from a visit with my surgeon who six months ago had shared with me that I might have to undergo more surgery. I decided then and there that I wouldn’t allow myself to worry about it, since worrying for six months will change nothing in the final outcome. Am I ever glad I didn’t worry about it, because as it turns out, there is no need for further surgery, at least not in the foreseeable future. Thanks be to God!