By: Rev. Chris Neiswonger, Graceview ARP
There are two methods: One is full of hate, fire, steel, and blood. And the other is of love, and peace, grace leading to hope. The Devil, most of you don’t believe in him, but he has his ways. He never uses number two. He is a strictly number one kind of person.
When Paul says, “Be at peace with all men as much as it has to do with you…” Satan laughs and sneers at that kind of weakness. He agitates, he divides, he calculates, he gossips and he whispers until he has a following, and then there will be blood. There’s never been a good slaughter he hasn’t had his fingers on.
But then Jesus, they hated him. They abused him, they used him and tore down his reputation. On that last night the scriptures say that Satan went into Judas and that fits the description. They whipped him and tore his body apart and still he said, “Father, forgive them because they know not what they do.”
But that heart he had isn’t the whole story. If that’s all we take from it we’re missing the potency of his calling out from pain and blood, to grace.
If he were just a man like us, just flesh and blood hanging on a tree that would be unusual but not incredible, because even a mere human being might have grace in the face of pain. But Jesus “came down from where he was before” and was returning to that place. He laid aside glory for humiliation, power for persecution. He was the eternal Son of God manifest in human flesh so that when they took him, he had to let himself be taken. He said, “Father if it be thy will take away this cup from me, but if not, not my will but thy will be done.”
He submitted himself willingly and that matters because he did not have to do it. He didn’t have to go morally because a sinless man dying for the sins of sinful men is not a calculus the world can bear. Satan never understood, he missed the plan of God entirely because he was always draped in smoke and fire as the only answer to any problem.
But even Satan knew that Jesus was powerful. So powerful that he couldn’t conceive of him giving himself away like that. You see, the miracle of Jesus wasn’t that he was a good man, though he was a good man, or that he was a forgiving man, though he was a forgiving man, it was that he was the God-man; fully God and fully man, yet one person. So that when they met him with hate, and abuse, and scorn, “He could have called ten thousand angels” to his side.
I don’t know if you remember angels from the Bible but they were ready for war. It would have been so easy for them to sweep through the empire killing every enemy, destroying the cities and the temples, crushing all resistance and getting that sweet revenge on every wicked thought of wicked men that did wicked deeds toward a wicked end.
The Devil would have loved that. All that blood and fire. That was just his business. The smell of burning flesh and mothers weeping over their children, that was just his game.
And then we see Jesus, author and perfector of our faith, who took on the nature of a servant, even the likeness of sinful man, and gave his life as a sacrifice for the sins of so many, so that we lost and hopeless generations could be brought back to God. See, he didn’t have to do it. Had he not done it, he would still have be right, fully justified morally had he given us what we deserved. We deserved all of the suffering, and fire and death. But instead he gave us grace.
Now here, there is a major theological conundrum, because some theologians have said that this manner of Jesus was supposed to be a moral influence, that the center of the story is in that he showed us how to be, and that’s not completely wrong.
The other way to think and deeply woven into the story is that his death was an actual sacrifice for sin so that he made himself a substitute on our behalf and really did die in our place, for our sins.
Jesus paid for our sins. Jesus took our place in death. But both of these are true; not one without the other but both of them are true.
Jesus was both the real and atoning sacrifice for our sins and also showed us the way of hope and peace by his most excellent example. That when we thought we were strong, we were weak, and weakened by sin could not save ourselves, and when his power was made perfect in us it was in our weakness, not our strength.
The strength of the world… they have only violence and cruel weapons of war but Jesus has proven the irresistible power of love and peace. Who won in history? Did Satan? Did Rome? What great and cruel empire has stood against Christian love and mercy? All of them, every one of them have crumbled at the feet of Jesus not because he crushed his enemies with power but because he broke their hearts by his living spirit.
Do we have greater confidence in the power of the Gospel to transform hearts or the might of our arm to bruise and to burn? Consider the example of Jesus because he will win in this life and in the next, and peace will be his banner.
Now you have a choice before you of two ways, because there are always two ways: the way of peace and the way of war, and we understand that the way of peace is frightening. The way of war we understand. We are born to it and it has done its work in our minds and imaginations. It has given us the delusion of power and control but in the end, it has not been blessed by God and so inevitably ends in sorrow and defeat.
And the other way, we have promises, from God and his Christ, “that he works out all things for the good of those that love him, those that called according to his purpose.” So that if we would be people of faith, we must not believe only in his person but also in his method.
And His way is peace.