Sunday, January 22, 2006

Why He did it

My son Isaac asked me last night: “Why did Jesus have to die? Couldn’t He have just found another way to make things work out?”

He was implying that since Jesus is God, He could do anything He wants. Why did He have to suffer?

Good question.

First, it is inaccurate to say that God can do anything. He can’t.

When we say that God can do anything, there is a hidden assumption. What we mean is God can do anything that is intrinsically part of who He is. He cannot do anything that is self-contradictory.

God cannot sin.

God cannot deceive.

God cannot do anything that is not within His character.

A silly comedian posed this silly question: “Can God create a rock so big He can’t move it?” First, rocks can only get so large before they can no longer be called rocks. At some point they become worlds, or stars, or black holes.
(A world has mass enough to pull itself into a sphere. A sun has enough mass for a fusion reaction. A black hole is massive enough that light cannot escape its gravity.) The rational answer to the silly question is “Yes, no, and haven't you something better to do?"

He can create anything, and "movement" is only movement in relation to other objects, and everything is in motion. God can move the universe. Is that big enough for you?”

God has qualities that are constant, true, and reliable. He cannot be other than who He is. He can love. He can forgive. He can create anything that fits within the laws that He maintains.

A man once asked God who He is. The amazingingly poetic, unbelievably intense, incredibly powerful answer was “I am.”

So... could He have rescued us from ourselves without suffering?


And no.

I told Isaac that God is love. He is a being of purity and community. He has always existed in ways we cannot understand. He was real, He was here, He was loving and thinking and creating, before anything of this universe existed. He was a community of three. He was/is/will-always-be the tangible, conscious expression of love so pure that the entire universe, all of of the particles of creation, are a mere exhalation of His living Word, His breath, His love.

And in that trinity of purity, of completeness more complete than humans can experience, He felt such love and joy and holiness, He could not help but create other beings to share that love, that joy, that holiness. He created us.

I told Isaac He created us to experience His love. And to keep everything fair, He gave us the choice of loving Him back or loving ourselves. We have the choice in opening up ourselves to momentary fragments of that purity of the triune God, or do what we want. Without the opportunity for choice we would be automatons. Love means that we consider the other first. So God had to give us a choice, and that means He had to find a way to connect with us that kept that choice intact.

And the first man, the first woman, thought it over, and chose selfishness. They decided it may be interesting, or good, or whatever, to focus on something besides God

At that moment we, humanity, pulled away from God. And since that moment, since that instant of selfishness and self-centeredness, God has been looking for ways to open our hearts to the joy, and love, and holiness for which He created us.

Not an easy thing, for we are born beings of ultimate selfishness. We are born as creatures which demand the universe recognize us as the center of all things. We demand to be loved, and fed, and changed, and played with. We gradually learn to share, and to play beside, and to play together, and to love. It is a long process of maturity that is never quite complete.

I told Isaac that since that first act of selfishness human beings have known an intense sadness. It wells up from deep within us, a void, an emptiness that cannot be filled by the selfishness we lavish on ourselves.

I told Isaac that from that moment we have all felt sorrow for ourselves, and sorrow for what we have done, a sorrow for who we are. Our consciences, the part of us that tells us when we do things that are wrong, tells us we are not good, we are misshapen, tells us that something is missing. And so, a long time ago, men started to say they are sorry to God by giving him things that are special.

We began giving the best of our possessions, gold, the first offspring of our animals, the first of our crops. We began killing things that were important, even each other. Every place where people began to build a civilization on this little world, they tried to appease their consciences, and their gods, with human sacrifices.

So God worked to fix what was broken.

He guided a people, a special group of people, a family actually, onto a path where we could work our way to a point where He could do something to show us the way back to Him.

He protected, and guided, and taught, and punished a people, the Israelites, until they had a set of ideas that helped them to see their sins in a clear way. They needed to see how they can not help but fail in their rules and laws. And when they had gotten the rituals and rules and laws down to a science that proved their inability to follow even ten simple rules, He stepped into the world.

He replied, "Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: " 'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.' You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men." --Mark 7:6-8

I told Isaac that God, Jesus, came into the world to show us how to live a perfect life. Then He let us do to Him what we had been doing all along to animals, and crops, and even people. He let us sacrifice Him. He went quietly, like one of the meek lambs that had been laid on altars for centuries, and we slaughtered Him. We practiced deicide. We killed God.

He let us hurt Him. He let us spit on Him, and call Him names, and torture Him, and put nails through his body, and kill Him.

I told Isaac Jesus could have stopped it at any time. He is the Living Word, He holds the universe together; He could have made it stop at any time. And He was a real man. He really hurt. He really suffered. And even without the power of being God incarnnate He could have stopped them. He could have told the authorities what they wanted to hear and they would have stopped hurting Him.

I told Isaac that we have to remember that Jesus had to do this. We must remember that He is God. That He is, at the deepest core of who He is, love. He had to show us that He loved us with a love that moves beyond what we can understand.

I told my son that it is an amazing story, this sacrifice that Jesus gave to the world. But if it had ended there it would not have been enough for us to follow Him. There was one final thing He did.

I told Isaac that three days after the creatures He created and loved had nailed him to a piece of wood and buried Him behind a big rock, He proved who He was by stepping out of that tomb. He walked among His friends and followers. He ate food. He showed us He was a real, physical person who could touch things, and people. He showed He had could do anything, including coming back from the dead.

Then I told Isaac the most important part of the story. I told him that we can never truly love God the way He deserves. I told him that we are by nature selfish creatures who can’t stop thinking about ourselves and what we want. But God is willing to make a small concession to our nature. He is willing to accept us into His family, to love us forever, if we will just accept what Jesus did. He knows we will continue to make mistakes. But He also knows that if we will just take that act of sacrifice as our own, and try to draw as close as we can to that heart that loves us so much, He is willing to let us into His kingdom and be close to Him forever, in a place where we will be freed from the weaknesses that we have in this world.

God cannot take us back to a relationship with Him as long as we have desires that pull us away. To take away the desires would be to take away our freedom to choose to love. To force us to love would be unloving. We have to choose.

Jesus had to come and suffer and die. It was the only way He could lead us home.


Alexa said...

My goodness, that was beautiful. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

that was Awesome CS, thanks for sharing this with us, God knew what he was doing when he made you a dad, and a dad with a Godly heart!
thanks :)

Seeker said...

It took me a long time to figure out extactly why Jesus had to die. Your son has had the chance to learn at an early age. That's great.

Christopher said...

". . . a love that moves beyond what we can understand." Yes and a love present in tne midst of despair and chaos . . . growing nearer with ever passing breath. he is love and I can't get over that realization. he is love. he is light.

Anonymous said...

i have the same question when i was young. but now i understand why and the more i appreciate Jesus for who He really is.

God bless.

Paula said...

You are a great and wise father! I believe with what you've written. I'm so glad we who believe have been adopted into God's family and our heritage can never be revoked! We have royal blood running through our veins.

God Bless,

see-through faith said...

what I love most is that you take time to tell your son :)

Alexa said...

I have made a new template for you -- if you want to see it, you'll have to email me. I tried emailing you, but my mail was returned! *sigh* :-)

God bless

David said...

I was ready to take you on until I read "When we say that God can do anything, there is a hidden implication. What we mean is God can do anything that is intrinsically part of who He is. He cannot do anything that is self-contradictory."

Dang your son is lucky to have such a smart Dad that can explain complex things so that even us simpletans can understand them.

MMM said...

A hit.

A direct GodSpot Hit.

Max said...

I particularly liked this line from your post; "all of of the particles of creation, are a mere exhalation of His living Word, His breath, His love."

What a priviledge to share the knowledge of the love of our Savior with our children.

Thanks for a beautifully written post!

Bruce said...

This was simply amazing. I pray for more dad's like you.


FTS said...

For the wages of sin is death... you explained it very well.

Bad Alice said...


Mr. Viddy said...

God and Jesus are not the same. They are two separate and distinct beings. But good post.

curious servant said...

Thank you for your comment. You are correct. They are not the same, but they are two portions of one.

The triune God is a single entity. The Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are separate entities.

If I said something which you found confusing here, I apologize. But They are all God. Jesus is God. The Holy Spirit is God. God the Father is also God. (John 14)

Each portion of the trinity performs separate tasks, but each member of the trinity is the eternal God. Jesus was/is God incarnate, God in flesh.

This is a difficult concept for mortals, but I think there are analogies that may be helpful.

We have differing components to ourselves. We have a body, a physical self. We have a mind (not the brain, but the consciousness that uses it) which controls the body (to some extent, some less than others). We have a spirit which reacts to beauty and grace in ways that goes beyond the mind. That may be one one to help folks imagine what a three in one being is like.

Here is another analogy. Pretend that you are a computer screen, one of those that people can touch different portions of the screen to make choices. You can not see into the world around you, but you can sense touch. Someone touches the screen. You sense a presence, a spot appears in your consciousness. Suddenly a second spot appears elsewhere on the screen. You might think them separate entities. A third spot appears. now you begin to wonder if they are separate entities or part of a whole. As you observe them moving about the screen you notice that they appear to be working in concert. You deduce that they are fingertips, but that they are all a part of a single hand.

Here is one that may be a little more difficult to imagine. We live in a three dimensional world. We have height, width, and length to give us form. Each dimension is perpendicular to the others, yet they comprise a single whole.

How about this idea: All material in the universe is made up of quarks, a type of subatomic particle. String theory indicates that quarks are also made up of even smaller elements working in concert, in thirds. Might all matter be made up of tiny strings singing their existence of electrons and neutrons and protons, a song of creation like sound waves but spreading out into reality through eleven dimensions of time and space?

Like all metaphors there is a point where the logic breaks down and one simply cannot discuss the reality of the thing under discussion with an analogy.

Suffice it to say that the Lord God Almighty is made up of a trinity of beings in a single entity. Suffice it to say that the Lord God Almighty is a being of pure joy, love, and holiness. Suffice it to say that Jesus Christ was/is/and always will be the incarnation of this trinity. That He existed before all things, and that in Him all things are made. Suffice it to say that what one says of the Son is true of the Father. It was what He claimed.

One can either accept that as true, or dismiss Jesus as a mad man. There is no middle ground.

Anonymous said...

That was very very deep, and but so clear , that even I understood it, thanks CS, wish I could have had a teacher like you, when I was
in school!

Ragna said...

Isaac and Jeremiah are blessed to have you and Brenda. Beautiful writing.

An Ordinary Christian said...

Thank you for the reminder about Jesus and his work on the cross for us.

osray said...

I enjoyed your post and the comments. Its hard when we don't understand and have to accept it by faith.

Scott said...

Beautifully written. I'm going to share it with my oldest daughter. She's just about the right age for this.

Subscribing to your Atom feed so that I can catchup and stay that way.

Bethany said...

As always, CS, you have an amazing way with words. God has truly gifted you as a writer.

Beautiful post.

And, may I mention, this site rocks? I love what you've done with the place!

pecheur said...

That was a pretty good explanation.

It's sort of is like what you and me talked about concerning communion.

If only we had the faith of a child.

David said...

Nice new look.

Maripat said...

Wow-nice new look. Did you do this yourself?

curious servant said...

Thank you! Alexa did it for me (she is the first comment on this post... go to the top!)

I think that was really sweet of her. She and I exchanged emails all day yesterday as she tinkered with it.

I owe her big time!

Jim said...

Hello CS. Thanks for this!
I read it yesterday but couldn't figure out a comment. It is good and I believe your answer above helped some others.
A lot of times our problems arise when we try to equate God to our human knowledge and experiences.
Sometimes a book on topic will help. Josh Mcdowell has a new book coming out, Evidence for Christianity, that will answer a lot of questions people might have. Josh has written well over 200 books that provide answers (his, at least) to many questions.
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, will appeal to many intellectuals, so they say. My son, a chemical engineer, decided that following Christ was correct after reading this book.
I myself believe that after an encounter with Christ and a submission to his will we can take a lot of these hard to believe matters on faith. We will still have questions, but not doubts, or at least not nearly so many. And these 'doubts' won't matter because we trust Jesus.
I looked up Canby on the Yahoo map, I have an aunt and an uncle, both my age living in Portland.

Anonymous said...

I like the new look :)
have a great day!

bjk said...

Thanks.....just that...thanks

curious servant said...


I once read through "Mere Christianity" with a men's group. It didn't work out very well. Every week we would meet and discuss a chapter. But Lewis is so logical, so concrete, there was never any room to discuss his ideas.

Unlike my little essays, which are so "out there" sometimes that there is always room for folks to say "what the heck do you mean by that?!!!"

AS for the area where I live... it is the best place on the planet. We get snow maybe every third year. Folks say it rains too much in Oregon and normally I just smile and let them think that, but this year it is fairly moist. We had 23 days of rain in a row. For the last three days it hasn't rained, but the weather report says rain for the next two, a day without, and then at least two more of the liquid sunshine.

Sally said...

Physical, consciousness, spirit - I love that. I thank God every day for saving me from myself. I believe.

Thank you for visiting me this morning. I'll be back. :)

Mark said...


There are many things God cannot do. He cannot lie. He cannot die. He cannot be unjust. He cannot be evil. He cannot unrighteous.

Leah said...

Jesus couldn't have saved us without dying. The wages of sin is death. Therefore, someone has to die to pay for our sin. Jesus was that someone who died as our substitute. Therefore, it was necessary for him to die to save us.

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