By John Stone
As we consider Easter and the celebration of the glorious resurrection of Christ in a few days, I’d like to ask some rather subversive sounding questions. Did God really have to go through the whole ordeal of giving up His only Son to die for our sins? Isn’t He God? Doesn’t that give Him the right to have simply decreed that everyone was pardoned (kind of like a cosmic get out of jail free card)? Couldn’t there have been a different way for God to accomplish salvation? Perhaps most disturbingly, how do we reconcile the fact that we say our God is love and yet He wasn’t above allowing a ruthless death for His beloved Son?
On various occasions, I’ve heard people wonder why God, who is all-powerful and the rule-maker of the Universe, did not simply write His own rules to pardon humanity once sin entered the world. Surely, some contend, a loving and powerful God necessitates the reality that He has both the ability and prerogative to save all from perishing. If He does not save all, then He must be either unable or unwilling. Neither reflects well on the character of God.
Those who focus this intensely on the perfect love and complete power of God often miss sight of the fact that His character is impeccably just as well. The simple answer as to why God could not have declared everyone in the world justified in His sight apart from Christ’s death is that this would violate His absolutely just character.
Indulge me for a moment and please imagine the face of a person that you care for more than any other in this world. Once you have a fixed mental image, continue reading. Now suppose that someone maliciously kidnapped and murdered this person in cold blood. The police, after intense investigation and effort, apprehended the perpetrator. DNA evidence and eyewitness testimony provided an absolute lock for a conviction; there would be no room for a false condemnation. All that awaited was for the actual guilty verdict to be read. Consider how you would feel if the judge in that courtroom short-circuited this process by dismissing the overwhelming evidence and declaring the obvious criminal innocent.
I hope your blood boils like mine as you think about this absolute travesty of justice! The feeling you experience as you contemplate this is the God-reflecting characteristic of justice. God couldn’t and wouldn’t declare everyone justified because it would completely subvert the part of His character that demands justice. Sin brings death and punishment and complete absolution apart from punishment for sin is a miscarriage of justice in the darkest sense.
I am reminded of the scene in C.S. Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader as Lucy steals into the magician’s home to undo a spell of invisibility. Once she speaks the words to make all things visible again, she is surprised to find Aslan standing behind her in the doorway of the room. He tells her that he was there the whole time and her words had just made him visible. She reproachfully comments, “Don’t make fun of me. As if anything I could do would make you visible.” Aslan soberly replies, “It did. Do you think I wouldn’t obey my own rules?”
And so it is that God will violate neither His own rules nor His own character. Both demanded a death as punishment for the sin that had been perpetrated. Therefore, it is only because of Christ’s undeserved death on the cross that God is able to completely declare us justified without violating His own perfect character of justice. In the sacrifice of Christ, God actually made Jesus into sin and then poured out His righteous wrath in the ultimate act of justice – the punishment of all sin for all time.
An acquaintance of mine has an automatic signature for email. It’s a quote and the author is not specified. It simply states, “The brutality of the cross points to the reality that there is only one way.” For many years, I’ve imagined the physical pain and agony that Christ must have felt on the cross. I’ve had mentors and teachers share that even worse than the physical pain was the emotional and spiritual pain that Christ must have felt as He, for the first time ever, experienced a rift in His communion with the Father.
So how do we reconcile our understanding of an all-loving God with this willingness to allow His supposedly beloved Son to endure such a horrific death?
In recent months I’ve been reminded that God is omniscient (all-knowing) and therefore knows and understands all of history. Nothing takes Him by surprise since he ordained all from before the foundation of the world. Be careful not to gloss over that last sentence too quickly. God foreknew and ordained history before the foundation of the world. Now imagine the implications of this. God knew, full-well, what would happen with humanity and the sin that would stain His creation. God also knew, full-well, how He was going to redeem this fallen creation. Finally, God knew, full-well, how much it would cost Him to accomplish this reconciliation.
And yet He still created.
Knowing, full-well, the worst part of the redemption process would fall on Him, God still created. God Himself demonstrated the truth of His word: “Greater love has no one than this,that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
As we celebrate Easter this year, may our hearts be stirred once again to consider the amazing love and justice that met perfectly at the Cross, His power that accomplished the resurrection, and the hope that will one day be fulfilled within the fullness of Christ’s Kingdom.
Come soon, Lord Jesus.
 Just recently I had a conversation with someone who read Rob Bell’s new book, Love Wins. The young man was concerned about how to reconcile these realities.
 Lewis, p. 185
 2 Corinthians 5:21
 John 15:13