From: Jose Soto
These texts from Isaiah and Mark truly capture the thrust of God’s story. And his story, in turn, captures me.
In our Psalm we hear of God’s commitment to his creatures, despite the context of outright rebellion and wickedness in which the psalmist speaks. Through Isaiah we learn that God has something new up his sleeve, something about a covenant through his “servant” who will be a light and bring justice to the nations. In the gospel, it becomes clear who this servant is; and we learn, to our horror, that it’s his own blood that will serve to seal this new covenant.
So, what’s God up to? What sort of story have we fallen into?
Our story begins “In the beginning...” when the great “I AM” said “let there be...” to bring all things into existence. Here’s a glimpse at the majesty of his masterpiece.
The Bible describes the cosmos as God’s temple-palace, his home, which he created with delight to inhabit with his creatures.
Then he created us, his children, in his own image and likeness. He breathed his life into us and crowned us with glory and honor. He made us rulers and stewards of the earth, to care for it and develop the rich potential he built into it. Just as he sits on the throne of his cosmic temple, so he has placed humanity as his vice-regents on the earth.
But we rebelled against him. Satan lied to us about the possibility of God-like wisdom without God. About autonomy and freedom from God’s authority. He said we would not die (as God had said we would) if we ate the forbidden fruit, questioning God’s own heart. And he deceived us. Evil made its way to our hearts. And we betrayed our maker.
Satan is not only a liar. He’s the Accuser. That’s what his name means. He wouldn’t just deceive us so we would rebel. He would also make sure we suffer the consequences of our choices. So the enemy’s main weapons were twofold: temptation by deception, and accusation by appealing to God’s justice.
Astonishingly, God didn’t give up on us—or his original plan to entrust the earth to us. In fact, the first thing he did when we went astray was to come and find us. And then he made garments for us, to cover our shame. Our rebellion did have consequences. We were kicked out of the garden. And we surely died. But God, in his unsearchable wisdom, was going to find a way to restore us. Somehow humanity will continue to rule the earth under him, and with him, as his children.
So just as in the beginning, he called a human being, Abraham, to go and bear his image, to be fruitful and multiply, in a new micro-cosmos—the promised land. On the way there, this new humanity would receive God’s instructions again, this time a full-fledged curriculum for life with God, as his children, worthy of his name. Through their life and mission, the rest of humanity could come to know God, and taste and see that he is good.
Rebellion persists here, too. But God also persists. And his final solution would show the depths of his commitment to us, the depths of his wisdom, and the depths of his mercy. Here’s a glimpse at our Father’s heart.
His final solution would be fit to meet the challenge we were facing. And this was our predicament. We had bought a lie, and now were entangled in lies, blind to the true nature of things. Our sins became deeply ingrained, forming a sinful nature we couldn't shake. Deception and sin became part of the fabric of culture and society. And we stood condemned. The Accuser made sure we did.
But here’s what the Lord had up his sleeve: he himself would take on the challenge. The creator of heaven and earth would show up in human history, as one of us, to show us how it’s done, to give us new precedents, a new Adam beginning a new humanity, effectively re-writing our story, re-forming Israel around himself, and doing what no one would have guessed he would do: to take on the Accuser by quietly sneaking into the story as the Accused, for our sake. What happened on the cross was earth-shaking. It didn’t fit the existing categories, the current economy of sinful humanity reaping the consequences of Sin in the world. This was no sinful human being that the powers were nailing to that cross. This was the very righteousness of God incarnate. And it would cost the Satan dearly.
Here’s the internal logic, the plot structure, of the biblical story as I understand it. The Lord’s Servant was representing Israel, who was in turn representing humanity, who was in turn representing God on the earth. Humanity’s plight was being addressed through Israel. And Israel’s plight was being addressed through God’s Servant. The Lord’s final solution was to become the Servant himself. God himself would represent Israel. Which means that God himself would represent humanity. Humanity was destined for destruction, condemned for its betrayal and its wickedness. And it went to its destruction, condemned, on a cross. We lived to tell the tale because our God, the one whom we betrayed, the one whose rules we broke, he made sure to sneak into the story Someone worthy to represent us on that cross. And only he, the one whose justice the Accuser appealed to, only he was worthy to take that responsibility, to take the full blow, for us all. And he did. On that cross, humanity paid the penalty for its sins in full. And the Accuser now stands disarmed, forever (Col. 2.13-15).
It’s as the Lord had said: I am going to bring my servant, the Branch... and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day (Zec 3.9; cf. Isa 52.13-53:12; Rom 8.1-4).
If we are in Christ, the worst the enemy can do now is try to deceive us. But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness (Rom 6.17-18; cf. Phil 2.1-11).
After the Lord died and the curtain of the temple split in two, our Father would burst out of his house, running with tears of joy to embrace those coming home: those who had been lost, now finally found (forgiven). And if he dressed Adam and Eve, still in Sin, to cover their shame, how much more will he now dignify us and crown us with glory and honor, as his own.
You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased for God
persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth (Rev 5.9-10).
This is our story. This is our God. May our lives reflect this reality. The world needs it.
Whatever happens though, however grim things might look, let’s remember the depths of his commitment to us, the depths of his wisdom, and the depths of his mercy. He’s got this.