IS WOOD MAGIC?

In letter to the Ephesians ‘size’ matters. Paul isn’t content with talking about mercy or grace or love or power. He adds superlatives. He talks about the exceeding greatness or riches of or the unimaginable nature of God’s love or mercy or power or grace. The will of God, he tells us, stretches from one eternity to another and the stage on which He shows himself (limited though it is) is the entire universe. The God we’re face to face with in Ephesians bankrupts description and His wisdom is something the principalities and powers in the invisible realm must be instructed in and are privileged to catch a glimpse of (3:10).

And why would such a GOD bother with the likes of us? Yes, we’ve been told why but while that means we’re not left utterly in the dark, how much light does it really give us? He’s infinitely above and beyond us. It isn’t just His power and wisdom—it’s His character, His love and mercy and grace, they drive us to pile up words on top of words and phrases on top of phrases in a vain attempt to grasp and express something of the mystery of it all. It doesn’t surprise us to hear David ask in Psalm 8, “What are humans that you bother with them?” But incredible as it seems and however often we look around to see if anyone else can believe it or if we’re the only ones who find it difficult to take in—incredible as it seems, it’s true! He cares about us.

All right then, so it’s true, but can we gain access to Him or must we always speak of Him and deal with Him at a great ‘distance’? If we do gain access to His presence, what is it that gives us this privilege? What hoops do we have to jump through? What great feats do we have to accomplish? What Herculean tasks do we have to undertake to be assured of entering into the company of the Great God? (See Romans 10:6-9.) What assures us, even now, of His favor and that in a coming day that communion we now enjoy by faith will have an added dimension—His nearer presence? What gets us from the gutter, through the door and into the palace?

A wooden stake, a public gallows, on a little hill just outside ancient Jerusalem!

Why is that? Is there some magic in wood? Is there a mysterious power in a public gallows? Does the cruel and brutal death of some young man make God cry and go all weak and sentimental? There have been millions of deaths like that down the centuries! How does that one, that particular one, enable us to enter God’s presence in peace (2:17-18)? What is it about that death that opens the gates to breathless wonder?

It’s that one because in that one as in no other, in that death as in no other event in all of creation’s history that God makes Himself known.

It isn’t God’s love of shed blood that opens His home to us! It’s God Himself—His nature and character. His shed blood didn’t make him a loving or welcoming God—it proclaimed that He has eternally been like that! The hanging tree didn’t turn God into a gracious God—it revealed the truth that He already was and remains this!

Nowhere else in time or limitless space can we find the proof that God wants us to be home with Him. Nowhere else, only at the hanging tree! There’s no crime in exploring the vastness of God’s creation (though motives matter) but no matter how far we go it’s only here on this planet that we’ll find the truth that explains why we exist at all and how we will find new life, new life beyond this life, new life now as well as new life in the future.

If galaxies, constellations or black holes or quasar clusters don’t speak to us now it’s not because they don’t speak of Him. For they do speak of Him and though we don’t realize it they speak of us also. God not only created this incredible universe He created humans capable of oohing and aahing over it, humans capable of rejoicing in it and humans capable of coming to admire the God who made it all.

But such magnitude can frighten us and make us feel we’re too tiny to matter. The good news is that this planet “too tiny to matter” is the “visited planet”. It was here God’s young Prince dwelled with us, loved with us, rejoiced and suffered with us from us and for us and it’s here that He would return to and indwell us (See John 14:1-3, 15-20, 25-29; Ephesians 2:14-22.)

It’s only because of that, that sinners like us dare to imagine this as our home and that we are welcome here. We’re not (as some fool spoke of us) “fungus clinging to the surface of a nowhere planet.” Denigrate and despise God’s human creation, keep on telling them they are the mindless product of countless mindless and pointless events and then try telling them to act reasonably and compassionately; try telling them that and then tell them that vulnerable humans are worth protecting, worth listening to, worth working for, worth teaching. Tell them “even their highest thoughts are nothing more than chemical reactions” and that we must stamp “UNYIELDING DESPAIR” on them as their inescapable future. Try sowing that seed and expect something other than thorns and thistles and stinking swamps.

And here is the Christian’s “lunacy”: Every Lord’s Day they gather and defy everything that preaches ultimate death and despair and they do it as they proclaim the death of their Lord Jesus until He returns. They proclaim the meaning of that death and they do it with full confidence for the Holy One Himself vindicated the young man hanging on a tree by raising him from the dead to immortality and making him Lord of all principalities and powers and might and dominion and every name that is named not only in this world but in the full unveiling of “the world to come.” Those who are even now being transformed into the image of their Lord (2 Cor. 3:18—4:4) and who by faith have “passed from death to life” (John 5.24) experience something of the glory of that final disclosure in a post-resurrection inheritance with Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:3-7; Heb, 6:4-5 with context; Romans 8:16-17;
1 Cor 15:20-57 and see 2 Cor. 1:20-22). The blessing of Genesis 1:26-28; Psalm 8:3-6; Hebrews 2:5-9.

In God’s Christ alone our hope is found!

 

This entry was posted in REFLECTIONS ON THIS AND THAT on by .

About Jim McGuiggan

Jim McGuiggan was Ethel's husband for fifty-three years. They have three children and eight grandchildren. Ethel went to be with Christ on Easter Sunday, 2009 at the close of a gallant life. He has written some books including: Celebrating the Wrath of God; Heading Home with God; Life on the Ash Heap; Jesus: Hero of Thy Soul; The God of the Towel, The Scarlet Letter; and The Dragon Slayer.

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