Four hundred years after the Old Testament was written, God’s chosen people, the people of Israel, were a mess. God had predicted their condition and warned them about what was to come. But they couldn’t help themselves. They didn’t believe God. They had chosen their own ways. And for four hundred years, they endured God’s silence. If there’s one thing worse than God’s anger, it’s His silence. And for four hundred years, God said nothing, or at least nothing that was recorded in the canon of Scripture.
Imagine the pain of that silence. Or maybe you don’t have to.
Do you ever wonder why the God of the Old Testament seems so much more violent than the God of the New Testament? On that day on the cross, all of God’s wrath focused on Jesus. In that moment on the cross, Jesus bore the wrath of God on our behalf. In His last breath, Jesus pleaded for forgiveness for others: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Then He died.
“The unfair news of the gospel is that in Jesus Christ justice is fully served and mercy is fully received.”
On the tragic night of Passover, as told in the Old Testament, when every firstborn in Egypt was killed, the people of Israel were safe not because they were good. They were safe because of the blood of the lamb. God had instructed the people of Israel to kill a lamb, an unblemished lamb, and to put its blood on the doorpost. Every home covered by the blood lived. Those who did not have the blood covering lost their firstborn.
The God of the Old Testament is the same God of the New Testament. He’s a God of love and of justice. He’s a God who is not fair. He’s a God who grants forgiveness and freedom to everyone who puts their trust in Him—not because we deserve it but because a price has been paid for our sin.
Jesus lived. He died. And He rose again. No one could have made His story up. His tomb is still empty. His disciples who hid in fear on the day of His crucifixion would eventually give their lives for His sake. Their lives were turned upside down, not just because they spent three years hanging out with a man named Jesus, but because they had been radically transformed by the resurrected Savior—a Savior who had paid the price for their sins.
Could God have saved the world without blood and the death of Jesus? The former Christian band singer proposes that forgiveness be just that: “My parents taught me to forgive people— nobody dies in that scenario,” the singer wrote on Instagram. Easy-peasy, but unfounded.
The reason nobody dies in that scenario is because someone did die once. Justice demanded that a price be paid for wrongdoing. God in His holiness cannot overlook sin. Sin’s cost is death.
The day that Adam and Eve fell in the garden, sin entered the world and the need for a Savior was born. All the way back in Genesis 3, God promises the coming of a Savior from the seed of the woman. The entire story of the Bible becomes the story of redemption. The biblical narrative works its way all the way up to the life of Jesus, the perfect lamb of God. Noah found shelter in the ark, which is symbolic of us finding shelter in Jesus today. Abraham didn’t have to kill his son because a substitute was found in the form of a ram. The people of Israel were spared at Passover because the blood of a spotless lamb had been painted on the posts of their doors. The entire Old Testament builds up to its climax: the birth of the promised Messiah in the form of the Son of Man, named Jesus.
“You’re given grace because of the simple fact that God is not fair, but a loving, just God.”
Emmanuel means “God with us.” At the onset of the New Testament, we see God taking the form of a man born to a humble woman named Mary, a virgin who conceived through the Holy Spirit. Jesus grows up as a carpenter, lives a perfect life, and at the age of thirty, His ministry begins. For three years He proves He is God through miracles and teachings and key encounters with people. He ministers just three years before He is arrested and crucified. The crucifixion did not come as a surprise to Jesus. He spent His entire earthly ministry predicting His death and assuring His followers that He came to die. They didn’t understand Him in the way many don’t understand the need for His death today. He was crucified on the cross and three days later, He rose from the dead as He had predicted He would.
Is this the most bizarre story you’ve ever heard? Is Christ’s death the most unfair story you’ll ever hear? It’s unfair in the magnitude of God’s love toward us and our lukewarm acceptance of Him most of the time. It’s unfair in that it allows us to gain where Christ received nothing but our pain. Yet God has never been about fairness. And because God is unfair, our perfect God becomes sin for us so that we could be made free.
The unfair news of the gospel is that in Jesus Christ justice is fully served and mercy is fully received. It’s the best news in the world, and a true picture of grace. Jesus shed His blood in the most violent act in human history to bear the wrath of God for the forgiveness of our sin. God lovingly accepted Christ’s death as payment for our sin. All we have to do is accept it.
So whether you’re an ISIS fighter or Mother Teresa, the most “unfair” thing God ever did was offer His gift of salvation to anyone who would receive it. It doesn’t matter if you’re hired early in the morning or at five in the afternoon. You’re given grace because of the simple fact that God is not fair, but a loving, just God.
by Lina AbuJamra
After your faith has fractured, let what takes its place be the real thing . . . at last. Somewhere along the way, the Christianity you knew...
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