This Easter I am reminded of some amazing buts in scripture:
But God demonstrates His love for us in this, while we were still sinners Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8. NIV)
You put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. (Acts 2:23-24. NIV)
There are numerous others but today I want to look at a few buts you may not have seen before. (Pun intended!)
Big But #1
Many people believe that God The Son saves us from God The Father. There are dozens of occasions the New Testament expounds what we are saved from, (the powers of sin, death, the devil etc) but not The Father. The New Testament says that The Father was reconciling the world to Himself through Jesus. So, where did this notion that Jesus was saving us from His angry dad come from?
Isaiah 53 is the passage many will use to say that Jesus was saving us from an angry God. In verse 4 it says that, “we considered him punished by God…” Now the author had a number of words to use here but the one that has been translated as punished actually means beaten or killed. The next verse contains the big But.
“But He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are heled. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us have turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” And verse 8 continues, “for the transgression of my people he was punished.” (Isa 53:5-6, 8. NIV)
It’s at this point we need to look into the Hebrew for some clarity about what the author is trying to say.
Firstly, the Hebrew word translated “punished” in verse 4 means “smite” or hit, beaten or killed.
The word translated punished in verse 5 is used 50 times in the Old Testament, however it is only in this passage that it is used as “punishment.” This word means instruction or correction.
The word translated as punished in verse 8 is used 78 times in The Old Testament, however this is the only time it is used in this manner. The real meaning is “plagued.”
The word “laid” in verse 6 is an interesting word that means fall upon, meet or encounter. On numerous times it is used to describe prayer of intercession.
Let’s bring it all together now. We saw Jesus on the cross and thought He was being beaten by God. BUT the instructions God gave Jesus were bringing us peace. God had laid a burden on Jesus for Him to pray through. This burden was the sickness/plague of sin. By Jesus suffering and death on the cross we are healed. Verse 12 sums it up, “He bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors.”
Big But #2
The next belief ties in with the first. Many believe that God the Father turned His back on God the Son. The idea is that God the Son was separated from God the Father at the cross. This is taken from Jesus words on the cross, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” Now at first glance you can say, “See! Jesus said the Father forsook Him! What are you talking about James?”
But if you look at what Jesus is quoting you see a vastly different story… Psalm 22 is a one of the most prophetic Psalms you can imagine. This Psalm foretells Jesus being mocked (v8), thirsty (v15), pierced through His hands and feet (v16), and people casting lots for His robes (v18), all of which of are recorded in the gospels. The story this Psalm tells is one of Jesus on the cross experiencing the sickness of sin that we have. Here He battles the thoughts that we battle, thinking and feeling like God has forsaken Him.
BUT as we continue reading we get to the most important BUT of the passage.
For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him BUT has listened to his cry for help. (V24 NIV)
Here we clearly see that Jesus has been infected by the sickness of sin mentioned in Isaiah and has battled through it, and come out the other side. Just as Jesus faced temptation in the desert and overcame, He does the same here. Even when it feels like God has left, Jesus remains faithful even unto death.
Big But #3
After talking about the seriousness of sin and death Paul says, “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57. NIV) When we look at the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus we see that He accomplished a victory over sin, death and the devil that He then gives to us.
So how do we partake in this victory? The Apostle Paul says that, “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Galatians 3:27. NIV) And, “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.” (Romans 6:4-5. NIV)
All throughout the New Testament we are told to believe, trust, put our faith in, put on Christ, and so forth. Jesus has secured a victory for us, but we need to respond.
I like big buts! These “but” passages show a clear picture of what Jesus was achieving in His suffering, death and resurrection. Jesus was not a punching bag for the Father. He was not an offering to appease an angry God. Instead, Jesus took on the sickness of our sinfulness and beat it. He took on death and the devil and defeated them! Jesus secured a victory for all of humanity. He now extends an open invitation to share in this victory. This Easter let’s remember that because of Him, we can be happy, saved and free! Praise God!