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After working in an ER for three years, I learned from the Pediatric ER nurses to never be “that parent”. You know, the one that comes in expecting the staff to fix her baby, but then yells at the staff for performing any procedure that makes the child cry. So when my newborn daughter had to experience all of the poking and prodding of hospital staff that comes with the first few days of life, I did my best to not show how uncomfortable I felt as she would cry with each standard procedure. That is, until a nurse came in to do her Infant Metabolic Screening (IMS), which required her to prick the heel of my daughter and squeeze 5 drops of blood onto a piece of paper. Maybe I was just exhausted after hardly sleeping for three days. Maybe I was frustrated at how indifferent my nurse seemed that day. But seeing my daughter in that much pain broke the embankment of my eyes. I didn’t sob or yell; I just sat there with tears flowing uncontrollably down my face as my daughter screamed in pain. I wanted nothing more than to take her pain away.
I’ve only held my baby for a few weeks now, so my parental wisdom is incredibly limited. But one thing that has certainly kicked into high gear for me is the natural, and good, instinct to protect my child from harm. When she feels hurt, I feel hurt, and I want to ease as much of her discomfort as possible. This is what a friend feels for a friend, what a lover feels for his beloved, and especially what a parent feels for her child.
What a wonder of wonders, then, is the gospel. Here we have God, who is love (1 John 4:8), living eternally in loving community as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The unity and delight between the Father and the Son is incomparable and immeasurable, their love for each other knowing no boundaries (John 1:1, 10:30; 17:5, 24). In fact, the act of creation was as though God’s joy in himself bubbled over to bring his creatures into that eternal love within the Trinity (John 17:24-26).
But when sin made its entrance into creation, we, God’s image-bearers, forsook the joy of glorifying him and chose to worship creation instead (Romans 1:18-23). This offense against love himself required a consequence (Romans 6:23). If we spurn God’s goodness and pleasure, then he must separate us from that very delight in him for which we were created. And the penalty for sin against an infinitely holy God must also be infinite; the punishment must fit the crime. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way,” (Isaiah 53:6). And we deserve eternal Hell for rejecting such a good, loving Father.
So what does God the Father do? He puts us all to death for our cosmic treason and turns his love away from us forever. That’s what the answer could have justly been. But instead, he puts his perfect, sinless Son to death in the most horrific way possible. God laid on his Son “the iniquity of us all,” (Isaiah 53:6) because “it was the will of the Lord to crush him” (Isaiah 53:10). Read that sentence again. Maybe you’ve become far too familiar with this truth. Would you offer up your son to take the punishment of the very criminals who beat and killed members of your family? Me neither. Yet that is just a faint, inadequate illustration of the completely counter-intuitive, scandalous act of God the Father that we call the good news, the gospel.
God the Father willingly crushed his Son and “put him to grief” (Isaiah 53:10); the very one to whom he had said, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11). God the Son willingly “bore our sins in his body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24) and suffered under the Father’s wrath, not for his own sins but for ours. “[He] was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities,” (Isaiah 53:5). And after enduring the cross, he rose from the dead to return to Heaven until He comes again to see every knee bow and tongue confess that He is Lord, “to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).
This is unspeakably good news for us who know ourselves to be the evil abusers of God’s grace, the ones whose sin nailed the sinless Son of God to the cross. God the Father loved us so much that “he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Never read that verse flippantly. This kind of love is not light and fluffy. This kind of love literally takes supernatural, God-given “strength to comprehend” (Ephesians 3:18-19). This is the kind of love “who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all” (Romans 8:32).
So the next time you feel the deep sting of seeing your precious child or loved one suffer, remember the Father’s love for you. He oversaw the infinitely painful death of his sinless, beloved Son so that you, a sinner, could be his beloved child forever.
With so much more conviction will I now sing:
“How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure,
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away,
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory.”
Photography by Savannah Lauren