Ephesians 1:5-9 (The Good News Translation) Because of his love God had already decided that through Jesus Christ he would make us his children—this was his pleasure and purpose. Let us praise God for his glorious grace, for the free gift he gave us in his dear Son! For by the blood of Christ we are set free, that is, our sins are forgiven. How great is the grace of God, which he gave to us in such large measure! In all his wisdom and insight God did what he had purposed, and made known to us the secret plan he had already decided to complete by means of Christ.
This was the verse I heard on the radio this morning. If you ever doubt God’s love for you, read this scripture. He loves each of us so much that He gave His only son. God’s beautiful, caring, loving son died on a cross (a lowly death meant for murderers) so that we could be saved from our own sins.
When I try to grasp why bad things happen to good people, I need not look any further than this verse. Jesus never did anything to hurt another person. He came to earth to teach God’s Word, to show love and respect to all people (even the meek, the weak and the wretched), and mostly to save us from our imminent death. Because of this, he was critiqued, yelled at, tortured and crucified.
This morning’s headline showed two of the three girls that were rescued in Cleveland this week. As I read through the article, I see that now the newspaper is casting blame on the police who should have found those girls sooner. As a society we tend to point fingers when bad things happen. I am sure there were plenty of fingers pointing when Christ was crucified. I am sure when the skies turned dark and the temple began to collapse that the fingers were pointing frantically. I know that my finger should have been pointing right back at myself. It was my sins that tortured Christ. It was my sins that ended His life here on earth. He died because of my bad choices. Don’t get me wrong – He was happy to do it for me because He loves me.
The same thing happened to those poor girls. They suffered, were tortured, were mistreated severely, and were kept in captivity. It is horrible. It is heart wrenching. It gave me chills to think that something like this could be happening in my own town or even worse in my own neighborhood. Yet when you hear the reports of the girls (now women); the girls talk about their unbreakable bond. They kept alive because they had each other. All I could hear from their statement was hope. Hope in the midst of horrible conditions. So horrible that most of us don’t even want to think about it.
It made me think about how I treat Christ. I don’t like to think about His death on that cross. I don’t like to wallow in my sins of the past. I don’t like to take my mind in that direction at all, but I need to. I need to remember that my bad choices inflected pain and suffering on Christ. If there was no sin in the world, then God wouldn’t have needed to send Christ, but that wasn’t the case, was it?
Ephesians shows us that God loves us intensely. He loves us so much that he made this great plan to send His son down to earth. His son would teach and nurture us in our faith. Ultimately, the plan detailed out Jesus’ fate on the cross. At the Last Supper Jesus serves the bread and the wine. He tells the disciples to take and eat of his body and blood. This has great meaning for all of us. At the time the disciples did not realize what Jesus was doing, but later it would all become clear. You see Jesus’ body and blood would be shed for them. The hope Jesus gives them at the end of the Last Supper is when He tells them they will be with Him in the kingdom of God. They will have eternal life with Him. He wants them to see the hope in the midst of despair. He wants them to look away from the violence and the fear that they all were facing and see beauty and glory: this great gift that God has given them.
You see even in the worst cases of suffering and torture, Jesus sees hope and light. These three girls from Cleveland have shown me that same beacon of hope. They have a long journey to travel, but with their hopeful attitudes, conquering their demons may be at least a little easier.