God’s Love and Justice Intersect
At the cross His justice was satisfied and His love fulfilled.
After nailing Jesus to the wood, they lifted Him up to die. Over Him, they placed a sign indicating that on this cross hangs the King of the Hebrew people. The religious leaders objected, but the soldiers followed the governor’s orders. The sign remained. Some reviled Him ...others mourned. Yet through it all Jesus did not say a harsh word. Instead, speaking to His Father in Heaven He said, “Forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” For three hours, darkness fell over the land. It seemed so senseless. And yet it made perfect sense.
God is righteous and just and pure. He could not accept the evil that entered the world through Satan. Nor could He accept the evil that entered humankind through Adam, for to do so would be to violate His character, and corrupt His nature.
But God is also love. He created people to love them and to be loved by them. For God to judge people for the evil in them would be to destroy the very objects of His love.
This was a dilemma of divine proportions. But according to His story, this moment had been planned before creation and predicted throughout the ages.
At the cross, Jesus took our sin upon Himself. He paid the penalty for our sin. He became our substitute. At the cross, God’s justice was satisfied, and His love fulfilled.
– The HOPE, Chapter 10
Observe & Consider
Millions of people around the world wear crosses as jewelry. But in reality, the cross is an instrument of death, not an ornament.1 After being “tried” by the Hebrew religious leaders, the governor, and a Hebrew king named Herod...after being beaten to near death...after being rejected by a frenzied crowd...Jesus was then sent out to a place called Golgotha (the Place of the Skull) to die on a cross.
While the events surrounding the cross of Jesus are described in the final chapters of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, no amount of words can fully describe or capture the meaning of that cross and what Jesus accomplished on it. What He did was horrible and yet beautiful, obscene and yet holy, common and yet magnificent, simple and yet brilliant.
If you have not already done so, read carefully the excerpt above from The HOPE. Consider the phrase “a dilemma of divine proportions.” The dictionary defines a dilemma as a situation that requires a choice between options that seem mutually exclusive; a problem that seems to defy a solution. If you could pull back the facade of visible forces that appear to rule our world, (namely the power of people and the power of nature), you would find two invisible forces behind it all, shaping the course of history as we observe it. The first is God’s love for people, and the second is His righteous responsibility to judge them. These two great forces seem to be irreconcilable to each other – “a dilemma of divine proportions.” Yet at the cross of Jesus these two great forces were forever reconciled!
Ask & Reflect
- Although words cannot fully describe or capture the meaning of the cross of Jesus, what does the cross mean to you? Sometimes putting our thoughts into words can help our understanding.
- In Galatians 6:14, the apostle Paul wrote that the only thing he would boast in is the cross of Jesus. Why do you think he wrote this? What do you think he meant?
Decide & Do
After reading this lesson and its opening excerpt, one could view the “dilemma of divine proportions” as God’s dilemma. But God, being God, is never in conflict with Himself. With Him, there is no dilemma. The dilemma is ours, and it is one of divine proportions, meaning that only God could solve it. And that is what He did at the cross.
At the cross of Jesus, the two great forces of God’s love and justice have been forever reconciled. But each of us must personally, by faith, go to the cross to appropriate that reconciliation in his or her own life. For those who reject the cross, these two great forces will remain forever unresolved. Have you been to the cross? If not, then go immediately to the Knowing God section at the end of this study and read more.
For Further Study
• John Piper, Christ Died for our Sins That We Might Die to Sin. (A sermon delivered by John Piper on June 26, 1994. © Desiring God, 2006). (http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByDate/1994/878_Christ_Died_for_Our_Sins_That_We_Might_Die_to_Sin/), Retrieved November 9, 2006.
• John Piper, The Hour Has Come for the Son of Man to be Glorified. (A sermon delivered by John Piper on March 31, 1985. © Desiring God, 2006). Retrieved November 9, 2006.
• John Piper, I Thirst. (A sermon delivered by John Piper on April 5, 1985. © Desiring God, 2006). (http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByDate/1985/485_I_Thirst/). Retrieved November 9, 2006.
1A. W. Tozer, Gems from Tozer: Selections from the Writings of A. W. Tozer. (Christian Publications, June 1969, Chapter 7). “The old cross slew men; the new cross entertains them. The old cross condemned; the new cross amuses. The old cross destroyed confidence in the flesh; the new cross encourages it.”