How could God plan to sacrifice His Son? How is that a loving, good, and right thing to do to a son whom you love?
[NOTE: This is part one of a four-part series of posts based on a question brought to me by a friend. I hope it’s helpful to you. -Phillip]
GOD IS LOVE. (1 John 4:8b)
It is one of the most quoted and most popular truths of the Bible. People all over the world –whether followers of Christ or not– smile and nod in agreement, for who wouldn’t want to hear that God is love?
How, then, can such a loving God be willing to sacrifice His Son for His enemies? It’s all well and good for the enemies, but what about the Son? Doesn’t He deserve more love from the Father than anyone else? How can God be good and yet plan to sacrifice His son?
It’s a valid question, and a deeply important one, because if God says He is loving and isn’t, then how can He be trusted, much less loved in return? On the other hand, if He says He is loving and we can discover that He truly is, then we can take Him at His word after all.
The key to the question lies, unsurprisingly, in the person, the work, and the words of Jesus Himself. In the Gospel of John, we find Jesus speaking to His disciples about just what type of person He really is, and what is the nature of His relationship with His followers.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
(John 10:11, 15-18)
Jesus makes it clear that He is not being subjected to death unwillingly, but that He is volunteering for the cross. He emphasizes this again shortly before His arrest, a moment recorded in the Gospel of Matthew: “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and He will at once send me more than twelve legions [72,000] of angels?” (Matthew 26:53)
“God is love,” yes, and while it doesn’t seem at all loving to intentionally wound your own son, the situation looks different if the son offers himself on his own.
Why would he do this? Is this an example of undue influence on the part of the Father? After all, Jesus says, “For this reason the Father loves me…” so perhaps Jesus really doesn’t really want to die, but He is doing it under coercion, more fearful of losing the love of the Father.
This isn’t the case, either.
To be continued…
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