There are some problems that are REALLY tough to solve. Some might say impossible. But the fact of the matter is that WHO is trying to solve the problem really makes a difference.
Some things simply defy our logic. Or at least the logical power we can bring to bear right now. (It won’t always be that way, by the way. But that’s a different topic.)
Calculus was never one of my favorite words. To be honest, math as a whole has never been my strong suite. I remember my first calculus class vividly. It was a requirement for my undergraduate degree, which meant I had to pass the class in order to qualify for the overall degree.
I was sitting in the classroom when the teacher walked in at the start of the first session. After announcing the title to a room filled with a hundred or so students he said, “Put your hands up if this is your second or greater time trying to pass this class.” Over half the hands in the room were raised, and my spirit sunk. But it was about to get worse. “Keep them up if this is your third or greater time.” Many of the hands remained up. “Fourth or greater.” Still quite a few hands were raised. I wanted to throw up. Then the teacher snapped his fingers as he said, “If you think for THAT LONG (snap) you’re going to spend less than three to four hours OUT OF THE CLASSROOM working on calculus for every hour you spend with me IN THE CLASSROOM, then you’ll be here next semester raising your hand.”
I spent the rest of the semester essentially living in the mathematics lab of the college. Though calculus never made sense (then or now) I did manage to pass the course. Not by much, mind you, but I passed. I’m not alone. There are lots of people that can just sort of “squeak by” in the realm of mathematics.
Today’s verse says WHILE WE WERE YET SINNERS, CHRIST DIED FOR US
You want to know something else that doesn’t make sense to a lot of people? The message of the cross. Why would He do it? Why does it matter? People sometimes try to figure it out, attempting to plug the message of the cross into something that makes sense to them. That’s what the people in Jesus’ day did, too.
One group thought Jesus should have come in amazing power. They wanted Him to overthrow Rome’s heavy-handed rulership. They were looking for SIGNS of His power and glory. His servant’s heart didn’t make sense to them. They want God to FORCE PEOPLE to stop being evil, and just do the right thing. Hey, if God is, well, GOD – why does He allow all this evil??
Another group wanted Jesus to explain everything with such clarity and overpowering wisdom that He would “make sense” and be appealing to the intellectuals among us. Teachers and philosophers can get this mess straightened out, so they say. But not this silly, parable-using rabbi who delivers His instruction by discussing sowing seeds in fields and other such nonsense. I mean, really!!! Why doesn’t He give us a logic problem we can wrap our immense minds around.
Paul the apostle saw the same issues. When he wrote about the people who were seeking signs of power or incredible wisdom he said, “we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.”
The truth of the matter is that calculus is one of the most powerful applications of mathematics on the planet. There are calculations of slopes, curves, velocities and tangents you simply cannot possibly measure without calculus. Even if you don’t personally understand it, that doesn’t change the problem or the solution.
The truth of the matter is that Christ IS powerful and Christ IS wise, even if the message of the cross seems like foolishness to you. Even if you don’t personally understand it, that doesn’t change the problem of your sin or the only solution available to you.
Do I understand fully WHY Jesus came not to be served, but to be a servant. No, I do not; but I am learning more and more about how to be a servant like Him as each day passes. Can I plumb all of the depths and complexities of how and why he gave His life as a ransom for yours and mine? Well, compared to the depths of the riches of THAT topic, I cannot even scratch the surface. But I do know that He changed my life. Why doesn’t God just eliminate all the evil in the world? Well, first of all, if God decided to eliminate everything tainted by evil at midnight tonight there’d be no one left to read Mornings with Bishop Robert tomorrow. And no one left to write it, either! God’s answer to evil was to eliminate its eternal impact on everyone who decided to accept that WHILE WE WERE YET SINNERS, CHRIST DIED FOR US and begin to follow Jesus.
Back to my calculus illustration as I wrap up. Thanks to the math lab, I was able to actually pass some of the tests I was given in class. Not all of them, but some. But there was a massive, final test coming; and it covered everything. I had to pass the final exam. No passing grade meant no degree. Period.
With Jesus, there is a final exam coming as well. You and I have already failed it. Our only hope is that HE takes the test for us. He will pass. ONLY He will pass that test. We rely upon Him, or we have already failed. Period. (And, by the way, we only get one shot at this test. There will be no sitting in makeup classes trying to pass it again and again. )
You can argue about the “foolishness of the cross” if you wish. You can debate its shape and its form. You can argue whether Jesus carried a complete cross composed of the stipes and the patibulum through the city of Jerusalem or only the cross piece. You can do many, many things … and fail the exam because you’ve been so busy debating the logical questions of the cross that you’ve missed the power and wisdom of the Giver and the gift.
Or you can take the approach I took to calculus. Do what needs to be done to pass the test.
Accept the fact that WHILE WE WERE YET SINNERS, CHRIST DIED FOR US. Jesus came to serve, and TO GIVE HIS LIFE as a ransom for many. The other side of GIVING is always RECEIVING.
Receive the gift He came to give you, and begin to follow Him.
It is the only way to pass the final exam. Problem solved!