tangible brokenness

You don’t want to see it.

Trust me on this one.

The gruesome image of my husband’s ankle split wide apart—bone exposed—taken by an audacious ER nurse who couldn’t believe his eyes is unsettling at best.

The incongruity can only be fully understood by knowing that my husband is a natural athlete. He throws a football 65 yards in the air from one knee, launches a golf ball 350 yards. Grown men just stand quietly and gawk.

The night he came down on another guy’s foot while playing volleyball, however, ended with a break, a gaping wound. It was hard to absorb, comprehend. Everything I knew of this strong, brave, powerful man was dramatically altered in that moment on the gym floor with a bone exposed. 

Again grown men stood silent and gawking.

This is not how life is supposed to go. This goes against the very design.

When JP talked last week in the ongoing series about the life of Jesus, he worked through Luke 7 when Jesus healed the centurion’s son and later brought the widow’s son back to life. 

He talked about death. It is a part of all our lives. Inescapable.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord,” Romans 6:23. 

Ultimately the result of our rebellion against a good God, death is the final wage paid for our own disobedience.

So JP poses that question, why is death the consequence? Why is it the wages of sin?

He explains that God reveals what our lives would look like apart from Him. Feeble minds grasp, strain to comprehend the gravity of life away from Yaweh.

God gave us life. We were made to live and yet we chose death.

God literally is life so when we choose to go away from Him, we are choosing separation, a broken relationship that is the equivalent of death.

Our choice of sin over God is a turning of our backs on life. 

This is a fracture. This is a tangible brokenness—like a bone protruding. It is a no-doubt-kind of broken thing.

When sickness, brokenness, death enter in, there is a suffocating desperation for it is the literal cutting off from the source of life. It goes against the very design.

JP goes on talking about death and funerals and this reality we all will face. 

My own family is fresh off a funeral—that of my sweet father-in-law. We are still processing what life is like on the other side of that. Do you actually move past death? It is a raw and ugly learning of what death does to life. It shakes all those left living right down to the core. The closer you were to that one now dead, the more altered your ongoing life now is.

The ripple effects of that life lost rock all that is your world. 

So it had to have been for that widow in Nain. Her only a son, a young man that must have borne an abnormally larger weight without a father at home to help ease the burden of caring, supporting, providing. Her affections, her lifeline were severed with his loss. Already reeling from a husband lost, now this. 

This is not how life is supposed to go. This goes agains the very design.

The wages of sin is death because it is the ultimate separation from life and it is only grace that lets us see and grasp this.

We see that bone coming out through skin and know that this is not how things should be. Pain and suffering remind us we were not made for this.

We see a the body of our loved one in a coffin and know that this is not how things should be. Death is separating us from love, from life.

We see a mother with no prospects for life as her son is carried out for burial and know that this is not how things should be. 

A broken, fractured and sinful world lets us see fully the absence of communion, see the horror of sin and separation. 

That mother’s hurt must have been enormous, desperation palpable.

Only in these moments of magnificent deficit can we begin to understand the beauty of rescue.

The beauty of His life set against the barren backdrop of death is what reveals the glory of God.

We see best in the darkest moments by the light of His life.

The King of all creation gazed upon death, upon that mother and had compassion. 

Jesus saw her and her need. She saw the wages of sin. 

He could see her through the crowd and while grief consumed, he pursued her.

The wailing crowd encompassed this mother and her son laid out on a platform.

The bier held his body as he was carried outside of the city to his eventual burial spot. According to Jewish law, touching a dead body would make a person unclean—in fact it was considered a pollution of sorts. 

Death pollutes. It defiles the living. Impurity is imputed when the living is touched by death.

For a person to touch death meant a cleansing ritual was imperative if one was to rejoin the living, to go again to worship.

Jesus saw the depth of her ache and despair and the overwhelming death that isolated her and He walked right into it.

He offered comfort with words and then Life touched death. He reached into impurity, uncleanness, defilement, and brought back life.

“Young man, I say to you arise.”

Suddenly and without doubt, the contrast of separation from God and the reality of His presence brought fear and then worship.

Jesus would one day again walk right into death. 

He would willingly take it on and again triumph.

The disciples minds must have run wild, not unlike mine trying to find a way to get help for my broken husband, not unlike that widow wondering wildly what now? Their world was shaken.

This is not how life is supposed to go. This goes against the very design.

The giver of all life hanging on a a cross allowing death to rule was the turning point. 

That moment of surrender inevitably alters all that comes after. Life itself could not be ultimately overcome. 

The glory of God is revealed in that barren backdrop when Life fully conquers death and a tomb is left empty and we are no longer left alone and separated.

The wages are paid.

When they are paid we find that  

  • the rebellion that leads to death has been permanently staved.
  • the broken body, wide open and exposed is healed and covered.
  • the ripple effects of a life line severed are stilled despite the storm.
  • the ritually unclean is made permanently pure.

When we have looked the desperation fully in the face and recognized its depths, we can begin to comprehend the heights. 

It is grace that shows us that nothing else will satisfy, not for a moment, not for eternity.

It is grace calling us again, stripping away sin so that we are not deceived and so that we too will rise again.

This is how it is supposed to go. This is the very design and it is something you will want to see.

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lifted up

Wrestling and writhing uncomfortably in the night, he had no ability to be still. Something about this Man in this place was simply undoing this leader of the Jews. His education in the rabbinical law should have dispelled the discomfort. His knowledge should have been enough but there was something about this Man he could not avoid and he knew it.

So in the dark he went searching and for what he was not completely sure. Hid did however know there was only One place to go for the answers he needed.

Nicodemus approached Jesus in the night. His timidity was overshadowed by his restless heart. He knew his own education would likely be ridiculed if he were seen turning to the Man who was not appropriately educated. This expert among the Jews was seeking deeper truth and this Man might be able to reveal it in the dark. What Nicodemus did not yet know was that this truth can not be hidden. This truth is the Light of the world and cannot be covered by the dark.

Jesus cut to the heart and plainly revealed the need of Nicodemus who struggled to follow the teaching.

“How can these things be?” Nicodemus rebutted.

Patiently, the true Rabbi led this searching one where he had to go. Carefully the Light of the world cut through the clouded reasoning with an example Nicodemus would fully comprehend. Jesus used Nicodemus’ OT knowledge (Numbers 21) to give a glimpse of himself.

Moses in the wilderness with the Israelites who have once again forgotten their rescue, their faithful God. Relieved of their slavery, led out on the way to a promised place, they grow impatient and cry out “why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die?” These people insinuate that God is not good. It is the lie that leads us to doubt, fear, lack of gratitude. It is sin. So the fiery serpents slither in and the poison of doubt takes hold. Some die, and again, the cry for help rises. Again gracious God relents in love.

Moses was instructed to put the fiery serpent on the pole.
Moses lifted it up.
People looked and lived.

Now Jesus calls Nicodemus to look to Him and live. Jesus tells him that He, the Son of Man, must also be lifted up.

Serpents spouting poison was not a new story. Nicodemus knew it full well. That story went even further back. The lie could be traced to Genesis. “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.” (Genesis 3:1)

It began with the serpent in the garden casting doubt, insinuating God is not good. In their moment of weakness, a man and a woman believed that lie was true. They took the poison lie and ingested it. This fall they took for us all. The Israelites couldn’t stomach it. We now still sputter and choke and gag on the lie.

When Adam and Eve recognized they were bare before God, exposed, they took to hiding from His presence in the trees. That deep and wide chasm ached and the poison instilled fear and insecurity where once was rest and trust.

Mighty God was not through with them, with us, when by all standards He should be. Refusing to send them out exposed, He took the life of an animal to cover them, cover shame. Driven from the garden for their own protection, they fled to a dark world–one that now still writhes and groans for relief, redemption, and rescue.

So greater rescue was coming and Jesus wanted Nicodemus to catch the vision.

Like Nicodemus in the dark, we look for answers. We are drawn to the Light. When we draw near, we are able to see. And if we get close enough, we see the Son of Man lifted up. If we dare to look upon the dreaded tree, we will find our rescue. For it is on that tree that Jesus became the ugly insinuations and held fast while the evil one writhed and fought.

He dispels the lie.
It was crucified there.
He was willing to take on the lie, the insinuations, the sin as He remained there suffering on our behalf. There is no way to miss the truth when you look at the Son of Man lifted up: 
God is good. God loves us.

And the Son of Man was again lifted up, lifted in life. He rose from the fall, from the death that overshadowed us all. The night is gone. The lie is not true. He has purchased the rescue we all need. Our lack has been supplied. Our nakedness has been covered.

This year’s art show theme is “lifted up.” We are seeking entries that reflect this idea that can be traced from the garden, to the Israelites wandering, to the death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. If you would like to participate, please visit cotachurch.com for details on how to enter. The deadline for entry is March 4.