Dr. Jim Hamilton has no idea who I am. And yet, I daily find myself greatly indebted to him. As I teach 11/12th grade Biblical Theology, I am reminded daily how dependent I am upon the faithful men who have poured themselves out to minister to me. Since being married, I’ve realized that I also owe a great debt to their wives, who sacrifice in order for their husbands to be able to minister in such ways.
So, though you do not know who I am, thank you, Dr. Hamilton. Thank you for writing God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment. It’s a weekly companion as I prepare my own lectures. Thank you for introducing me to Andrew Peterson, who reminds me that truth ought to be beautiful. And thank you for building in me a love for the Harry Potter books, which demonstrate excellence in storytelling and typology. Most of all, thank you for your passion and zeal to know the text that you might know God. More than anything, that is your greatest legacy to this former student of yours.
John MacDougal was the one
Whom no one could abide
For he ever loved to show
The lashes on his side.
Over cigarettes and beer
His tongue would rise and wander
Far and wide and deep and long
And tear his heart asunder.
John MacDougal drank and spoke
And drank and spoke afresh
Ne’er to see the other lads
Bore lashes on their chests.
You may notice that Innocence Restored looks quite a bit different than it has in the past. After six years, it was time for a little bit of an update. Hopefully this design is cleaner and easier to read. The frozen icicles and one column typesetting have done me well for the last five years, but it was time to move on.
It is humiliating to have my identity be Jesus Christ. I am not Jesus. I am Nate Brooks of Atascadero, California; not Jesus of Nazareth. Nate Brooks won the AWANA clubber of the year award at the C&M Alliance church in Elma, Washington in the 3rd grade. Jesus of Nazareth did not. Nate Brooks’ first theology book was RC Sproul’s Chosen By God, picked up and devoured in the 10th grade. Jesus of Nazareth’s was not. Nate Brooks was named Most Inspirational Player on his high school basketball team, Jesus of Nazareth was not. Nate Brooks graduated as valedictorian of his high school. Jesus of Nazareth did not.
Nate Brooks stayed up late into the night with his friend, watching the deepening shadows of the evening describe yet again the deepening clouds of depression begin to eclipse the wonders of the gospel in his affections. Jesus of Nazareth did not. Nate Brooks cut his teeth in preaching before a crowd of rehabilitating drug addicts, listening to the most off-key praises sung to the Lord you could ever imagine, but with a gusto that brought tears to his eyes. Jesus of Nazareth did not preach there. Nate Brooks served alongside a very faithful pastor for a year, teaching the youth group what it means to be wise in a very unwise world. Jesus of Nazareth did not do this either. And Nate Brooks is in seminary, writes a blog and gets good grades. Jesus of Nazareth scores a zero yet again.
Jesus of Nazareth is a man who lived and died 2000 years ago in a place of the world I’ve never been and will probably never visit. His life bears very little resemblance to mine. I drive, He walked. My days are spent with books and conversation, his were filled with stonecutting. I’ve driven over the western part of the United States. He never ventured more than a 100 miles from the place of his birth. And most strikingly I’ve never even received a speeding ticket. He was crucified as an insurrectionist.
It is humiliating to have my identity be Jesus Christ. Seen through the eyes of unbelief, my life is virtuous. It’s moral. There are no glaring weaknesses or dark stains to hide. But seen through the eyes of true understanding I’ve left a wasteland in my path. I wreak destruction upon the universe, and if I was the only one upon the earth, it would groan for release from me. Even after I accepted Jesus Christ ten years ago, even after my heart has been regenerated and I have been given the desires to do what is right every footfall sounds insufficiency.
This is why I have been bought with a price. And that price was not something trifling like silver or gold, the metals that men give to those they care most about, and the metals that men fight and kill each other over. A price of gold or silver would have been insufficient. “You were ransomed” says Peter, “from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19). And how does this reshuffle my identity? “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).
Either Jesus Christ is my entire identity, or I am hopeless. My only hope lies in having an intercessor, a man who can stand before the great Judge and say “Count my life, not his.” This is humiliating. Absolutely humiliating. The kingdom of God is home to no self-made man. It is home to men and women who have renounced their own identities, their own claim to having anything within them or done by them to qualify themselves to stand before the bench and be sentenced to anything other than death. Jesus Christ is our identity or we are undone.
You needed a Savior. That’s a terribly humbling fact. But there are many different kinds of saviors. Some saviors save by inspiration, men whose courage and candor stir the hearts of those around them to do great things. Others save by example, painting with their lives a canvas of images to imitate.
But those are not the kinds of Savior you needed. The kind of Savior you needed is not so photogenic as the first two. You needed a Savior that had no stately form or majesty. You needed a Savior whose only crown would cause blood to run down his head as thorn pierced scalp, enduring sin He would be paying for only moments later. You needed a Savior whose clear and penetrating call from the cross spoke what was to have been your lot: My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?
We all know the answer to that question. This is no Savior whose saving comes on the white wings of an appeal to the courage or goodness of those being saved. This is a Savior who is both the ransomer and the ransom. To save others, He must give Himself. It is a great manner of mercy to ransom another, to give your gold for their freedom. It is a far greater degree when your own body and the rending of your union with the Father is the ransom.
But we could have had no other Savior. If God was to save, He had to give His Son. An infinite debt may only be paid by an infinite being. And so it was to be that Jesus Christ, the god-man, was smitten of God.
By His stripes we are healed.