A Violent Grace

A Violent Grace

by Michael Card
     
 

Embark on a fantastic, life-changing journey of discovery to that place where unfathomable grace emerged from horrible sacrifice and suffering. Violent Grace is at the essence of our appreciation of God's great love.

About the Author:

Michael Card has recorded nineteen albums and is the author of eight volumes. A dedicated student and wordsmith,

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Overview

Embark on a fantastic, life-changing journey of discovery to that place where unfathomable grace emerged from horrible sacrifice and suffering. Violent Grace is at the essence of our appreciation of God's great love.

About the Author:

Michael Card has recorded nineteen albums and is the author of eight volumes. A dedicated student and wordsmith, Card holds a master's degree in Biblical Studies and is pursuing his doctorate in classical literature. He also hosts a weekly radio show called Joy in the Journey. He, his wife, Susan, and their four children live in Franklin, Tennessee.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781576736883
Publisher:
The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group
Publication date:
01/31/2000
Pages:
194
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.80(d)

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt




Chapter One


HE WAS BORN TO DIE
SO I COULD BE BORN TO NEW LIFE


| Anyone who is hung on a tree |
| is under God's curse.
|
| Deuteronomy 21:23 |


The sounds of the first Christmas....

    The clip-clop of the donkey as Mary and Joseph enter the
quiet streets of Bethlehem. The rustling of straw as they make
their bed for the night. The music of angels over those lonely
hills. And the cooing of a baby.

    The sounds of that night are full of joy. Even the angels'
announcement of Jesus' arrival roll out like hymns
of grace—Immanuel, Savior, a light for the Gentiles,
the Son of the most High, glory ... !
The notion of
violence is nowhere to be found.

    You and I would like to keep it that way. Who wants to ruin a
story of such beauty and hope with even a hint of pain?

    Certainly Mary and Joseph didn't. But when the proud
parents took their newborn to the temple for His dedication, it
was there. A hint. A scarlet thread. After Simeon, an elderly,
devout temple attendant, blessed the child, he turned to Mary
and said, "A sword will pierce your own soul" (Luke 2:35). His
words were unexpected. How could Mary have understood
them? How could she not have been frightened?

    Simeon's words were the first faint whisper that the grace
baby Jesus had come to lavish on a fallen world would be bought
at a terrible price. Withinmonths, the scarlet thread turned to
blood in the streets. Herod's soldiers swept through Bethlehem
and the surrounding towns, slaughtering all male infants under
two years old. Cries of horror and disbelief rose from the lips of
bereft mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters and grandparents.
Those, too, are the sounds of Christmas.

    Only Jesus understood. During His ministry, Jesus often
spoke of hard-to-grasp paradoxes: He was both king and suffering
servant; both healer and wounded one; both everlasting God
and crucified outcast.

    Once when Jesus told His disciples that He would suffer and
die, Peter cried out, "Never, Lord! This shall never happen to
you!" (Matthew 16:22). No doubt he spoke for the Twelve. If I
had walked with Jesus then, Peter would have spoken for me as
well. But Jesus sharply rebuked Peter. He would not be turned
aside from His mission. Luke wrote, "As the time approached for
him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for
Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51).

    Every day of His adult life stretched out ahead of Him
like a narrow road. More than anyone else He knew that the
script for His life had already been written across the pages of
the Old Testament. As He made His way toward Golgotha, with
every step He knew—detail for detail, agony by agony—how it
would end and what it would cost.


* * *


Many Christians are surprised to learn that there is more detail
about the crucifixion of Jesus in the Old Testament than in the
New. In the New Testament, the actual crucifixion is usually
described within the confines of a single verse: "They crucified
him" (Mark 15:24; Matthew 27:35; Luke 23:33; John 19:18).
The Gospels, for example, don't tell us about the piercing of
Jesus' hands and feet. We see Him pointing to those wounds
only after the Resurrection. On the other hand, Old Testament
predictions about the crucifixion of Jesus are numerous, and many
of them are unsettling:


* He will be rejected by his own people. (Isaiah 53:3)
* He will be betrayed by a friend. (Psalm 41:9)
* He will be sold for thirty pieces of silver. (Zechariah 11:12)
* He will be accused by false witnesses. (Psalm 35:11)
* He will be silent when accused. (Isaiah 53:7)
* He will be scorned and mocked. (Psalm 22:7)
* He will be spat upon. (Isaiah 50:6)
* He will be crucified with criminals. (Isaiah 53:12)
* Soldiers will gamble for his clothes. (Psalm 22:18)
* He will be given vinegar mixed with gall to drink. (Psalm 69:21)
* He will pray for his enemies. (Psalm 109:4)
* None of his bones will be broken. (Psalm 34:20)
* He will be buried in a rich man's tomb. (Isaiah 53:9)


    Yet these are only the factual details. As astonishing as they
are, what I find even more remarkable is the Old Testament's
account of Jesus' emotional and spiritual experience on the cross.
King David and the prophet Isaiah wrote the most important
prophetic passages some seven hundred to one thousand years
before that joyful night in the stable or that dark day on Calvary.

    In Psalm 22 David memorably captures the agony of the
cross. I encourage you to take the time to read the entire psalm.
But look with me now at a few high points:


My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from the words of my groaning?
All who see me mock me; they hurl insults,
shaking their heads:
"He trusts in the Lord; let the Lord rescue him."


I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me.
My strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death.
Dogs have surrounded me;
a band of evil men has encircled me,
they have pierced my hands and my feet.
I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me.
They divide my garments among them
and cast lots for my clothing.

(Psalm 22:1, 7-8, 14-18)


    In this anguished cry of an innocent man, we have a detailed
account of Jesus' death—centuries before the torture of crucifixion
was even invented! No wonder this psalm is quoted in the
New Testament more than any other.

    Some scholars believe that Jesus quoted the entire psalm on
the cross and that the evangelists recorded only the first line. In
Jesus' day if someone quoted the first line, everyone assumed that
the entire psalm was meant. These scholars say that Jesus was
moved to recite Scripture in order to give voice to the depths
of His experience. People in torment, however, are unlikely to
quote long passages. They groan and struggle to say anything
coherently. As you would expect, all the words of Jesus from the
cross that were recorded are short, gasping outbursts, as when
Jesus cried, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

    But was Jesus quoting David, or did David prophetically
quote Jesus? What seems more likely to me—and even more
amazing—is that it was, in fact, David who quoted Jesus. I
believe David was granted the spiritual insight to enter into
Jesus' experience: the abandonment (v. 1), the shame (vv. 7-8),
the memories (vv. 9-10), the hope (vv. 19-20), and, finally, the
praise (v. 23).

    Other prophets experienced God's emotional life as well,
most notably Jeremiah and Hosea, who were inwardly moved to
feel His deep grief over wayward Israel. Later, Paul commended
the same level of identification to all believers when he wrote,
"I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and
the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in
his death" (Philippians 3:10).

    We find further evidence of David's identification with
Jesus' trauma on the cross in Psalm 69. David compares his sufferings
to the terror of sinking hopelessly into mud:


Save me, O God,
for the waters have come up around my neck.

I sink in the miry depths,
where there is no foothold.

(Psalm 69: 1-2)


    Further on in the psalm, there is more foreshadowing of
Christ's suffering:


You know how I am scorned, disgraced and shamed;
all my enemies are before you.
Scorn has broken my heart and has left me helpless;
I looked for sympathy, but there was none,
for comforters, but I found none.
They put gall in my food
and gave me vinegar for my thirst.

(Psalm 69:19-21)


    There is a terrible irony in David's musical notations, which
preface these two prophetic psalms. Imagine hearing about
bones being out of joint and a heart melting like wax to the
sweet melody of "Doe of the Morning" (Psalm 22). Try to picture
singing about slow suffocation by drowning in muck to the
tune of "Lilies" (Psalm 69). As a musician, I think it adds to the
emotional impact—like listening to the dinner music of the
ship's string quartet as the mighty Titanic sinks into the sea.

    Isaiah writes less intimately, but no less emotionally than
David. In Isaiah 53 (see following sidebar), you'll notice that he
is more of an onlooker—more of a prophetic eyewitness—than
a participant. To describe the life and death of God's suffering
servant, Isaiah begins with the tenderness of Jesus' childhood and
the ordinariness of His life:


He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

(Isaiah 53:2)


    But Isaiah, by the power of the Spirit, saw beyond outward
appearances into the heart of Jesus' earthly experience:


He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

(Isaiah 53:3)


    Now hear the melancholy beauty in the prophet's familiar
refrain. Let the majesty of God's redemptive plan sing in your
own heart:


Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

(Isaiah 53:4-5)


    In this message from across the centuries, Isaiah tells us why
Jesus—the innocent babe of Christmas—would be struck with
infirmity, suffer affliction and piercing, and be wounded,
crushed, and punished:

* Because only by this unequal exchange could He
   pay the cost of my sin.
* Because only by this pain could He purchase my peace.
* Because only by this injury could He provide me with healing.


    Like David, Isaiah sees the ultimate prize, first for the risen
Savior, and then for us, his redeemed ones: "After the suffering
of his soul, he will see the light of life" (Isaiah 53:11).

    Jesus was born to die ... so that I could be born again to new
life. It is the miracle of a violent grace: God securing for us the
priceless treasures of His grace—one violence at a time.

    Will you open your heart to receive now these costly gifts
from your loving Savior?


* * *


PRAYER


   Lord Jesus, You knew from the beginning
what the cost would be, and yet still You came.
           You took on flesh and blood
  so that You could bleed and die, all for me.
        Open the eyes of my heart, Lord.
   Let me see what it means that You were born
           only so that You could die
   and that You died only to make it possible
            for me to be born again.
       And as You enable me to see, Lord,
           let me live in like measure
               by Your grace.

Amen


ISAIAH 53:1-12


Who has believed our message and to whom
has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LoRD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.

By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
And who can speak of his descendants?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was stricken.

He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the Lord's will to crush him and
cause him to suffer, and though the LoRD makes
his life a guilt offering,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the LoRD will prosper in his hand.

After the suffering of his soul,
he will see the light of
life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous
servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.

Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.


* * *

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