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Three Impossible Things

02 December 2019 15:02

Three impossible things

We begin with a little exchange from Lewis Carroll’s Alice Through the Looking Glass. Alice tells the White Queen, “One can’t believe in impossible things”. To which the Queen rather loftily replies, “I daresay you haven’t had much practice. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

If you are reading this before breakfast (or lunch or dinner for that matter) you won’t want to be burdened, I’m sure, with that many impossible things. So we’ll restrict ourselves to three. Nor are the three things in question impossible to believe. They are actually all true. But they do all have something impossible about them.

An identity impossible to guess. What would you have seen had you been there? On the night that Jesus was born (for it’s about Jesus I want to speak)? Do you think you would have seen anything out of the ordinary? A glow of heavenly light around the baby’s head, for instance? Nothing of the kind. To judge by mere appearances this baby was no different from any other. But he was different.

Some people can disguise themselves just by wearing ordinary clothes. Out of uniform, dressed like everyone else, they pass along the street unrecognized. It is something like that with Jesus. In Jesus no less a being than God the Son has come to be with us. Why is that not apparent? Shouldn’t it be shining out of him? For wise purposes he has wrapped our human nature around himself in such a way that the Divine Person he is cannot be seen. Hence our first impossible thing. You cannot guess just by looking who this baby really is.

A helplessness impossible to exaggerate. There is no avoiding the question: why has God taken our nature and come to live in our world? The problem becomes especially acute when we fast forward to the end. Why is God submitting to, of all things, human death? And by crucifixion at that? The answer is humbling in the extreme. It is to help us in our helplessness. To do for us what we could never have done for ourselves.

Two things stand in the way of us enjoying an eternal friendship with God. One is our miserable failure to live as he has directed us to live (we have been very disobedient – which is what sin is all about). The other is our utter inability to deliver ourselves from our ever increasing guilt and the penalty we have justly incurred. We can neither please God by a life without sin nor put matters right with him. The end result is a helplessness impossible to exaggerate.

But not impossible to remedy! For in Jesus God has come powerfully to our aid. By his birth, by his life, and supremely by his death he has done for us what was so completely beyond us. He has opened the way for our sin to be forgiven and our relationship with God to be perfectly restored.

A love impossible to fathom. What was it that moved him to do that? When the cost was so immense? The Bible sums it up in a single word: love. It was because God so loved the world that he gave us his one and only Son (John 3.16). It was because his own love was not in any way less that the Son was willing to come.

This love demands a response from us. An old English hymn-writer sums up what it should be: “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.” To come to God in repentance, to look to him to save us through Jesus, to live under his lordship from this day forward, to give him our heart’s love – nothing less will do. Let nothing less suffice.