By A. Trevor Sutton
See if you can figure out the following riddles:
- What travels around the world but stays in the corner? A stamp.
- Forward I am heavy, backward I am not. What am I? Ton
- What is full of holes but still holds water? A sponge.
What makes these riddles a challenge to figure out is their apparent contradictions. Each is made up of two seemingly incongruent parts. We would not think that something traveling around the world would stay in the corner. We have a hard time thinking of something that is both heavy and not. We would assume that something with many holes could not possibly hold water, at least not well.
These riddles defy our expectations, invert our intuition, and make us reconsider what we thought was impossible.
The Lord defies our expectations, too, and in much more important ways. You’d expect that God would give good things to good people. Most people in the world believe the old adage “God helps those who help themselves.” You’d think that God waits for us to make the first move when it comes to salvation. And, yet, nothing could be further from the truth! The Lord defies all our expectations; he turns our expectations upside down: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 ESV).
Jesus gave his life for us, despite our rebellion. God makes the wicked right with himself through faith in his Son! Jesus shed his blood on the cross for us, totally unworthy transgressors that we are! On the cross, Jesus even forgave the very people who were crucifying him unjustly.
Just as he defies our expectations, the Lord also inverts our intuition. God gives us the gift of forgiveness for free. There’s no catch, no hidden strings attached. No cost to us. No expectation of repayment. Jesus paid the full and total debt of our sins on his cross. This gift is free to you, though it cost him his life! This infinitely costly gift belongs to all who believe! It’s lavish! And it’s free! Totally!
God’s gift defies our expectations. It inverts our intuition. In addition, the Lord’s gift makes us reconsider what we think could be possible. After suffering for us, Jesus breathed his final breath for us. Jesus died. His body was buried in a cold, silent, rock-hewn tomb. There his body lay, lifeless for three days. All we know tells us that dead bodies stay dead. Hope dies when life leaves a human body.
But Jesus’ dead body did not stay dead! God did the impossible. When the angels rolled the stone away, the tomb was empty, and Jesus was alive!
This unexpected, costly-yet-free, impossibly great gift is yours in Christ Jesus! Paul put it simply in the book of Romans:
The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6:23 ESV
In his deep mercy, God has declared you forgiven and free. In a world still captive to sin, you are free. While those who don’t know Christ carry guilt and regret with them wherever they go, these burdens have been removed from your shoulders. Fearless! That’s you as you face your future! Forgiven! Free! That’s you, in Jesus!
None of this is a riddle. This is certainly not a joke. Instead, this is the greatest gift the world has ever received—or ever could receive. God has given this priceless gift to you. Free! And now, God sends you out into the world to tell others about the great gift that he has for them in his Son, our Lord Jesus.
God has given you a gift. This gift—the gift of Christ Jesus—seals your complete and total forgiveness. Jesus has removed every single bit of your sin. Your shame and guilt are gone. There is no need to live with regret for one more moment.
This gift—the gift of Christ Jesus—sets you free from fear, and it liberates you from the past. This gift enables you freely to serve others just as God has served and continues to serve you.
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