It’s an explosion of color. Disorienting. Dizzying. Your kids have just dumped all the puzzle pieces on the table. You turn them over one by one. Once they are all turned over, you wonder, “Will we ever be able to complete it?” It’s such a mess! Various pieces with various colors. But then you see the cover of the box and it provides a picture, a pattern that makes sense of this world. One piece gets joined to another, and slowly this dizzying explosion of color becomes a mountain landscape in the spring.
Experiences in life can be like that puzzle--an explosion of color that doesn’t make sense. Jim and Karen visit Jim’s dad in the hospital. They have good news. Great news! Karen is pregnant. They have brought along a t-shirt. “World’s Greatest Grandpa” it says. Jim’s dad smiles. He is overjoyed, but he will never wear that t-shirt. His cancer is aggressive and it’s progressing quickly. He will be with them only two more weeks, at most. Emotions of joy. Emotions of sorrow. Juxtaposed to one another like pieces of a puzzle spread out on a table. “Why?” you want to ask. “What is happening?”
Unfortunately, we don’t have the cover of a box with a picture on it. All we have are the promises of God. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,” God says, “so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9 ESV). Although we cannot make sense of our lives, that doesn’t mean the pieces don’t make sense. There is one for whom they have meaning--God.
God has ordered our days (Psalm 139:16). He knows the day you were born and the day you will die and every day in between. He has numbered the hairs on your head and promises to be with you, working in every experience to bring about his good purposes (Romans 8:28).
And God gives us a glimpse of the big picture--a small view of how all of his work fits together. Like a picture on the cover of a puzzle box, this glimpse can give us hope when it is hard to make sense of our lives.
This week, we remember when Jesus was nailed to the cross. Soldiers cast lots for his clothing. Others walked by and mocked him. We remember Jesus crying out to God. We read the words Jesus spoke to his mother and to his beloved disciple. He even spoke to a criminal. All these bits and pieces of his crucifixion are hard to take in. “Why?” we want to ask. “What is going on?”
Perhaps it would help to have a picture, a glimpse of the cover of the box. Although we can’t see everything, God does show us something. He gives us one picture to meditate on and remember: Jesus is both Lamb and King.
Consider the apostle John. He stood there at the foot of the cross with Jesus’ mother. He saw everything our Lord went through and I’m sure that he felt like his life was shattered. Later, however, John had a vision. A vision that made sense of these things.
John was exiled on the island of Patmos. Our Lord had risen from the dead and sent his disciples out in mission. But it was not as easy as it sounds. Persecution arose against the Christians. So, when John was exiled on the island of Patmos, Jesus gave him a vision. It was of a lamb seated on a throne.
John saw a “great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9 ESV). John heard their song, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen” (Revelation 7:12 ESV). And in the midst of this vision, in the midst of this crowd, in the midst of this song, John saw “the Lamb in the midst of the throne” (Revelation 7:17 ESV). Jesus revealed to John that he is both Lamb and King.
Like a picture on a puzzle box, this one image helps us make sense of God’s work in a cross-shattered world.
The cross shattered everything. It shattered the hopes of the Jewish people. For years, they had waited for a Messiah, who would bring the reign of God to earth. They longed for a leader. A strong one who would deliver them from the Romans. But Jesus didn’t do that. He died. And he didn’t just die, he died on a cross at the hands of the Romans. That shattered their dreams. No wonder some of the disciples walked away with hearts downcast and sad (Luke 24:17-21).
Has God shattered any hopes in your life? Are there any dreams that God hasn’t fulfilled?
Sometimes we have the misconception that things will go smoothly once we become a Christian. Yet, life doesn’t turn out that way. Instead of God pouring blessings into our lives, it often seems like God is trying to remove blessings. He leads us to situations of heartache where he asks us to share a comforting word. Our marriage needs help. Our kids need guidance. We find ourselves in arguments with friends over the things we believe. We go to a hospital to visit a sick co-worker and spend most of the evening there instead of relaxing at home. Our dreams of a carefree life are not working out, and we wonder, “Is God really at work in all of this mess?”
“Yes,” John says. Yes! Why? Because Jesus is both Lamb and King. Jesus rules over all things in love, even in the midst of suffering.
Love and power. That’s what we find in Jesus. Jesus is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus has a love that suffers and dies for you. And Jesus is the King, the Lord, who rules over all things. Jesus’ power is at work in all things. Love that dies for you and power that rules over all things for you--that’s what we find in Jesus. No matter how shattered life looks, no matter how confusing the pieces are, these two things will always be true: Jesus loves and Jesus rules--for you.
John knew this when he wrote his Gospel. In the first chapter, when Jesus appears, John the Baptist points to him and says, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 ESV). He will die to take away sin. He does what no one else could do. He offers his perfect, sinless life as a sacrifice for you.
But the Lamb who dies is also the King who rules. Throughout the Gospel, John gives us glimpses of the power of Jesus. He turns water into wine. He feeds more than five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish. He walks on water. He opens the eyes of the blind. He raises Lazarus from the dead. Jesus is king over all creation and has power over death.
Now, it would be easy to separate these two things. It would be easy to focus only on Jesus as King. We could look at his miracles and see his compassion and think, “This is the God for me. If I believe in Jesus, if I follow Jesus, then he will do great miracles for me.”
But John wants you to know that Jesus is both Lamb and King. He is Lord of all, but he is also Servant of all. Right now, he doesn’t come to take away suffering as much as he comes to work in its midst. He rules with dying love. Jesus sends his people into situations of suffering to share the powerful sacrificial love of God.
Yes, there will come a day when Jesus will return in great power. He will open the heavens, raise the dead, punish the wicked, put an end to evil, and bring about a new creation for the faithful. But until that day, Jesus will rule this world in dying love. That’s how this Lamb is King. He enters into a place of dying and rules in sacrificial love.
Editor’s note: Today’s devotion comes from the sermon outlines that accompany one of CTA’s Easter preparation themes, Crucified. Glorified. If you need last-minute Easter resources, head to CTA’s Resource & Idea Center. You’ll find bulletin covers, art elements, and social media ideas to use in your Resurrection Day celebrations!You are welcome to copy this article for one-time use when you include this credit line and receive no monetary benefit from it: © 2019 CTA, Inc. Used with permission.