A paradox is a statement that appears to be contradictory on the surface or opposed to common sense, but it is true nevertheless. The Bible is not a paradoxical book, but it does contain some ironic truths or paradoxes.
Jesus taught some lessons using paradoxes. For instance, He declared in Matthew 10:39 - "He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it." From a strictly physical perspective, that statement makes no sense. But, spiritually there is a great truth communicated. Although the Christian life is a paradox in many ways, we want to focus our attention today on some ironies of the life of Christ. The greatest of these relate to His suffering on the cross. We will briefly consider seven of these paradoxes or ironies in this lesson.
1. JESUS CHRIST CAME TO THIS WORLD THAT WE MAY GO TO HEAVEN.
What a wonderful thought! Deity left heaven and came to this world so that mankind may have the opportunity to go to heaven. This sweet story of redemption illustrates the love of God. This truth is seen in many passages like I Timothy 1:15 - "...Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners..." God's desire is that we be saved from our sins that we may one day enter the heavenly abode He has prepared for us.
2. JESUS CHRIST WAS BORN OF WOMAN THAT WE MAY BE BORN OF GOD.
Jesus was born of the virgin Mary. He was both human and divine. Galatians 4:4,5 teaches - "But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law..." Jesus' birth fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 - "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel."
The apostle John declared that "...whatever is born of God overcomes the world" (I John 5:4). Specifically, we are born again through water and the Spirit (John 3:3,5), and this is how we become a "new creation" (II Cor. 5:17). Over two thousand years ago, Jesus was born of woman in hopes that we would believe, obey, and be born anew of God and become His children. "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!" (I John 3:1).
3. JESUS CHRIST WAS REJECTED BY MAN THAT WE MAY BE ACCEPTED OF GOD.
It is tragic that Jesus was rejected by mankind, even His own people (the Jews). "He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them he gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name" (John 1:11,12). Notice carefully that believers in Jesus have the right to become children, but believing alone does not make them children. For example, many people have the right to vote, but simply having the right doesn't guarantee they actually will vote. Those who believe in Jesus have the right to continue in their obedience to God and actually become children of His through submission to the saving gospel message.
We know that Jesus was despised by men during His personal ministry--so much so that they eventually nailed Him to a cross! But, this was all according to God's plan. Colossians 1:19-21 - "For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled." When Jesus left the Father in heaven, it enabled those who fear Him and work righteousness to draw near to God (Acts 10:35). Christ was rejected that man could ultimately be accepted!
4. JESUS CHRIST BECAME THE MAN OF SORROWS THAT WE MAY REJOICE AND BE GLAD.
Isaiah the prophet predicted that the Messiah would be "...a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief" (Isaiah 53:3). Have you ever noticed that the Scriptures do not, even one time, mention Jesus laughing or even smiling? We read of Him weeping: over Jerusalem and at the death of Lazarus. Sadness seemed to visit Him often. There was not a lot of physical joy or laughter that brightened His days (or at least little was recorded). It is understandable, of course, why Jesus would be a Man of sorrows. He knew what His physical end would be. Every day his horrible death on the cross drew closer. The suffering of the scourging and the separation from the Father gave Him little to look forward to in the flesh. The stress upon Him built up continually, even to the point that He sweated drops of blood on the night He was betrayed.
Our Lord accepted this sorrow and sadness, and out of it came a reason for rejoicing. Paul wrote to Christians - "Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say, rejoice!" (Phil. 4:4). We have much to be thankful for. We were lost without His sacrifice. Let us remember that His sorrow and grief makes our joy and gladness possible as children of God.
5. JESUS CHRIST ACCEPTED POVERTY ON EARTH THAT WE MIGHT ENJOY RICHES IN HEAVEN.
"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich" (II Cor. 8:9). That verse sets forth the contrast quite clearly, doesn't it? Jesus acknowledged His physical poverty in Luke 9:58 - "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." However, just think of the eternal riches that were made possible through Christ's voluntary destitution. Through His poverty we are made rich, as children of the King! Yes, God has "raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:6,7). Jesus became poor to enable us to inherit eternal riches!
6. JESUS CHRIST WAS MADE SIN FOR US THAT WE MAY BE RIGHTEOUSNESS FOR HIM.
From the beginning, man rejected God through disobedience and became unrighteous and wicked. We were without hope while sin separated us from God. But, the Father changed all this through His Son! "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (II Cor. 5:21). I believe the idea here is that God the Father laid upon Jesus the sum of our iniquities; God charged to Him all the sins of the world (cf. Isa. 53:6; I Pet. 2:22-24). The Father did this that we could experience justification and become righteous.
7. JESUS CHRIST WAS PUT TO DEATH THAT WE MAY BE MADE ALIVE.
It is the sad truth that in order for us to have everlasting spiritual life, Jesus had to die physically! We know that He suffered greatly and rose from the dead the third day (Luke 24:46). He knew from the very beginning that this was the way it would be. Reflect upon I Corinthians 15:20-22 - "But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruit of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive."
Once we become Christians, we are alive in a whole new way. No longer do we live for the flesh--for ourselves and our desires. We now live for Christ. We are raised out of the waters of baptism to "walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6:3,4). We partake of the Lord's Supper on the first day of every week to remember the death of Christ and what was accomplished therein. Yes, Jesus tasted death on Earth that we might be made alive everlastingly. He became cursed by dying in our place on the cross (Gal. 3:13), that we might be blessed above!
Dear friends, Jesus Christ came into the world by becoming flesh, being born of a woman. Mankind rejected Him and put Him to death. Why did Jesus endure the agony and the shame of the cross? Why did He embrace poverty? Because He loves us! The results of His actions are blessings for us. Because Jesus came to this planet, we may enter heaven. Because he was born of a woman, we can be born of God and become His children. Because He endured sorrow, we can be full of joy. Because He died, we can be made alive. What love! What blessings! Are you thankful? Are you truly thankful?
There are so many paradoxes to be seen and so many blessings to be had in Christ. But sadly, some Christians themselves become paradoxes by being unfaithful to God after being given so much. They accept the gift of everlasting life and then slap Christ in the face by failing to put Him first, by turning back to the world, or by not giving Him their best effort. May we live for the Lord daily and never turn our back upon Him!
Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.