In this critical area of biblical lessons demonstrating God’s attempt to raise our vision upward toward Him, one of the highest illustrative examples is the redemptive reach of the cross of Jesus Christ.
How could anyone, including the apostles, grasp ahead of time the enormous idea that one person could die on the cross as satisfaction for all of mankind’s sin? The atonement for the mass of sin accumulated by every single person from the beginning of human history…redeemed through the sacrifice of one man Jesus Christ…was in-the-moment simply too much to contemplate.
Even someone like Jesus, who is restoring sight to the blind, cleansing lepers, healing cripples, casting out demons, multiplying fish and bread to feed thousands, walking on water, instantly calming a raging storm at sea, and raising the dead…still does not bridge the conceptual gap ahead of time that one person could single-handedly…as the Passover Lamb of God atoning sacrifice…absorb the enormous quantity of mankind’s sins and offences.
People see Jesus raise the widow’s son from the dead in the city of Nain, but they ascribe to this obviously divine miracle the arrival in Israel of a great prophet only. This is as high as their spiritual vision will allow them to go (Lk. 7:16).
Eye-witnessing this miracle did not connect them with the idea of the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice…for the sins of mankind. One does not necessarily follow the other. Making atonement for mankind’s sin is a totally different matter.
Though Jesus actually told the disciples ahead of time about His impending crucifixion and resurrection (Mk. 8:31), even they did not get it. It was spiritually above their still worldly horizontal comprehension. Only after the resurrection did they finally understand.
They personally saw and spoke with the resurrected Jesus in His newly restored body, still having the nail-pierced scars on his hands and feet, affirming the divine capacity of the blemish-free Lamb of God Jesus to indeed take away the sins of the world.
The perfection of Jesus as the sinless, spotless Lamb of God atonement for mankind’s sin would only make full sense after seeing Jesus visibly risen from the dead.
The powerful testimony of Jesus through the words and deeds of His ministry, combined with all of the Old Testament messianic backstory, only comes into clear focus for the disciples after the resurrection.
In the glorious new world the disciples awoke to on that fateful Sunday morning, where Jesus is now bodily risen from the dead, the upper boundary line of what was previously possible was completely shattered. This unanticipated action by God liberated the disciples up above the conventionally horizontal into the realm where all things are possible (Acts 3:6; 4:8).
The example of the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ stands at the pinnacle of God’s divinely composed outreach to mankind…in a previously unthinkable and unimaginable way…to come upward in our spiritual vision of what God can and will accomplish in our lives if we will place our trust in Him.
One man can take upon Himself the sins of the world…if He is the Son of God.
If absolutely everyone in-the-moment is not comprehending the upcoming resurrection of Jesus Christ prior to and shortly after His crucifixion, and all of the details surrounding their actions and reactions are embarrassing to the apostles of the early church…are we to plausibly believe that these same apostles or someone else subsequently invented this brilliantly imaginative scenario as literary fiction from a detached, mezzanine viewpoint?
What would be the origin or frame of reference to explain the unique originality of this creative inspiration if the gospels themselves admit that no one at the time anticipated God the Father raising Jesus from the dead?
Why would the gospel writers admit and accurately record this fundamental shortcoming of not grasping the upcoming resurrection, then describe it all with such detail? And who amongst the followers of Jesus would possess this world-class literary creativity…if it were all pure fiction?
Encapsulated within the account itself is the important revelation that the ordinary, naturalistic capacity of our human intellect is not up to the task of anticipating and comprehending ahead of time…the higher ways and works of God.
God had to arrange the cross and the resurrection in such a heart-breaking and disappointing fashion…for the disciples…in order to bring everyone to the endpoint of their own self-reliant thinking, plans, and vision.
The cross and the resurrection of Jesus forced everyone to squarely face the limited reach of their own horizontal thinking.
As the Roman soldiers are hammering the metal spikes through the hands and feet of Jesus…not only is the blood of Jesus cleansing believers from sin…but these metal spikes are going straight through the arrogant pride and hubris of humanism…humanism that was and is blind to what was happening at that moment.
The cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ is God’s most powerful, drastic, and love-filled means to get people to raise our vision higher. The unsurpassed quality and singular originality of the story validates the divinity of its authorship.
This is a reality common to all of the positive journeys of faith recorded in the Bible, and a foreglimpse of the upcoming issues for individual Christians and the Christian church on a colossal scale in the end-times.
In a biblical journey of faith, God takes people through tightly crafted and divinely guided circumstances beyond the point where they can depend upon their own self-reliance.
This is the surest way…maybe the only way…that God can demonstrate His faithfulness and love for us.
Why did the world reject Jesus during His first advent as Messiah?
One basic answer is that the religious leadership in Jerusalem and a large portion of the populace had their vision focused horizontally. Some portion of the populace followed Jesus because they wanted a free meal (Jn. 6:26) and to witness the novelty of miracles (Lk. 23:8).
The Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes thought that the removal of Jesus of Nazareth, who showed no signs of leading a successful Jewish military revolt against the Roman occupation of their country according to their expectations… was best achieved through the ignominious death by crucifixion at the hands of the Romans.
They had no concept of the mission of the messiah as outlined in Isaiah 61:1-2…and no desire for a new covenant gospel message of hope and peace that would offer genuine freedom to the entire world. This was above their temporal and worldly comprehension.
The disciples, on the other hand, are on the opposite end of the horizontally flat vision- spectrum. Their individual hopes and plans are crushed by the trial, death, and burial of the one they believed to be the long-promised Messiah for Israel.
They wondered if they had somehow made a mistake in following Jesus. It is probably not fair to say that the disciples should have known better. God arranged events with such precision that the hopes and dreams of the disciples were dependent upon the miracle of a resurrection of Jesus…that was not even within their contemplation.
The eternal salvation for mankind and the disappointing heartbreak of the disciples were both contained within the exact same cross and resurrection events. God had to raise their vision above the horizontal, and it took the most sublimely brilliant, imaginative action composed and orchestrated by God…that also contained a painful separation of the disciples from their own mindset, their self-will, and the way they expected things to turn out.
In short, the divine love that is contained within the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ extends into our daily lives through a God-composed journey of faith far above the horizontally conventional.
This is a truth of such monumental importance and application that it must not be surrendered, misplaced, set aside, lost, or become partially out of focus for the Christian in the last days.
Someone may ask at this point, how do the narrative stories and examples in the Bible relate to me, and to the modern-day Christian church? I get up in the morning, go to work, and come home to my wife and children each day…so how do the inspirational stories of the biblical superstars of the faith relate to me in my desire to obtain vertical vision as a Christian?
How can God integrate His higher ways and thoughts (Isa. 55:8-9) into the ordinary conventional routine of my daily life?
The answer is found in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, learning to listen in the Spirit, studying the Bible daily, and a willingness to follow the leadership of Jesus within the events and circumstances of our uniquely individual lives.
Like the example of playing catch with a baseball, we get better with practice. But unless we are throwing the ball straight up and catching it by ourselves when it comes back down, we need a minimum of two people for a game of catch.
To enter into a biblical style journey of faith having vertical vision, this requires the unmistakably supernatural participation of the living God. This is the reality for new covenant, Spirit-born Christians that is promised through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit (Jn. 16:13).
The solutions to the challenges facing Christians and the Christian church in the last days are found in raising our vision upward toward Jesus Christ in faith and trust.
The answers to the upcoming challenges of the end-times are found in the fully committed approach taken by the three young Hebrews confronted with the fiery furnace (Dan. 3:18), by Daniel in the lion’s den (Dan. 6:22), and by Esther in attempting to be the instrument of God to save her people (Est. 4:16).
These are not ancient myths. This is not man-invented folklore.
The opportunity to likewise exercise our faith, to walk in the Spirit, and to be “in Christ” in this broken world in the middle of the unprecedented world-shaking events of the last days, is a privilege, a calling, and an honor beyond reckoning.
The theme of this book is to illuminate and clarify this vision of seeing above the horizontal through faith in Christ.
An understanding of the role of a collective adventure of faith through the cross…for the entire Christian church as a group…composed and orchestrated by God in a way that is above and beyond human invention…is another key truth leading to our success as overcomers in the upcoming end-times events.