Contrasts. We love them in nature, and they make us sit up and take notice wherever they occur. This rose, with the corny name “Scentimental,” because of its wonderful scent, is always an eye-catcher when it blooms.
It has decided to bloom profusely this fall. Its fragrance is sweet and complex; and I always go for a second sniff, as a sensory double-take.
Walking past it a few days ago, an unexpected association occurred to me, as I thought about the pretty stripes on the scented petals. “By His stripes you are healed.”
For some reason, this passage from Isaiah 53:5 popped into my head and stayed there. That’s one thing about memorizing and reading Scripture, it surfaces for any or all reasons, sometimes no reason at all. I love that! I really prefer the New American Standard Bible, after four semesters of Greek and learning how close this version is to the original language. This passage, however, is from the old King James Version, which was so easy to memorize.
So the thought of Jesus’ “stripes,” His suffering and death, would not escape my thoughts for quite some time while I worked in the garden around this striped rose. In the quiet of the morning as I dug and weeded and breathed the fragrance, I pondered what it really meant.
The concept of Christ’s sacrifice is so basic, yet it is one that we can’t really think on enough. Of course, that must be why we are instructed to partake of the Lord’s Supper each week. Here I was, though, with this verse in my head, and the stark dichotomy of stripes and healing.
I cannot imagine a more drastic contrast than this. By the suffering and death of God’s only Son, we get the unearned, undeserved benefit of forgiveness of our sins; something we cannot obtain anywhere else or by any other means, and without which we are doomed to an unspeakable torment.
It took a ghastly death so that we can be granted life. And not just life after death; but a glorious eternal life without pain, sadness, and death!
Death and suffering for our Lord, life and joy for us. God had a plan to reverse the consequences of our disobedience to his divine law. Let it really sink in: the horror of the cross and the resulting joy that the Father has planned for us since the foundations of the earth.
Why did he do that for us? We can’t even begin to comprehend that astounding level of pure love with our tiny, finite human minds. And that, my friends, is another contrast. One for which we must all do a few double-takes.
“But we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written, ‘things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love him'” (1 Corinthians 2:7-9 NASB).