It is the glory of God to conceal a matter,
But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.
As I write this, today is my wife’s birthday, and I have been concealing a very big secret. Her sister flew in from North Carolina all the way to Bellingham WA just for her birthday! I also planned a surprise birthday party, but I know that she is way too smart for me to keep the entire thing secret. So although I really wanted it to be a surprise, I really used the party as a decoy surprise to draw all of her suspicions, so that her sister’s arrival would be completely shocking. It worked! When we drove up to the spot where we agreed to pick her sister up, she was not expecting anything to happen, and when her sister suddenly showed up, she screamed, waved her hands in funny little circles, and started crying when she ran out to hug her neck! What a joy!
In a previous post we considered the threefold nature of a good gift: it is sacrificial, it is appropriate to the receiver, and it is surprising. We looked at the sacrificial nature of the cross of Christ, the appropriateness of the cross of Christ to our need and desire, and how that makes it a powerful gift to us. Now we look at how the cross is a surprise.
The idea of surprise is steeped in grace. If a gift is truly a surprise to someone, it means they didn’t plan it or ask for it or even remotely expect it. Yet, unbeknownst even to them, it is something which truly befits them and which they would have badly wanted if they could have thought of it. Since it is a surprise, it is something which is all done on the initiative of the giver. The receiver not only didn’t earn, they didn’t even think to ask for it. It is tremendous blessing that comes at you out of the blue, out of love and a desire to bless. Once Paul has outlined a torrent of amazing things about our identity in Christ in the first three chapters of Ephesians, he ends the section with this:
20 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen
Ephesians 3:20-21 (NASB)
The Cross as a Surprise Gift
I think it is fair to say that while the Jewish nation at the time of Jesus was on the alert for the coming of the Messiah, they were not expecting what they got. Even the wisest and best of them were expecting a figurehead and a political leader of some kind. They were not expecting God Himself to come in the flesh; in fact whenever you see the subject broached in His dialogs with the religious leaders, they enter directly into a murderous rage. I certainly doubt anyone could have conceived that God would come in the flesh and personally die for our sins. Sometimes as Christians we become numb to how shocking these things are. The exact nature of the coming of Christ was kept secret for millennia:
10 As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, 11 seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look.
1 Peter 1:10-12
I think it is safe to say that the nature and power of our redemption ended up being much more far-reaching and amazing than we would have thought. Many of the reasons people balk at grace is that they want to soften the shocking degree of forgiveness and blessing. The degree of love and the cost of it all seems too good to be true. It really does seem foolish and offensive to human nature to say that if you simply believe it and receive it, you have eternal life and you are forgiven everything forever. I think a lot of people would be very surprised to find out that this is what we are saying! I think that a great number of people would be inclined to say, “This is what you meant by all of this preaching? Why didn’t you come out and say so? This is absolutely tremendous! Thank God I know that! I never knew what it felt like to be released from the burden of my very conscience! Thank you!” It is shocking to say that we are so beloved of God that He would incarnate and die for us. We can also know that the surprises aren’t over; there are many glories to follow! Expect God to surprise you over and over and over for the rest of eternity!