Arms Open Wide

God . . held His arms . . open wide.

Sunbeams and cross

They didn’t have to make Jesus stretch His arms out on the cross. They didn’t have to nail His wrists to keep His hands in place. Long before He was sentenced to death by a corrupt judge, He chose death to satisfy the wrath of a perfect Judge. Long before He stretched out His arms for the cross, He stretched out His arms to embrace a world He knew would crucify Him. And long before the nails forced His arms to open wide, He held His arms open wide to invite all of humanity to flock under His protection.

God . . held His arms . . open wide. The salvation of God is mysterious. It’s like a melody you can’t quite fully hear, no matter how carefully you listen. It’s like a love you realize you’ve never seen, but you’ve felt tapping on your shoulder your whole life. It’s like a dance you can’t imitate, where the steps require a greater self-sacrifice then is fathomable to the mortal mind.

God . . held His arms . . open wide. God held His arms open wide. It’s Diety in flesh. It’s humanity wrapped around God Himself. It’s the jaw-dropping mysery of the incarnation.

God . . held His arms . . open wide. It’s a song with lyrics of how you’re more loved than you ever imagined. It’s a story that opens up for you to step inside. It’s a peace that settles over you like snowdust. It’s a fully-sufficient harmony that invites you to sing along.

God . . held His arms . . open wide. How fitting, how perfect that the way we receive salvation is by opening our hearts wide. In feeble imitation of the One who gave all His goodness for our evil, we give all our evil to ask for His goodness. It’s an exchange nobody would believe . . if it weren’t true.

God . . held His arms . . open wide. It’s a palette of colors you’ve never seen; it’s a chorus of beauty you’ve never heard. It’s a promise you’ve never touched; it’s a delectable bliss you’ve never tasted.

God . . held His arms . . open wide.

Now it’s time to hold your arms open . . to Him.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:19b-20, HCSB)

God’s love is beyond the realm of human sanity.

Jesus went into the synagogue again and noticed a man with a deformed hand. Since it was the Sabbath, Jesus’ enemies watched him closely. If he healed the man’s hand, they planned to accuse him of working on the Sabbath.

Jesus said to the man with the deformed hand, “Come and stand in front of everyone.” Then he turned to his critics and asked, “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?” But they wouldn’t answer him.

He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts. Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored! At once the Pharisees went away and met with the supporters of Herod to plot how to kill Jesus.

Jesus went out to the lake with his disciples, and a large crowd followed him. They came from all over Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, from east of the Jordan River, and even from as far north as Tyre and Sidon. The news about his miracles had spread far and wide, and vast numbers of people came to see him.

Jesus instructed his disciples to have a boat ready so the crowd would not crush him. He had healed many people that day, so all the sick people eagerly pushed forward to touch him. And whenever those possessed by evil spirits caught sight of him, the spirits would throw them to the ground in front of him shrieking, “You are the Son of God!” But Jesus sternly commanded the spirits not to reveal who he was.

Afterward Jesus went up on a mountain and called out the ones he wanted to go with him. And they came to him. Then he appointed twelve of them and called them his apostles. They were to accompany him, and he would send them out to preach, giving them authority to cast out demons. These are the twelve he chose:

Simon (whom he named Peter),

James and John (the sons of Zebedee, but Jesus nicknamed them “Sons of Thunder”),

Andrew,

Philip,

Bartholomew,

Matthew,

Thomas,

James (son of Alphaeus),

Thaddaeus,

Simon (the zealot),

Judas Iscariot (who later betrayed him).

One time Jesus entered a house, and the crowds began to gather again. Soon he and his disciples couldn’t even find time to eat. When his family heard what was happening, they tried to take him away. “He’s out of his mind,” they said. (Mark 3:1-21, NLT)

It’s one of the most illogical leaps in thinking recorded in the Bible.

What on earth does the family mean?

“He’s out of his mind,” they said.

So far, Jesus has healed a man with a useless hand–and that’s just the start to this chapter.

This is before newspapers, before internet–and neither is necessary.  Ordinary people are traveling to see Jesus and coming back healed of all their illnesses.  There is no publicity the media can hype up that can even raise its voice to a whisper compared to the popularity of a real miracle, much less dozens and dozens of real miracles.

Jesus is healing.  He is healing–and the sick, the curious, and the most wildly afflicted are pouring out of the towns and villages to meet Him.

He chooses twelve followers to help Him bring salvation and healing to their nation.  And He has gone to a house to eat (and probably lodge for the night), and He has become so famous for healing that He is crowded by people on all sides.  Word of mouth alone of a true Healer sets the nation ablaze with curiosity and longing.  Jesus is so crowded with such great need that He doesn’t even eat.

And what does His family say?

“He’s out of his mind”

No joy that Jesus is healing the sick.  No delight that His words are dethroning demons from human souls.

No congratulations that Jesus opened a crippled hand.  No jubilee that the man who had been confined to one-handed work or begging could now take up fishing or carpentry or farming.

No awe that Jesus keeps choosing to heal even when He’s hungry, even when He’s exhausted, even when He knows that every release of power from His hand draws the bitter plotting of the pharisees.

Only,

they tried to take him away (from Mark 3:21)

and

“He’s out of his mind” (from Mark 3:21)

It’s what was recorded of His family’s thinking: they were ready to take Him back home whether He wanted to go or not, and they thought He had become irrational.

Why?  Why did they think He was out of His mind?  Why did they think they needed to intervene, to interrupt His healing hand?  What caused them to suppose the love of God was insanity?

Is it this: that when we come in contact with the love of God, when we come in contact with real love–that is, the love of God, because it’s the only source of real love–when we come in contact with undiluted, uncontaminated, unending, unconstrained love–that it is so never-ending, so unignorable, so shocking, so unearthly, so faithful, so selfless, so marvelous–

–that we confuse it for insanity?

What then would Mary . . what then would His half-brothers . . what then would His half-sisters say . . when His love came to carrying a wooden beam across His back, a cross that symbolized the weight of our sin He carried in His flesh?  What then when it came time to see the depth of His love?

God’s love is beyond the realm of human sanity.

But rather than accuse Him of wrongdoing or insanity for loving us so much, let us instead fall on our knees.  For there is no love like the love of God.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. (1 John 4:9, NIV)

Published in: on May 26, 2012 at 10:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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