Welcome back to the podcast. Today we are going deep. Of course, at the center of our faith, we celebrate the cross of Jesus Christ — his horrific suffering and death by crucifixion. Christ “bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24).
His death was designed. It was no accident. It was no fluke of history. It was no mere result of unchecked mob violence. His death was intentional. It was divinely intended — intended from the beginning of time. This is a somber and significant point to grasp from Acts 4:27–28.
This theological point matters when we look at the fallenness of his world. Specifically, in this clip you will hear a mention of a massive earthquake that hit Nepal in the spring of 2015. That earthquake hit the day before this sermon was preached. In that disaster, three and a half million people were left homeless. Nearly nine thousand died. Why? Why does such a world exist with such deep pain? Here’s Pastor John.
This world exists with its pain, with its horror, and with its death to make a place for Jesus Christ the Son of God to suffer and die. If a world like this didn’t exist, Jesus would have no place to suffer and die. If there were no suffering, Jesus couldn’t suffer. If there were no death, Jesus couldn’t die. Put another way, the reason there is terror is so that Christ could be terrorized. The reason there is trouble is so that Christ could be troubled. The reason there is pain is so that Christ could feel pain.
“Never feel that God is somehow distant, far away, toying with creation. He made the horrors to enter the horrors.”
This world became what it is so that the Son of God could enter it and feel all of it. Therefore, you should never feel that God is somehow “out there” — distant, far away, toying with this creation. He made the horrors to enter the horrors.
Romans 5:8 says, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Do you believe this? He showed his love through the death of his Son. Do you believe that this love could be shown another way? It couldn’t be shown another way, and he meant for it to be shown.
Predestined to Die
Listen to these words from Acts 4:27–28, which the saints are praying after the death and resurrection of Jesus: “Truly in this city [Jerusalem] there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan predestined to take place.”
Did you hear the people they mention? “Herod” — who mocked him, put a purple robe on him, scorned him. “Pontius Pilate” — who expediently washed his hands and said, “I find no fault in him, but my job’s at stake, so kill him, crucify him, put him through the worst tortures imaginable.” “The Gentiles” — that’s the soldiers, who were driving the nails, pushing the sword in the side. “The peoples of Israel” — the Jewish people calling out, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
“Christ did not die by accident. This had been planned since before the foundation of the world.”
To summarize the text again, “Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Gentiles, and the people of Israel were gathered together to do whatever your plan and your hand had predestined to take place.” And so we know Christ did not die by accident. “Oh, just a fluke of history, just a turning of Roman affairs, just mob violence.” No. This had been planned since before the foundation of the world.
This is the climax of — the reason for — existence: the Son of God bore all the suffering of the world in order to lift sin from all who would trust him, bringing them into everlasting reward and joy, exquisitely, in a new heavens and a new earth, glorifying God for his wisdom and grace and love. That’s the reason this world exists the way it exists.
In my church — I still affectionately call it “my church” even though I have not been the pastor for two years. Well, in my church, there were about five thousand folks and a lot of young people. I was pastor there for 33 years, and we grew up together.
When you have a lot of young people together, they tend to fall in love, and they get married, and they have babies. And those babies die more than you would like. And some of them are born with profound disabilities, like Michael. Therefore, you have moms who have just lost their babies or whose whole lives have now changed because they will be caring for this disabled child till he or she dies.
I would welcome you young people to come to this church and interview any of these moms —like Patty, whom you can’t interview because she died of breast cancer. The first crisis was that Eric, her 1-year-old, died in her arms. I went to the hospital. She’s sitting there, holding Eric. He looks like he’s made out of ivory. He’s dead, sitting in his mother’s arms. She just looks at me. And then I buried her about fifteen years later. She has four young kids, and she dies.
It was a horrible death, in fact, but Patty was a rock. Patty believed every word of what I said. With her bald head and her cap, she made a video of about thirteen minutes — we showed it at a service — telling the people to trust God before she died.
He Came to Bear This Pain
So I’m inviting you, work through this. If it sounds problematic, work through it. God could shake this city — not just Nepal. Half of these buildings could go down at ten o’clock on Monday morning, and one hundred thousand people could be dead. Do you have a vision of God that would be able to handle that? That’s my question.
That might be easier to handle than if one of your children died or if you had a child with a profound disability. But I am inviting you to embrace Jesus Christ as the one for whom, through whom, and to whom all things exist. And he came to share this suffering. He came to bear this pain.
He came to taste every test and every temptation that we have known, take it to the cross, and die in our place so that by faith alone, we could have all our sins forgiven, have eternal life, and have a destiny in a new heavens and a new earth where that curse will finally be lifted.
John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently What Is Saving Faith?