Imagine a surgeon so skilled in his ability to save lives, so dedicated to his craft, so tireless in his devotion to helping people, that his patients, staff and colleagues look at him as something more than human. Now imagine that surgeon is on his regular rounds when a new patient is brought to him in critical condition. Based on all the tests, it is obvious this man’s heart is terribly diseased, but no one has ever seen anything like this illness before. The surgeon immediately opens the man’s chest. When he looks at the heart, he says, “I know what this is. It will kill this man soon. There is no way to fix his heart. But there is a way to save his life.” He orders his surgical team to extract his own heart and transplant it into the man’s body, and to discard this man’s diseased heart before it kills him. The team members are horrified. They begin to protest: “But doctor, why would you give your life for his? You’re the best person we know; he’s just a stranger.” The doctor says, “My job is to save this man’s life. I could cut out his diseased heart, but that would only kill him. I could wake him from surgery and speak compassionately to him, but that wouldn’t save him either. The only way to destroy his illness and save his life is to trade my heart for his.”
In my parable, the surgeon is God. The patient is humanity. And the disease that is slowly, surely destroying us is sin. God loves us more than we can possibly comprehend. He hates the sin that is killing us. And it takes both His love and His wrath to save us. He can’t simply tell us, “I love you,” or shower us with heavenly gifts, because that doesn’t address our key problem. And He can’t simply punish our sin, because that would kill us. The only way for His love and wrath to be perfectly displayed; the only way for Him to be both just and the one who justifies, is for Him to offer Himself as the sacrifice. It’s not a perfect analogy. The disease we suffer from is our own fault; we’re not innocent victims. And thankfully, unlike that surgeon, Christ rose from the dead. So we can still have a relationship with the one who saved us. But just like the patient in that parable, we can’t do anything to save ourselves.
This is the message of Romans 3:25-26, which I will be preaching on this Sunday. I'll be talking about three truths about grace that we just can't seem to handle. I hope you'll be there.