Perspective and interpretation are everything. We do not just recognize and know certain facts about things; we have a perspective on those facts and interpret them into some kind of coherent story.
Nearly eleven years ago my wife and two of my daughters were in a car accident. We were returning home from my parents’ house in rural Iowa. A car came from the east on a gravel road and did not slow down but blew through the stop sign, right in front of us. There was nothing I could do. I hit his rear quarter panel and his car literally spun like a top and came to a stop. He and the girl in the passenger seat immediately hopped out of their car without a scratch or bruise on them. My girls were in the very back seat and were fine. My wife, however, tore her rotator cuff from the seat belt and the impact. For me, ever since that day, my back has never been the same. There are occasionally days when the pain and limitation are so bad that I can barely walk across the room.
In the ten years since that accident I have replayed it over a thousand times in my head. Maybe if only we had left a few minutes earlier or later from my parents’ house things would be different. Maybe if I had only driven slower or faster. But there really was nothing I could have done about it. I have been downright angry more than once, blaming that stupid kid who changed my life. In those thousand times of replaying the event, I have looked at it from my perspective, my wife’s perspective, the girls’ perspective, and even the dog’s perspective. But in all those years of replaying the accident in my mind, just in the past two weeks God has given me a different view of that event.
You see, in these past ten years I have been so deep into interpreting the accident from my perspective and my family’s perspective that I never even considered to look at it from the perspective of the driver of the other car. It was as if God finally tapped me on the shoulder and invited me to see it all in a different way. When I look at that accident from the other driver’s view, he was driving down a gravel road and was coming to a t-intersection. There was no road on the other side of that stop sign. What is there to this day is a large grain elevator. He was driving at highway speeds when he went through the stop sign. Had he blew through that sign and not been struck by my car, he and the passenger with him would have been certainly killed because they would have slammed into the elevator. But, instead, I “happened” to come along and hit him in such a way that his car spun and literally stopped just feet from the grain elevator.
That car accident actually saved two people’s lives. All of a sudden my chronic low-level back pain and limitation seems a very small price to pay for the lives of two people. I am now interpreting that event as God sending his servants, Tim and Mary, to a highway where two other people were on a collision course with death. And he used us to literally stop it from happening.
Perspective and interpretation are everything. For many of the people in the first-century, the crucifixion of Jesus was just another death. It all seemed like some tragic accident that Jesus did not deserve. But it was no tragic accident. God sent Jesus to the right place at the right time among people who were on a collision course with death. And he took their place. It was us who were behind the wheel and driving our lives recklessly, not knowing that we were facing imminent tragedy. But Jesus came along and took our place. He absorbed the punishment that we deserved so that we could live.
My car accident was unique to me and to the others involved. But the death of Christ is universal in its scope, having affected every single person on planet earth. And God showed no favoritism. The cross of Christ is for all kinds of people from every nation, every race, and every ethnic group. We are invited by Holy Scripture to have a perspective on the cross as being able to affect deliverance from all wrongdoing and all misguided lives. We are encouraged to interpret the resurrection of Jesus as bringing a new lease on life to millions of people. We are to take those events of Jesus and see them as our redemption.
So, then, our part in the whole affair is this: Everyone who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness of sins through his name. That is the perspective and the interpretation of the death and resurrection of Jesus that we need. Our only hope of life beyond the grave is Christ’s victory over death. Christ is risen. He is risen, indeed.