The only responsibility of man is to accept God‘s sovereignty. That is the solution of a problem debated for eternity. It is, in a word, obedience--which is itself, in a word, love.
Man has responsibility. This is not an option. It’s a condition of life. The ability of response is, almost by definition, life, and therefore man. If light is shown upon a rock in utter darkness and the rock responds by staying put, then it is indeed a rock and not alive, or, at least, only as alive as an unresponsive rock can be. But if light is shown upon a rock and the rock responds by scurrying away, then we say “Whoah, that is no rock! That thing is alive!”
Because he is alive, man has the ability of response. Because he is responsible, he is alive. But alive for what? Responsible to what? As with our rock, to a light in the darkness.
In the kingdom of heaven there is a king, and everyone in that kingdom is singing in one accord. But it is not one voice, it is one million voices in one, and it is not a machine of music, it is definitely alive. All the pictures and images in the Bible that even begin to touch on something like the heavenly realm are filled with Ezekiel’s rainbows and beasts with four heads and six wings with one thousand eyes and colors and forms and row after endless row of bowing or shouting holy people, a circus of angels circling around a central throne in a ring of fire. It is literally almost anything but a uniform thing; almost anything but a bland, grid-like uniformity praising the sovereignty of a despotic or deterministic slave master. And what glorifies the heavenly king is that all those voices and all those forms are saying something like “I have chosen to abdicate my throne of choice!” or “I have finally fulfilled my one responsibility” or “I have chosen This King over all the others.” Therefore man’s responsibility to choose God’s sovereignty glorifies God greater than Sovereignty alone. In a sense it is a double glorification, even a seventy times seven multiplication of the glory of the king.
Christ himself is the unification of the idea of man’s responsibility and God’s sovereignty. That is who Christ is. As man is to all other creatures, so Christ is to all other men. He is the singular and outstanding culmination of something that pierced existence. He is the point of Abraham‘s knife at the down stroke.
Where the story of Abraham left off, is where God Himself cried, “It is finished!” At that place, on that mountain of God’s Providence, Christ was obedient unto death; even death on a cross. He sacrificed choice by choice.
One of the most perfect acts of obedience in the Bible might be the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac. As it pits the righteous sovereignty of God against what might considerably be the most heinous act of a man. It is the rending of the strongest bond, a father’s love for his son, by the stronger bond-breaker, the Great Father’s love for his children. The most powerful of bindings on earth, meets the more powerful of looseners in heaven. The picture of Abraham poised over Isaac is the picture of man poised over everything that matters. It places him absolutely in the moment where his hand starts to fall. And just as the point of a knife is to penetrate, the point of Abraham’s knife is this: Divinity only and ever penetrates man at mortality. Everything meets here. There is man and God and a mountain and an angel and a choice and now and nothing else but everything. The divine touches the mortal at the falling point of that knife. And at this exact place where heroes of faith are made, there is no more ought, there is no more should, there is no more thinking, there is no more morality, there is no more right and no more wrong. Abraham cannot and is not allowed to see what is beyond his next choice or action—these have become one in his moment of faith. He just obeys…now. So the question is: How obedient could you be?
The stoic man is essentially a pessimist. I say essentially because the stoic's lofty ideal to merely withstand all the madness of this world without himself going mad might be viewed, albeit from a necessarily low vantage point, as a sort of optimism. “It can be done,” says the stoic, proudly eating sour grapes, grim-faced, from his fortress of solitude. "If there be any goodness in the world, it is only a small goodness, a nymph from fairyland not worth pursuing." Otherwise, the stoic's idea of goodness only goes as far as his pessimism allows; to the negation of awfulness. His reality is the eye-drying reality of blood, sweat and tears. The stoic never discovers the secret to his nemesis, the meek man—the guardian of true optimism. He never answers the riddle of the smile blazing across a humble heart.
Jesus was crushed by the world. But he also crushed the world. He crushed her reason and her fantasy; doing so by crushing them into one thing: Himself.
I had lived inside my father’s castle, a very strong one, and the siege against the world was on. But it turned out I made a strategic error; devastating, because when I turned ‘round, the enemy wasn’t outside, but rather, inside my castle; it’s thick walls no longer keeping everything out, but only me in. So I was pressed on two fronts. I had won the war of attrition with the world, the world of people, only to come up against a greater foe, by far, right up next to me.
Like all great kings, with my back comfortably against the wall, I could never figure out where was my enemy. Because he was closer than I imagined. I was always surprised when the serpent struck my heel.
In Mark 4:21, Christ continues to, quite literally, deepen his point about how the word works, by which he also means how he works. It is an idea, like a seed, he’s deeply hidden and that he, on purpose, hides because hidden things must in themselves, almost as if by their nature, be revealed. That is what the purpose of a hidden thing is: it is meant to be revealed, in the sense that a thing can be disclosed by no other means than being hidden. And he seems to say that if he has hidden in you, that is, if the word, like a seed, gets planted deeply in you, it will by its very nature, because of its depth, burst forth with manifold produce and fruition. And if the measure you use is a deep measuring stick, then the height it grows will be all the more; however, if you are shallow ground or hard ground measuring Jesus with a shallow ruler or no ruler at all, almost a zero ruler, then the seed will be taken away. And even what you had will be taken away.
Revealed things aren’t hidden, rather hidden things are revealed
By the way, the ark continues to be built in my life. A cubit long here, ten cubits wide there. A person here, a person there. A character flaw sanded down here, cleaner lines there. A rotten joist removed here, new ones placed there. Berths for my family, rooms for the whole world. And over and all around, under the Lordship of the Great Architect, something is being built. Its scale is great, its height and breadth impossible to fathom from the ground.
Maybe you and I will stand together one day and hug and compare the plans and progress of our Arks and be amazed at how they are the same.
Christ is not just different by degrees from man, he’s different by kind. There is Christ and there is everyone else. He, in the world of man, is as a professional quarterback in the world of man, of whom none could enter the playing field and do what either can do. Crossing over leagues to the level of the NFL, the pro quarterback may as well have crossed into another dimension. He is, in the exact sense, in a league of his own. He is different, not merely in a matter of degrees, but in type. He lives and walks and sees and breathes as if he is in, and from, another world. A mere mortal who is not from his world may try and try to get there by being faster and stronger and bigger, and work by degrees towards Olympus, but he would fail to enter it. He is not and never will be a pro quarterback. The only way to be one, would be to go back into his mother’s womb and be born again as one.
Yet it seems this is precisely what Christ asks of every Christian: To be different from man; not in degrees, but in kind; to be in this world, but from another one; in a very true sense, to be in this world by being out of it; to do all things, yet somehow, beyond all possibilities, only as Christ does them.
Christ can not only not worry about his life, but care for everyone else’s. He can not only be humble, but at the same time inherit everything. He can not only perform miracles, but demand they be kept secret.
Christ can not only obey every rule perfectly, but somehow do it by not following them. Not only live, but do it by dying. Not only rule everyone, but do it by serving everyone. Not only claim He is God’s only son, but also that He is everyone’s brother. Not only say it is not merely possible we can do the impossible, but inevitable. He is different.
“After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits—to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—“
1 Peter 3:18-22
I think Peter felt as he was writing this, that he also had once barely made it. That he once, long ago, stood breathless and drenched on the deck of a ship looking out over his conscience now clear as glass, thanking his savior for setting him free.
Everyone is saying Jesus is not in control of himself.
Jesus says, “No. I am the only one in control of themselves.”