As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.

Genesis 50:20

 

In this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus. . .both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

Acts 4:27-28

 

The secret things belong to the Lord our God.

 


The most profound thing we can say about suffering and evil is that, in Jesus Christ, God entered into it and turned it for good. The origin of evil is shrouded in mystery. "Free will" is just a name for the mystery. It doesn't explain why a perfect creature chose to sin. Another name for the mystery is "the sovereignty of God." As true and biblical as it is, this too leaves questions unanswered. The Bible does not take us as far as we might like to go. Rather it says, "The secret things belong to . . . God" (Deuteronomy 29:29).

The heart of the Bible and the heart of Christianity is not an explanation of where evil came from, but a demonstration of how God enters into it and turns it for the very opposite--everlasting righteousness and joy. There were pointers in the Scriptures all along the way that it would be like this for the Messiah. Joseph, the son of Jacob, was sold into slavery in Egypt. He seemed abandoned for 17 years. But God was in it and made him ruler in Egypt, so that in a great famine he could save the very ones who sold him. The story is summed up in a word from Joseph to his brothers: "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good" (Genesis 50:20). A foreshadowing of Jesus Christ, forsaken in order to save.

Or consider Christ's ancestry. Once God was the only king in Israel. But the people rebelled and asked for a human king: "No! But there shall be a king over us" (1 Samuel 8:19). Later they confessed, "We have added to all our sins this evil, to ask for ourselves a king" (1 Samuel 12:19). But God was in it. From the line of these kings he brought Christ into the world. The sinless Savior had his origin in sin as he came to save sinners.

But the most astonishing thing is that evil and suffering were Christ's appointed way of victory over evil and suffering. Every act of treachery and brutality against Jesus was sinful and evil. But God was in it. The Bible says, "Jesus [was] delivered up [to death] according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:23). The lash on his back, the thorns on his head, the spit on his cheek, the bruises on his face, the nails in his hands, the spear in his side, the scorn of rulers, the betrayal of his friend, the desertion by his disciples--these were all the result of sin, and all designed by God to destroy the power of sin. "Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, [did] whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place" (Acts 4:27-28).

There is no greater sin than to hate and kill the Son of God. There was no greater suffering nor any greater innocence than the suffering and innocence of Christ. Yet God was in it all. "It was the will of the Lord to crush him" (Isaiah 53:10). His aim, through evil and suffering, was to destroy evil and suffering. "With his stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5). Is not then the suffering of Jesus Christ meant by God to show the world that there is no sin and no evil too great that God, in Christ, cannot bring from it everlasting righteousness and joy? The very suffering that we caused became the hope of our salvation. "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).