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My daughter, Katy, said to me the other day, “In the Bible, the contradictions prove true.” She said that the same Bible that reveals the Father turning away from his Son on the cross also reveals the Jesus’ death on the cross was “a fragrant offering” to the Father (Ephesians 5:2). Small wonder that the world finds the cross of Christ to be foolishness and that God confounds the wisdom of the worldly wise (1 Corinthians 1:18–25).

Consider another example: “The greatest among you shall be your servant” (Matthew 23:11). That doesn’t make sense, to the world. It does makes sense to those who follow Jesus and who joyfully experience serving. It makes sense to those who take God, his gospel, and his word seriously. Christians find that the contradiction proves true.

Yesterday, many of us saw another example of this. Jesus commended the poor widow, who gave a very small offering, as giving more than the rich who contributed “large sums” (Mark 8:41–44). That is a mathematical contradiction, yet a spiritual truth. The widow gave proportionally far more because she gave her all. Jesus saw it and was pleased. He hoped the disciples would finally get what he laboured to teach them: that his kingdom’s values contradict this world’s values. Those who follow him will be blessed, while those who reject his values will be condemned (v. 40). There is no contradiction there.

The Christian life contradicts what the world assumes. While the world assumes that riches are the key to happiness, Jesus says, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20). The world assumes that pursuing security in this life is the goal while Jesus says, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36). The world says, “Put yourself first,” while Jesus says, “The last will be first, and the first will be last” (Matthew 20:16).

The world is obsessed with self-preservation and yet Jesus taught, over and over (and the apostles reiterated his teaching), that self-sacrifice is the calling of the disciples. In fact, it is a key to growth and joy (Romans 6:13; 12:1–2; Philippians 2:17).

As we were reminded on Good Friday, when tempted with shouts to save himself by coming down from the cross, Jesus refused. He could not save himself and sinners at the same time. To save himself would have contradicted his purpose. So he died—that we might live. Glorious contradiction!

In these days, it may seem contradictory to say that God loves his people, while he is afflicting them with the effects of a plague. It may seem contradictory that Jesus’ promise to give his followers abundant life (John 10:10) is coupled with his followers undergoing suffering in these coronavirus days. It may seem contradictory that God is our promised refuge (Psalm 46) while the comforts and securities in this world are being eroded, even eviscerated. But then again, that’s the point. We are not of the world. We belong to another, and that makes all the difference in the world. Once again, the contradiction proves true.

Praying with and for you.