I remember attending a life celebration held for two siblings who had tragically passed away. The sisters, aged two and five, drowned while playing outside their family home in Suva, Fiji. The incident came as a shock to their families, who never thought anything so awful would happen to them. On the evening before the girls’ funeral, families and friends of the sisters gathered to pay their last respects.
That evening I sat with the church delegation that visited the family. We sang songs, prayed, shared and cried with them. The girls have twin brothers. It was heartbreaking to see siblings separated from each other at such a young age.
As their grandfather spoke with fond memories of his granddaughters, I noticed the expressional shifts in his voice as he shared his lived experiences of the girls. You could hear and feel the excruciating pain from this fatherly figure to the girls. Whenever he spoke of their interests, their play and their lives, the grandfather’s voice and eyes lit up, but we sensed that behind that energy was an overwhelming feeling of pain that only God knows.
The stories of the sisters’ lives made me think of the pain our Father in heaven went through as He allowed His one and only Son to be born, live and die for the human race. If you’ve never heard the story before, it’s true. Jesus is one with God—He said as much many times in the recorded biographies of His life we refer to today as the Gospels. And yet, He chose to come down to this earth and become one of us. He lived and died as a human being—though thankfully, His story didn’t end at the grave. Unlike the sisters’ narrative, Jesus’ death was no accident. It was intentional—a death that had to happen to re-open heaven’s door for us.
As Adam and Eve broke God’s trust by eating from the forbidden tree, their wilful disobedience to God barred them from Eden—the very place that granted them access to the tree of life. “Sorrow filled heaven as it was realised that man was lost and the world which God created was filled with mortals doomed to misery, sickness and death, and that there was no way of escape for the offender. The whole family of Adam must die”1
The author Ellen White describes Jesus, filled with sorrow and sympathy, approaching the heavenly throne three times to request that He be the atonement of Adam’s sin. Upon their third meeting God the Father granted Him approval—the approval to be the ransom and to take the sentence of death for Adam’s generation. Through Him humans would find a way to reconnect with their Creator.
I have tried to imagine the emotion God would have experienced as Jesus was born to Mary and Joseph in a manger in the little town of Bethlehem. Indeed, the human race had fallen into darkness and was deserving of nothing but death (Romans 3:23). However, God’s plan of rescue was bigger and better than any human imagination. Jesus’ humble birth symbolises the beginning of humanity’s rescue.
C S Lewis described the birth of Jesus in the most delicate yet powerful way when he said, “Once in our world the stable had something in it that was bigger than our whole world.” A host of heavenly angels; the wise men from the East—magi who studied the philosophies of the world; and the humble shepherds who were faithful in taking care of their flocks even if it meant shepherding late into the night—these were the diverse groups that had a part in Jesus’ modest birth. While the groups and individuals varied in status and background there was one common denominator: all had anticipated the first coming of the Son of God. The preparations for Jesus’ birth and the groups that were part of it give us a preview of what the second coming of Jesus will be like. Only a few people will truly anticipate His second coming, whereas most of the human race will be taken by surprise. This should encourage us to allow God to work on us daily, ensuring that we are ready.
During Jesus’ life on earth, He placed emphasis on the importance of preparation and anticipating His second coming. “Therefore, watch and pray for you do not know the day or the hour” (Matthew 25:13).
What does this passage really mean though and why should we care? Jesus is not only telling us to watch and pray because He is coming back unannounced; He is also urging us to do so because He knows that while we live and go about our daily business, the enemy (known by some as the devil) is also at work on his business—leading as many people as he can into darkness and eternal separation from God. Day in, day out we encounter the enemy’s business—it can be addiction, lack of (or no) time with God because we are too “committed” to other things, lack of self-discipline . . . the list goes on.
Jesus’ disciple Peter was aware of these predicaments that we struggle with. That’s why he reinforced the preparation message when he wrote, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Yes, the enemy is out seeking and devouring and while he is at it, many of us are unprepared for Jesus’ return, but have created pathways for the devil to find us and devour us.
Whether you are a Christian or not, understanding the life of Jesus and His incredible story can be life-changing. God has reached out to us through Jesus, offering us eternal life. That is to say—a rich, fulfilling life right now with the promise of everlasting life in the future. To respond to Jesus is to accept His invitation to engage with our salvation story. When we become oblivious to our salvation story, we are a target for the enemy. Once we know Jesus and the reason for His ministry on earth, we will begin to understand the part we have to play in His plan to restore our planet and everything in it.
The story of the grandfather and the loss of his grandchildren is also symbolic of the pain our Father in heaven goes through when His children are lost in darkness. A life lived with Jesus isn’t easy, as some people might tell you, but it is worth it. When we give ourselves over to the life-changing power of God, we give ourselves over to the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. With that power at work within us, we begin to change. We become more patient, more hopeful, more resilient to whatever life throws at us. Jesus came to this earth not just so that we could be saved from death and darkness, but also so that we could have a more abundant life right here, right now. No matter your reservations, doubts or questions, I encourage you to “taste and see” that God is good. You won’t regret it.
Kesaia Vasutoga is a climate change program manager for Oxfam in the Pacific. She is a member of Rockingham Seventh-day Adventist Church in Perth, WA.
1. Ellen G White, Early Writings: page 125