To many people, the world seems driven by the forces of luck, chance and coincidence. Indeed, our very existence is explained as a random collision of molecules. Whenever we experience some serendipitous encounter we think, what are the odds?...or, how random was that? Sometimes, people of faith overhype every such encounter as divine intervention...Hey everybody, Jesus appeared in my toast this morning! But, every now and then, I believe that what the world describes as coincidence bears a striking resemblance to the hand of God. You are perfectly free to disagree with me on this point. We can still be friends.
This morning was one of those times. Yesterday, after watching an amazing family grapple with the specter of death, after reading snippets of news throughout the day about the passing of Billy Graham, after witnessing the power of faith to sustain people in the darkest hours, I open my Read the Bible in 90 Days app an hour ago and what should pop up but the 53rd chapter of Isaiah. Of all the places to be in scripture, the one Old Testament passage that describes Jesus Christ in such beautiful and stirring detail. Impeccable timing. Billy Graham devoted his life to preaching his message, my friend’s life has been devoted to his service, and the family has bet their money and their lives on the truth of his Gospel. And this morning, of all the places I could have been in such a vast and often confounding book, I land on this spot, this powerful, stirring spot...
53:1 Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
9 And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
If you prefer to assign this coincidence to chance or the quirks of fate, that’s fine. But for me, it feels like...grace.