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Credo VI

“I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,

who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary…”

The two figures in the Bible who are without sin, the innocents, are Jesus and Job. The Book of Job, I am told, is thought to be the most ancient of all our Biblical texts and it deals with the perplexing question of innocent suffering: Why does a good God allow innocent people to suffer?

Job is long and poetic and has a dramatic conclusion–totally worth reading and thinking about–but I don’t think it hits home until you’ve experienced innocent suffering yourself and I don’t think the answer to Job is complete until we understand Jesus as “conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.”

I don’t like to think about this part of the Apostle’s Creed. I tend to mumble through it, figuring I’d only have to care if I was Roman Catholic. I don’t understand it. This is technically the first in vitro fertilization (IVF) except it was in vivo and the donor was divine. The divine uniting His DNA with that of a Jewish teenager?

I expressed my skepticism to Dr. Jeff Hoy once while we were on a trip to Israel. He listened and calmly said, “The biggest leap of faith has to be the resurrection. If you can believe that a dead body, days after decomposition, could rise from the grave, then the virgin birth should be a no more difficult belief.”

Touché. Some things are to be taken on faith. But those things taken in faith should be things that are plausible in some way, and important. Two historians of Jesus life, Matthew and Luke, insisted on a birth story that included a virgin birth. They had to believe it was true after speaking with the mother of Jesus and others who were still alive when they were writing. And they had to believe it was important.

It is important. Because the virgin birth cements the reality that Jesus is all-in as a human being. Sure, He healed the sick and raised the dead and walked on water, showing the world that He had divine power. But He limited Himself in critical ways. He could not or would not use his divine power to intervene for Himself. Born as a baby, he wore diapers and pooped in them. He worked, perspired, grew weary and slept. As an adult, he went to parties that served alcohol; he supplied the booze at a wedding. He laughed. He cried. And he did not get out of this life without starvation, loneliness, beatings, whippings, and, ultimately, torture and death.

No doubt the humanity of Jesus is important in some deep theological way, such as to give the proper conditions for His ultimate sacrifice to save mankind from our sins. But I think this humanity is not only to save the sinners but to comfort the innocent. This is where we get back to Job and the problem of innocent suffering.

I am the junior resident in neurosurgery when I get a call to the pediatric emergency room. A four-year-old boy has been brought in by ambulance from home because he is unresponsive. He had been resuscitated and intubated before I walked in the room. The first twenty seconds at the bedside tell me he had been beaten over every square inch of his body. The next two minutes of examination tell he he is already brain dead.

Innocent suffering.

A twenty-two-year-old woman is driving home one Friday night and a drunk young man follows her, tailgating and speeding–his apparent method of flirtation–until he rear-ends her car and she is left paraplegic for life.

Innocent suffering.

An eight-year-old boy balances on a curb waiting for his school bus when he falls into the street in front of a truck. He is severely injured and in deep coma when he arrives in the ER, but not quite brain dead. Our team struggles all day to bring him back, but by evening it was clear that we had lost; the child would die.

Innocent suffering.

The parade of innocent suffering and grief started before Job and it hasn’t ended yet. You all have your own stories. I’ve heard some of them. Despair would not be unreasonable. Job himself cried out in pain and indignation before God answered him out of the whirlwind.

Then along came Jesus.

The Bible tells us “Surely He took up our pain and bore our suffering…” (Isaiah 53:4). Since He is eternal, he takes up the pain and suffering of every human being, before and since His lifetime. This means that in some cosmic sense, when that child got hit by a truck, Jesus got hit by a truck. When the child’s parents grieved, Jesus wept. He takes up our pain and bears our suffering. When Job lay diseased on the dung heap longing for his lost children, Jesus lay with him.

This is not a distant spirit in the sky professing sympathy for the human race. This is not a universe creator who set the ball rolling a few billion years ago and let nature take its course. This is not the celestial judge who stands above it all and punishes us for sins real and imagined.

No, this is God who tied Himself to humanity literally by His DNA. He is eternal. Today, God feels what a rape victim feels, what parents feel when their child suffers, what an old man feels when he buries the love of his life. He stands in the concentration camps and sits in the cancer wards. He starves with the hungry and He takes the bullet from the firing squad. Because this is how God answers Job. This is how God loves the world: He becomes Jesus.

So, I don’t know the details about the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary and how that works with sperm and ova. The details are neither provable nor understandable. What I  do understand is that God irrevocably bound Himself to the virgin Mary to be born as a helpless infant into a lost world. He is human. He has our DNA. He celebrates with us, He suffers with us, He dies with us. And we can be resurrected with Him. This is how God loves the world.

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4 thoughts on “Credo VI”

  1. Well I needed this today as I am really struggling with depression over my son who has stage 4 cancer and is having trouble getting his insurance or Medicare straight. This spoke to my heart. I don’t understand and probably never will but I know who I believe in and he is able. Thanks

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