Rio and Redemption

Before the memories of Rio and the Olympics fade, can I take you there one more time?

Two of our three daughters were born in the South Zone of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. We lived in the North Zone, separated from our doctor’s office and hospital by a tunnel-pierced mountain range. During Denalyn’s many months of pregnancy, we made the drive often.

We never begrudged the South Zone forays. But they sure did bewilder me. I kept getting lost. I’m directionally challenged anyway, prone to take a wrong turn between the bedroom and bathroom. Complicate my disorientation with randomly mapped three-hundred-year-old streets, and I don’t stand a chance.

I had one salvation. Jesus. Literally, Jesus. The Christ the Redeemer statue. The figure stands guard over the city, one hundred and twenty-five feet tall with an arm span of nearly a hundred feet. More than a thousand tons of reinforced steel. The head alone measures ten feet from chin to scalp. Perched a mile and a half above sea level on Corcovado Mountain, the elevated Jesus is always visible. Especially to those who are looking for it. Since I was often lost, I was often looking. As a sailor seeks land, I searched for the statue, peering between the phone lines and rooftops for the familiar Face. Find Him and find my bearings.

John 3:16 offers you an identical promise. The verse elevates Christ to thin-air loftiness, crowning Him with the most regal of titles: One and Only Son. The Greek word for “one and only” is monogenes, an adjective compounded of monos (“only”) and genes (“species, race, family, offspring, kind”). When used in the Bible, “one and only” almost always describes a parent-child relationship. Monogenes, then, highlights the particular relationship between Jesus and God. Though God is the father of all humanity, Jesus alone is the monogenetic Son of God, because only Christ has God’s genes or genetic makeup.

The familiar translation “only begotten Son” (John 3:16) conveys this truth. When parents beget or conceive a child, they transfer their DNA to the newborn. Jesus shares God’s DNA. Jesus isn’t begotten in the sense that He began but in the sense that He and God have the same essence, eternal life span, unending wisdom, and tireless energy.

Every quality we attribute to God, we can attribute to Jesus.

“Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father!” Jesus claimed (John 14:9). And the epistle to the Hebrews concurs: “[Christ] is the radiance of [God’s] glory and the exact representation of His nature” (Hebrews 1:3).

Jesus occupies the peerless “Christ the Redeemer” pedestal. He claims, not the most authority, but all authority.

“My Father has given Me authority over everything. No one really knows the Son except the Father, and no one really knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him” (Matthew 11:27).

Don’t hurry through those words. They’re either the last straw or the ultimate truth. They warrant deliberate thought.

“My Father has given Me authority over everything.”

Christ claims ultimate clout. Unshared supremacy. He steers the ship and pilots the plane. When He darts His eyes, oceans swell. When He clears His throat, birds migrate. He banishes bacteria with a single thought.

“He sustains everything by the mighty power of His command” (Hebrews 1:3).

He is to history what a weaver is to a tapestry. I once watched a weaver work at a downtown San Antonio market. She selected threads from her bag and arranged them first on the frame, then on the shuttle. She next worked the shuttle back and forth over the threads, intertwining colors, overlapping textures. In a matter of moments a design appeared.

Christ, in like manner, weaves His story. Every person is a thread, every moment a color, every era a pass of the shuttle. Jesus steadily interweaves the embroidery of humankind.

Jesus claims to be, not a top theologian, an accomplished theologian, or even the Supreme Theologian, but rather the Only Theologian.

“No one really knows the Father except the Son” (Matthew 11:27). He does not say, “No one really knows the Father like the Son” or “in the fashion of the Son.” But rather, “No one really knows the Father except the Son.”

Heaven’s door has one key, and Jesus holds it.

“He was teaching them as one who had authority” (Matthew 7:29). Jesus knows the dimensions of God’s throne room, the fragrance of its incense, the favorite songs of the unceasing choir. He has a unique, one-of-a-kind, unrivaled knowledge of God and wants to share His knowledge with you. “No one really knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him” (Matthew 11:27).

Jesus doesn’t boast in His knowledge; He shares it. He doesn’t gloat; He gives. He doesn’t revel; He reveals. He reveals to us the secrets of eternity. And He shares them, not just with the top brass or purebred, but with the hungry and needy. In the very next line, Jesus invites:

Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you. Let me teach you because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28–29).

Do yourself a favor. Find the brightest highlighter manufactured and the darkest ink produced. Underscore, underline, and accept His invitation: “Let Me teach you…”

He says, Let Me teach you how to handle your money, long Mondays, and cranky in-laws. Let Me teach you why people fight, death comes, and forgiveness counts. But most of all, let Me teach you why on earth you are on this earth.

Don’t we need to learn? We know so much, and yet we know so little. The age of information is the age of confusion: much know-how, hardly any know-why.

We need answers. Jesus offers them.

But can we trust Him? Only one way to know. Do what I did in Rio. Seek Him out. Lift up your eyes, and set your sights on Jesus. No passing glances or occasional glimpses. Enroll in His school. “Let Me teach you…” Make Him your polestar, your point of reference. Search the crowded streets and shadow-casting roofs until you spot His face, and then set your sights on Him.

You’ll find more than a hospital.

You’ll find the Only One and Only.

© Max Lucado, 2014
Excerpted from 3:16 The Numbers of Hope
Thomas Nelson publishing, 2014