Contained. Containment. This word family is getting more airtime these days as we seek to contain an invisible virus. To contain is to hold within, to control, or to restrain. As many of us continue to be held within our homes, this word has taken on new meaning. In addition to trying to contain a virus, we are learning to contain our fears and our disappointments.
As I was studying the book of Acts today, the Lord reminded me that death could not contain our Christ. Directly after the promised Holy Spirit was poured out upon the disciples and gathered believers at Pentecost, Peter stood in the Spirit’s empowerment, to preach a stirring sermon.
“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know – this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” (Acts 2:22–24)
In a few short verses, the mystery of the gospel is on display. The Cross of Christ was always God’s foreordained, pre-ordered, well-thought-out plan for his errant people. His love ordered these horrific events. This same love could not be contained by death.
A few Greek words added depth to these already dense verses: prospegnumi (v 23), anaireo (v 23), and odin (v 24).
Prospegnumi, meaning to fashion or fasten to a cross, is used only here. Human hands, fashioned by God, fastened him to a cross. They sought to contain the uncontainable by nailing Him to a tree. And God allowed this, nay, he designed and allotted this according to his perfect foreordained plans.
Anaiero means to make an end to, to murder, or to execute. In God’s definite plan and foreknowledge, men made an end to the One whose love was endless. It’s unthinkable and seemingly unutterable.
Odin, meaning acute pain, severe agony, or birth pangs, is used here by Peter to describe God ending the birth pangs of death through the Resurrection of Christ. Odin implies the pain that is necessary to begin a new thing, as birth pains are necessary to bring new life into this world. Christ’s being raised from the dead ended the pangs of death. He absorbed the pain to usher in a new way for us to be alive with God.
If love designated a cross for Christ and worked it for His glory and our good, we have every reason to trust what His love for us orders and allows. We may be contained and constrained. This virus and the pain it is causing may not yet be contained. Yet, even in the midst of those realities, His love will not be contained.
If perfect Love divine
Designated a cross,
The same love allots
Each and every loss.
Jesus, the Son of God,
Accredited and adored,
Wasn’t immune to pain.
Death through life bored.
Fastened to a cross by men
Whom He had fashioned,
Hung Him who was our hope
By suffering impassioned.
Men made an end to him
Whose love for them is endless.
He who befriended sinners
Died terrified and friendless.
But Death could not contain
The life that in Him pulsed.
When He was resurrected,
Death itself convulsed.
His love cannot be contained. His life cannot be contained. It may not always makes sense to us, but He is working out His perfect plans. May these eternal realities lift your souls today.