The Adorable Hurricane: Understanding the Meaning of Atonement
Updated: Apr 13, 2022
On Palm Sunday morning this year I was greeted by a fresh coat of snow over my back yard. Snow is not my favorite force of nature, especially not when it's supposed to be springtime. My favorite force of nature comes in a smaller, much warmer package known to most as Amelia or Mila. But to me she's Hurricane Lulu.
Yes, I am shamelessly talking about my granddaughter yet again. She is the light of my life, the highlight of my week, and she's absolutely perfect. She's also 21 months old, which means that no roll of toilet paper is safe in any bathroom she nears. She has this supernatural ability to rip through any room like a storm in two seconds flat, so we try not to blink too much when she's around.
The other day, when my "perfect storm" made her lightning rounds through my living room, she somehow landed in her toddle chair with my Bible in her arms. Her mother tried to trade her my Bible for her much more durable "Beginner's Bible" book. But she would not have it. Instead, she clung closely to the "Jesus book" and yelled out "NO! I NEED JESUS!"
In that young declaration I saw both the hope of childlike faith and the folly of childish thinking (not for my precious toddler, but for those who never move beyond what she said). We would all do well to cling to the Word of God and loudly proclaim our need for Jesus. And yet our simple faith needs to seek the understanding of what's actually in the book in order for our belief to stand the trials and tests of life.
On that first Palm Sunday, the crown in Jerusalem greeted Jesus their savior with loud cries of childlike faith, shouting "You will save us, Lord!" They also met their Lord with a heart of childish misunderstanding, for their praise only lasted as far as Jesus' popularity. It is likely that many of those same people stood in the group that shouted "crucify him" only days later.
The crowd was looking for the wrong kind of salvation. They wanted to be "saved" from the Romans, their earthly oppressors, the problems and difficulties of life. Jesus came to save them from themselves and all they had done to offend God. They wanted Jesus to fight the power of the "sinners." Jesus fought and won against the power of sin. They wanted to be saved from their temporary situation. Jesus gave a means of eternal atonement.
That word atonement simply means "covering." Over the years it came to mean ransom or appeasement paid when a king or high official was offended, or when a debt was owed. The original Hebrew word kippur was first used in the Old Testamant in reference to covering coat that Noah placed over the wood to seal the ark (Genesis 6:14). It was a physical covering and seal that literally saved Noah and his family from the waters of God's wrath. It also changes the very nature of the wood, keeping it from death and decay for an exponentially longer period than that one storm. So atonement has always been about a deeper salvation, but it is also about change.
What kind of salvation are you seeking? While it is good and proper to request earthly blessing and seek out help for God for our temporary problems, is that where your praise and faith end? Let's keep the childlike faith of the Palm Sunday crowd without falling prey to the childish Good Friday thinking. We serve a God who is able to save and keep and deliver us from trials; an we serve a God who can also deliver is in, through, over, among and even despite them.
Click here to read about Jesus Christ's once and for all atoning sacrifice for our sins in Hebrews 10.
Click here to read more about the meaning of atonement
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