Do you ever think about the idea of ‘nothing’? Men apparently struggled in the early days about how to deal with it, especially when it came to numbers. The philosophical reality of nothing had always existed, but people debated about different ways to understand and define it. Representing it in mathematical symbolism was a different challenge, and it was not until around the fifth century A.D. that the handy invention of the ‘zero’ came along. Though the ubiquitous little circle eventually adapted itself to lots of roles, its primary purpose is to indicate the total absence of any content or value in the category to which it is applied.
‘Nothing’ can be an intriguing subject. The first time I ever thought about it specifically was in a science class in high school. The subject of outer space had come up and the teacher was about to have a spasm, gushing over how fascinating it was that outer space was comprised mostly of nothing—a total vacuum. She went on about how all that emptiness was why they called it ‘space’, an immense expanse where for the most part, no substance of any kind existed. It was interesting, but I didn’t share her enthusiasm once I realized that the phenomenon was not that new to me anyway. A form of it had already existed in my head every time I was called on in math class. In any case, the concept of nothing plays a vital role in helping us understand and communicate certain realities of our world that would otherwise be hard to grasp or explain.
The idea of ‘nothing’ is important to God, too, and He takes care to mention it repeatedly, and in reference to different things. For instance, after describing His followers as “the salt of the earth,” Jesus uses the term to point out what the salt would be worth if it lost its primary quality, saltiness. He said it would be, “good for ‘nothing’” (Matthew 5:13 NKJV). In explaining the metaphor of a vine and its branches, He said that if a branch is not secured in the vine, it is powerless to produce any fruit, and then declared to them, “Without Me, you can do ‘nothing’” (John 15:5). In defending the simplicity of the gospel message, Paul reminded the Corinthians of God’s promise that He would “destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to ‘nothing’ the understanding of the prudent” (I Cor. 1:19). Depending on where we stand in relationship to it, a personal confrontation with the stark emptiness of ‘nothing’ can be a sobering experience. As strange as it may sound, we find the sober reality of that concept converging from different directions at the cross of Jesus Christ, and the implications are both profound and eternal.
The idea begins to emerge like this. Having just reminded His disciples again of His imminent departure, Jesus said, “I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has ‘nothing’ in Me” (John 14:30 NKJV). Satan was coming after Him, intent on finding or creating anything in the Son of God that he could claim as his own. Jesus said that he would find ‘nothing’. No other human being in history had been, or ever would be, able to say that truthfully. At the trial, after both Pilate and Herod had examined Jesus, Pilate announced, “…I find no fault in Him” (John 19:6 NKJV), and declared finally that, “’nothing’ deserving of death has been done by Him” (Luke 23:15 NKJV). Satan unleashed every force at his disposal in search of any hint of sin, and found nothing.
When the rest of us become the focus of the examination, the results are quite different. Since Adam’s fall, we who were created to reflect the image of God are found to be universally drawn instead toward the image of the serpent. Being selfish, disobedient, dishonest, lustful, rebellious, deceitful, obstinate, violent, and destructive are behaviors no one has to teach us. God declared that apart from Christ, in the entire race there is “‘none’ righteous, not even one” (Rom. 3:10 NKJV). Inspired by the Spirit of God, Paul confessed himself as an example, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) ‘nothing’ good dwells” (Romans 7:18 NKJV). Apart from God’s direct intervention and the Holy Spirit’s control, there is ‘nothing’ in us that is good, or acceptable.
It would sound almost blasphemous if we were to suggest that the cross of Jesus Christ was about ‘nothing’, because it would sound like we’re saying that the cross was meaningless. But what if we saw Calvary as the most profound and meaningful confluence of the concept of ‘nothing’ that the world has ever known?
Think of it this way. On Jesus’ side of the equation, Lucifer had come to Him looking for some flaw, some defect, some momentary lapse, any failure to embody the perfect righteousness of God. Every test yielded ‘nothing’. He used every tool, every temptation, and every opportunity to expose something in Jesus that bore his own satanic DNA—anything that would be less than pleasing to the Father, and the devil came away with an abundance of ‘nothing’. Our side of the Golgotha equation involved a different search, but with the same result. God had come to us in our natural state looking for looking for anything that reflected His image, anything untainted with sin, anything pure, anything good, anything just, anything righteous, anything holy, anything like the love He bestowed on us. He examined us all, and found ‘nothing’.
The Son of God brought His glorious ‘nothing’ to that mockery of a trial. He stood there bearing nothing worthy of death and looked out at a crowd having nothing worthy of life, and said…, I’ll trade you. With love we cannot understand, He offered His life, empty of sin, and took on Himself the consequences for our lives, empty of righteousness. The condemnation our ‘nothing’ demanded was poured out on Him, and now He freely offers us the glory that His ‘nothing’ achieves. Oh, and if anyone ever asks what we did to earn it, there’s an answer… nothing.
© 2016 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.
To follow this blog for more ‘Right Side Up Thinking ~ In an Upside Down World’, sign up just below the ‘Search box’ in the upper right sidebar for regular email notifications of new posts.
This is a great way of looking at it! Nothing good in us–nothing sinful in him, but he took our sin upon himself that we might share in his righteousness.