What are the Odds?

Today’s reading is on Mark 15:1-41.

Imagine you took one silver dollar, and drew an x on it with a marker. Now imagine going to Texas and throwing that silver dollar on the ground. The entire state of Texas, all 268 thousand square miles, is then covered two feet deep with silver dollars, all of them get mixed together, and you are blindfolded & asked to pick up the x-marked silver dollar on your first try. Do you think you could do it? Pretty tough odds, right?

I’m sure others have heard of Professor Peter Stoner’s famous analogy from his book Science Speaks on the sheer statistical improbablity of Biblical prophecy. The above analogy was made to represent the likelihood of just the following 8 of the 60 prophecies mentioned in Scripture happening to Jesus if He were not the Son of God & the events of His crucifixion in Mark 15 were up to pure random chance – about 1 in 10 to the 17th power – and not the precisely meticulous & awe-inspiring work of our God evidenced through Old Testament prophecy:

    • Micah 5:2: “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” (Christ’s birth in Bethlehem)
    • Malachi 3:1: “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.” (John the Baptist’s preparing the way for Jesus)
    • Zechariah 9:9: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Christs’s arrival in Jerusalem on a donkey)
    • Psalm 41:9: “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.” (Judas’s betrayal)
    • Zechariah 11:12: “Then I said to them, “If it seems good to you, give me my wages; but if not, keep them.” And they weighed out as my wages thirty pieces of silver.” (Judas selling Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver)
    • Zechariah 11:13: “Then the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—the lordly price at which I was priced by them. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord, to the potter.” (Judas’ final act of throwing his ill-gotten earnings to the temple ground in remorse)
    • Isaiah 53:7: “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.” (Jesus’s silence before his wrongful accusers)
    • Isaiah 53:12: “Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.” (Jesus’s death bearing the wrath of God against our sin)

      We don’t celebrate Easter thousands of years after these events just to gawk over some weird coincidence. The fact that the Lamb of God would freely be given as a sacrifice for our justification is far more meaningful and beautiful than overwhelming odds; it is the work of all creation being moved by its Creator to display an overwhelming love & mercy for us.

Before what I’m sure will be a weekend of celebration & joy for many, it is important for us to consider the truth of Jesus’s death; he did not deserve death on a cross, any more than we deserve eternal life without His intervention. But Scripture pointed for thousands of years beforehand to the Messiah’s mission, sentencing, death, and resurrection. When Jesus willingly gave His spirit to atone for God’s wrath against us and split the veil of the temple, He opened the way for our freedom to be with God in a way that had never been blessed upon us before; it is a gift wrought of blood and selflessness that we should always remember, be thankful for, and praise Him for. 

I think in discussing this, it’s also worth noting the retelling of these events in Luke 23, where one detail is included that’s omitted in Mark’s telling: when one of the adjacent criminals joined in the execution rebukes the other for doubting Christ, he and Jesus have this conversation in verse 42: “And he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ And He said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.’” Jesus’s fulfillment of the Scriptures was not just a gift for those who believe right now; it is a gift continually offered and freely given until our last breath. If we believe & ask, Jesus will welcome us into His kingdom – that much we know to be true. Christ died for the many; this Easter weekend, amidst the celebration, consider how you can share the message that it is never too late, no sin too overwhelming, nothing powerful enough to stop the joy of accepting Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf.