One’s religious persuasion is distinguished by the nature of the bridge that links people with the divine. Simple footbridges dot the religious landscape in this regard. Various deities are positioned, so to speak, on the other side of a shallow bog. Then a corresponding religious system forms a boardwalk of sorts, conveying the devotee across the bog and into fellowship with the divine.
The distance is short, the water a minor impediment, the footbridge a simple aid designed to facilitate the worshiper’s journey. We are so close we could virtually slog through on our own; but a kindly service, nonetheless, this little bobbing boardwalk.
In stark contrast, the Bible reveals a colossal, magnificently engineered bridge crossing a deep, wide body of deadly currents. On one hand, the Bible consistently warns us against the dread treachery of the watery divide that separates us from a holy God (Matthew 7:13-14, 21-23; Romans 3:10-20; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). On the other hand, Scripture trumpets the glories of the immovable bridge that serves to convey any soul with the faith-gift to traverse it into vital fellowship with God (John 3:15-18; 6:35-40; Romans 8:3-4; Ephesians 2:4-7).
A crucial consideration each of us must settle is whether or not we are able to construct such a bridge on our own. Building a boardwalk across a bog will take time and effort, but it’s humanly achievable. The kind of bridge described in the passages referenced above is no such thing.
Imagine you are the sole survivor of an airplane crash and wash ashore on a small island in the south Pacific Ocean. You are received by a primitive people unknown to the outside world. A translator who arrived years earlier in the same fashion you did points to an island several miles off and informs you: “The king of this tribe has learned that we come from a world where bridges exist. On the pain of death, he will not permit you to leave this island until you build an immovable bridge across this bay.”
Alarmed, you seek to explain to the king: “I can visualize such a bridge. But I’d have to drive pilings into the ocean floor to unimaginable depths and against deadly currents. We could never assemble the necessary supplies or manufacture the necessary materials on this island. Even if we could, I could never determine the calculus of variations or the mechanics of solids and liquids or apply the physics necessary to construct such a bridge. Never!”
Feel the overwhelming sense of helplessness as you stare across that stretch of water. You cannot do it. And yet it is immeasurably more difficult to construct a bridge that rescues a soul from sin’s penalty and draws that soul into fellowship with the living God. We cannot do it. God’s global, millennia-long initiative to rescue souls from the just penalty of our sin is astoundingly complex. It is a bridge-building effort beyond our capacity to devise or construct. Yet God has built such a bridge across the ages for our rescue.
Construction on this bridge began the day of Adam and Eve’s self-autonomous rebellion against their creator in the Garden. God confronted them, cursed them but also clothed them and counseled them in saving grace. God then identified for them a lineage of people, a lineage passing through their son Seth, through which God would provide a deliver to rescue his people from sin’s curse (Genesis 3:15; 4:1-6:10; 12:1-3; 2 Samuel 7:1-17; Revelation 5:1-14).
Through the centuries, God sent prophets to his people to provide increasingly clear markers by which to identify this messiah — his lineage, birthplace and unique birth and death circumstances (Matthew 1:1-23; Micah 5:2; Isaiah 7:14; 9:6-7; 53:8-9; John 19:36-37). In preparation for the type of deliverance Messiah would provide, God established a complex system of animal sacrifice and ritual cleanness laws to provide temporary atonement for sin while serving as a bloody, earthy, ubiquitous object lesson of the realities of human sin and the necessity of judgment for humanity’s rebellion (cf. book of Leviticus).
Then, in the fullness of time, God sent his eternal son to take on flesh and die as the sinless Lamb of God in the place of sinners (Galatians 4:4-5; 1 Peter 2:24-25; 3:18; Romans 3:23-26; 5:6-9). He then fulfilled a long string of prophesies that he would rise from the dead, defeating the curse of death for those who trust his work of redemption in their behalf (Matthew 12:38-41; Acts 2:25-33).
We could never design or build such a glorious bridge across the ages. But thankfully, walking across that immovable bridge involves no human ingenuity, only simple trust in the immovable bridge over the troubled waters of judgment. It involves only trust in the bridge-builder who beckons with open arms of forgiving, reconciling grace on the other side.