When I was in engineering school in Rolla, I always enjoyed watching the Civil engineering students test out their senior design projects. Every department had special benchmark tasks that they required their graduating seniors to complete before that would confer degrees upon them. The Civil engineers met their fate at the small, muddy pond that was on campus. Each design team of two had to build a watertight canoe and then get in it with the professor and row the three of them across the pond. If it sank so did their grade. A simple pass or fail test. Their academic lives depended on it. There was just one small wrinkle. The canoes had to be hand formed out of . . . (wait for it) . . . .
Every year I watched. I chuckled, groaned, and occasionally cheered as I watched boats made of concrete miraculously ferry people to the promised other shore. Although I never quite understood how they made it happen, somehow, they did. It was a mystery to me. I also observed something: The boats that made it were always coated or ‘pitched’ with something. Not a single inch of the surface was left untouched. It made me think of Noah and the ark. God gave the perfect plan. The Bible says that God told Noah the size, dimensions, materials, everything for the ark but then insisted that this perfect boat design still needed to be covered with black, tarry pitch. This implied that the thing wouldn’t have held water without it. A similar thing was done by Moses’ mother. She prayed, sought the guidance and protection of God for her son, and then covered the little basket that would carry him to safety with black, tarry pitch. It wouldn’t have had merit or ‘held water’ without it.
Look forward to the New Testament. God needed a vessel to carry us to safety. He needed an ark that we could hide and take refuge in while the heavens were broken and the floods came. He knew that the torrent of His anger against sin and rebellion would be the greatest flood to ever hit the earth. So what did He choose to make His ark out of? The most solid rock He could find. And was it pitched “within and without” with pitch? We can’t even begin to grasp how much it was. The black, sticky, smelly tar of every impure thought was smeared upon Jesus. Every lie, hate, jealously, lust. Each moment of bitterness, loneliness, disillusionment, fear and disappointment piled upon and in Him until “He who knew no sin, Became it.” Jesus became indistinguishable from all of history’s evil.
Adolph Hitler smeared on some pitch. Charles Manson, Bin Laden, Caesar, Nero, Capone. Plenty of blame to go around here for us common folk, too. Everybody had a brush and slung some on. But here’s where it really hurts. To get me across to safety, my redemption required that all of me is on there too. Every fit of anger, petty jealousy, dirty thought, misplaced ambition, and moment of prideful, arrogant self-centeredness that I’ve ever had was smeared on Jesus like hot, sticky, gooey tar. To the point that He became every dark moment of badness that’s ever been in me. God showed me a glimpse of this one day. He showed me a taste of what it took to ferry me across life’s pond without me drowning in its murky, dirty sin. He turned His back on Jesus not because of blood or bruises, stripes or scars, but because He saw my nature in Jesus instead of His in me. That’s what finally broke me, folks. Jesus chose to look like the worst parts of me so I could grow to be like Him. And God the Father found that sight so nauseating He couldn’t stand it.
Spend a few minutes today thinking about the black parts of your old nature that Jesus (your ark of safety) had to be smeared “within and without” with for your Salvation to float and hold water. Then continue to repent and to live a life that honors that level of sacrifice.