I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace, who pleads for mercy. Then they will look at me, the one they have pierced.
“Now this is the true Christian faith: We worship one God in three persons and three persons in one God, without mixing the persons or dividing the divine being.”
If these words from the Athanasian Creed seem confusing to us, it is because the nature of God seems confusing to us. Three persons, but only one God? How can that be true?
Because it is true—limited human comprehension notwithstanding.
Rather than trying to unravel the mystery with our minds, Scripture bids us marvel at the wonder of the eternal God, and grab hold of his blessings with our faith.
We can easily form a mental picture of God the Father. After all, we have seen fathers. We can visualize God the Son. He took on human form.
But what would God the Holy Spirit look like? Scripture compares him to the wind. What does wind look like? We cannot see it. We only see what it does. We see trees bend. We feel it move against our skin. We don’t need to see the wind in order to know it is there.
The same is true of the Triune God. Regarding him, we live by faith, not sight. It is a certain faith built upon amazing realities. God seldom shows us the how of his existence. Instead, he points us to the what.
We sing, “What a friend we have in Jesus” because we have been shown that he was willing to step into the place of the guilty—where we should have stood. The rescue plan was formulated long before Jesus was crucified. Long before he was born as our brother, he could say, “Then they will look at me, the one they have pierced.”
This is God the Son speaking. This is God the Son dying.
But there is more to it. Through the prophet Zechariah we see all persons of the Trinity are in the picture. The Triune God tells us, “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace, who pleads for mercy.”
The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of grace. He pours out God’s undeserved love. He pleads for mercy. Mercy was indeed given. But mercy has a price.
The suffering and death of the Son of God was the answer to the Holy Spirit’s prayer.
The holy God could not overlook sin. His very nature ruled that out. Justice needed to be served. Sin needed to be punished. The death sentence needed to be issued.
Just like the rebellious angels, rebellious humans forfeited all the blessings of the loving Creator. They could expect only to be abandoned from his presence to endless misery and darkness.
But the Holy Spirit pleaded for mercy for humans.
We look in at the picture with amazement. Why would the Holy Spirit plead for unholy humans to be spared? Why would the Son of God be willing to make this possible? Why would God the Father agree to this?
The Bible gives the answer, then repeats it and repeats it. The Holy God wants us to know that we did nothing to deserve mercy. He wants us to realize how despicable sin is—and how deadly.
He wants us to know how much he loves us.
Our salvation is the work of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. It was an act of mercy.
And the Triune God knew very well; mercy has a price.
Prayer: Holy God of grace and wonder, our feeble minds cannot comprehend the concept of the Trinity. We simply rejoice to know your name and your greatness. We wait for heaven to understand fully. But already now, we offer thanks and praise for being willing to pay the price of mercy for us. Amen.
Written by Rev. Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.