Chosen for the Unchosen
The Old Testament speaks of a “chosen people.” It’s a label that sounds exclusive, and our modern minds find it abrasive. “Democrats by birth and education,” Lewis says in Miracles, “we should prefer to think that all nations and individuals start level in the search for God, or even that all religions are equally true. It must be admitted at once that Christianity makes no concession to this point.”
In the chapter “The Grand Miracle,” Lewis explains the story from Abraham to its narrowing down to Jesus, the grand miracle being the Incarnation, the God-man descending. “It is a Jewish girl at her prayers,” Lewis says. “All humanity (so far as concerns its redemption) has narrowed to that.” True, it’s hard for our modern openness to fathom a single event that holds so much in the balance, but Lewis thinks it’s certainly a selectivity we see in Nature. “Out of enormous space a very small portion is occupied by matter at all,” he says. “Of all the stars, perhaps very few, perhaps only one, have planets. Of the planets in our own system probably only one supports organic life. In the transmission of organic life, countless seeds and spermatozoa are emitted: some few are selected for the distinction of fertility. Among the species only one is rational. Within the species only a few attain excellence of beauty, strength, or intelligence.”
With this general overlay, Lewis wants us to see that there’s a pattern in how God shows us nature and there’s a similar pattern in the revelation of himself. But Lewis argues that with the selectivity of the story, there is no favoritism. “The ‘chosen’ people are chosen not for their own sake (certainly not for their own honour of pleasure) but for the sake of the unchosen,” Lewis says. “Abraham is told that ‘in his seed’ (the chosen nation) ‘all nations shall be blest.’ That nation has been chosen to bear a heavy burden. Their sufferings are great: but, as Isaiah recognised, their sufferings heal others. On the finally selected Woman falls the utmost depth of maternal anguish. Her Son, the incarnate God, is a ‘man of sorrows’; the one Man into whom Deity descended, the one Man who can be lawfully adored, is preeminent for suffering.”
Lent reminds us that it is Jesus’ descent into the depths of death and suffering that becomes the descent for us all. He who is eternal has entered time, to both define it and to draw us out from its hold. He who is God has become man, to both exemplify abundant life and to point us toward the way of the cross. He who knew no sin became sin, to both suffer the wrath and to take away death’s sting for all who believe. Lewis calls it the “whole Miracle” – the Incarnation, Death and Resurrection of Jesus.
“In science we have been reading only the notes to a poem,” Lewis says, but, ” in Christianity we find the poem itself.”