Coming to an intersection, we know a red light means to stop. The light itself isn’t marked with words, but since the Department of Transportation installed and maintains the traffic light – and we believe they want our safety – we choose to apply the brakes when we see a red light, just as they ask. To apply our own meaning to a red light or look to another authority for meaning would be chaos.
Reading Matthew 1, telling the story of Jesus’ birth, we discover how Joseph initially reacted to Mary’s mysterious pregnancy. “And her husband, Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.” (v. 19) Without God’s input, Joseph applied his own meaning to the situation – and he was dead wrong. Later, an angel of the Lord tells him, “…that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” (v. 20) After that, Joseph questions no more and “he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him.” (v. 24)
In Luke 24, the women who walked with Jesus see an empty tomb and “while they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel…the men said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.’” (v. 4-6) After this word from the angels of God, the women understood and told the other disciples. In verses 45-47, when Jesus is talking to all the disciples, we read, “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day, rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations…’” The very people who walked with Jesus needed to get their meaning of the Resurrection from Jesus.
Many people today are searching for the meaning of Biblical events and their own life events outside of God. Just as the stop light itself doesn’t say, “Red means stop,” the events in our life don’t define themselves either. If we look at suffering outside of God’s word, we may believe life is terrible. In contrast, God’s word says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” (James 1:2) What a difference when you look to the Creator for meaning and not to the creation. Remember, “In him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)