This Mystery Is Truly One of Celestial Proportions

By Curtis Shelburne: CNJ Religion Columnist

My brother Gene recently wrote about a fractured star.

What? You say they fracture all the time?

No, I’m not talking about Hollywood stars; I’m talking about a truly celestial star.

The star in Gene’s sights was one of the incredibly dense and powerful stars astronomers call “neutron” stars. This particular star was also a “magnetar,” a star exerting a magnetic field “many times stronger than the magnetism of Earth.”

The star in question, only six miles in diameter, somehow fractured. The explosion “released energy equivalent to our own sun’s output for 250,000 years”! If it had been close (even by celestial standards) to Planet Earth, we would have been “quick-fried to a crackly crunch.”

Gene went on in his essay to explain that, though we were not fried by the explosion, the blast was still strong enough to mess with some of our most sophisticated satellites and earth-based telemetry. Pretty amazing—especially considering that the explosion took place 50,000 light years away from our planet, which means 50,000 years before any of us were born! Wow!

Gene was moved to exclaim with the psalmist, “What is man, that One so immense would pay so much attention to a creature so small?”

Yes, indeed! Such a cosmic explosion dwarfs our perception, but it must amount to less than a child’s “sparkler” in the eyes of the God of the universe. Our God is so big!

Gene made me think. As he called my eyes heavenward, he made me think of an “explosion” of God’s love that amazes me even more than fireworks of unimaginably vast and celestial proportions.

My brain bleeds as I try to begin to grasp the concept of light years and vast reaches of space, time, and eternity. But as my gray matter overloads, let me point you to another amazing truth that dwarfs even cosmic explosions.

“God made him [Christ] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” 2 Corinthians 5:21).

If St. Paul was saying, “God forgives and empowers us by considering our debt paid by Christ, counting our sins as being taken away by Christ’s sacrifice,” that would be nice and even true at some levels, but he is saying more than that.

The explosion of divine love held before us is infinitely more than a remarkable picture of a good and selfless man willingly taking the place of a condemned criminal. Even weak humans can at times show unselfish love, but no human except One, the only One who was also the divine Son of God, has ever had the power to literally, truly, in actual fact and reality, take on himself the sin and guilt of another, and literally take it away forever. Light years and celestial physics are child’s play compared to this mystery: Jesus loved us so much that he actually took all of our sin and guilt on himself. He actually became guilty of our sin and truly carried it away completely and forever.

I’ll never understand it. But I gratefully and humbly accept it.