I once had a teenager ask me the old question, “Can God make a rock so big He can’t lift it?” Of course, the teen asking the question was seeking to appear intelligent and was also seeking to prove that God has limitations.
God does have limitations – He can’t lie and He never has. I believe I once heard Dr. James Merritt say that God had another limitation – He can’t make a triangle with less than three sides (I believe I paraphrased his statement here). Returning to what I told the young man, I remember telling him that God had already made a rock so big He couldn’t lift it. The young man replied, “Then He can’t really be God.” I informed him that he might want to listen to how God had done this before drawing such a conclusion, at which point he listened curiously to what I told him.
I told the teenager that Jesus was God in the flesh and that when Jesus was forced to carry His cross after having been beaten, He did not have the strength to carry it. I also told the teen that the fact that Jesus did not have the strength to carry His cross meant that there were rocks He could not have carried in that moment as well. I told the teen that Jesus did not go through that torture to answer that old question about the rock, that Jesus was doing something much more important. Jesus was in the act of paying for our sins and providing a way of salvation for us. God’s answer to that ridiculous question provided an opportunity to share Christ with that teenager. The teen did not respond in faith, but he did hear the gospel.
Sometimes God answers such age-old ridiculous questions while engaging in magnificent acts, the purpose for which is anything but answering said questions. I share the belief held by many that Jesus, weakened by the beating He received prior to the crucifixion, could not carry His cross, the reason for Simon of Cyrene to be compelled by the Romans to carry the cross of Jesus (See Matthew 27:32, Mark 15:21, and Luke 23:26).
For Jesus to be weak enough that He could carry His cross meant that He was weak enough that He could not have physically carried any rock as heavy or heavier. Since Jesus was God in the flesh, there were rocks He created (John 1) that He could not have lifted in that moment. Do remember that God had to take on flesh, imposing such limitations on Himself, for such circumstances to be possible and do remember that He was not really allowing Himself to be abused and crucified for the purpose of answering such a ridiculous question. Jesus took on flesh (as planned by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together because Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are always in total agreement) and allowed Himself to be beaten and crucified to answer a much more significant and eternally important question:
How much does God love human beings?
The answer, of course, was that God loves us so much that He willingly took on flesh, lived among us, and allowed Himself to be crucified as the ultimate and eternally sufficient sacrifice for human sin, paying our penalty and offering us salvation as the free gift of God’s grace. I am certain that Jesus knew His actions on the day of His crucifixion would answer the ridiculous age-old question posed to me by the teenager, but I am also certain that answering this question was not the motive behind what Jesus did.
Not that it really matters, but maybe God will also provide an answer to the other oft-heard disturbing question, justly ridiculed by Dr. Jason Duesing in a chapel sermon in the fall of 2017: “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” I am certain that if God does answer this question, His answer will be equally magnificent and have an infinitely greater purpose than simply answering such a ridiculous question. Then again, maybe God has already answered this question as well and I have yet to discover His answer!