Huddled around a table in Mr. and Mrs. Beaver’s stick-weaved home, the four Pevensie children first learned of a fearsomely wonderful beast named Aslan, King of Narnia.
“I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion,” Susan Pevensie admitted.
“That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver; “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”
“If there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”
The Pevensies weren’t instinctively courageous. “At the name of Aslan, each one of the children felt something jump in its insides.” Especially Edmund. He “felt a sensation of mysterious horror.” [i] And that he should.
Edmund was about to betray his siblings. Enticed by the White Witch, he would soon run to claim the pleasures she had promised. Edmund wasn’t on Aslan’s side and this unnerved him. Without ever meeting him, Edmund dreaded the lion king of Narnia.
The allegorical Edmund character from C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe illustrates a crucial point. Before God’s grace and glory dazzle us, we must first experience in some measure his terrifying dread.
When God is Dreadful
The Apostle Paul faced a petrifying encounter with God. He was thrown to the ground and blinded by the Almighty’s holy presence.
Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:3-5).
Standing before Holiness, Saul’s brutal deeds and black heart became painfully visible. The God of Abraham who upheaved rivers and made mountains writhe (Hab. 3:8-10) had touched a man. It was a spine-chilling encounter that transformed his life.
God dazzled Saul with his grace, but not before he blinded him with his glory.
When we stand in the shadow of God, we cave. Like Saul, we trembled before we worshipped. We dreaded before we delighted. The thought of a holy, just God filled us with “mysterious horror” because we, like Edmund, ran. We weren’t on God’s side.
For those not resting in Christ’s salvation, God should be terrifying. Apart from Christ, sin can’t be pardoned. It must be punished.
I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity… (Is. 13:11a)
When God is Dazzling
Here’s where the story shifts beautifully. God’s holy wrath could only be satisfied by a holy sacrifice, so Jesus Christ entered our sinful world as a mediator. Where we once stood condemned before the Almighty, now we can stand amazed. For sinners saved by Christ, God’s presence is a place of utterly dazzling delight.
For sinners saved by Christ, God’s presence is a place of utterly dazzling delight.
Transformed from persecutor to proselyte, Paul is a supreme example of God’s dazzling grace.
“For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:9-10).
We may think our conversion seems bland compared to Paul’s. We’re wrong. No matter how we received salvation, it was a Miracle that rescued us from trembling dread to dazzle us with holy, abundant, undeserved grace.
When the Lion Became a Lamb
C.S. Lewis understood the significance of a mediator. Without a sacrifice, Edmund would have faced certain death, Saul would have remained a murderer, and we would have lived forever in dread of a lion-like God.
Bound to the Stone Table, mighty Aslan was struck and slaughtered in the place of Edmund. Perhaps in all of Lewis’ Narnian works, no scene brings us closer to reality. Because a Lion did die for a betrayer.
The Lion of Judah died for us.
More than any other season, Christmas freshly reminds us of the Lion who became a Lamb. God in his holiness sent God in flesh to be the sacrifice and tear the curtain. Only through Jesus can we enjoy an Almighty God’s presence.
Jesus Christ bore God’s dreadful wrath so we could bask in his dazzling glory.