“this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” (Acts 2:23)
“for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” (Acts 4:27–28)
Let’s be honest, bad things happen. We don’t live in a perfect world, and people themselves are not perfect. Whilst we might like to be good as possible we often let ourselves down, and then there are people who are simply out to do wrong. When evil occurs, does that mean God is out of control?
It’s easy to think so. It’s easy to think that somehow there is a glitch in God’s power which means that his will can be thwarted, and his desires overridden. When evil occurs, should we then assume that God is absent? Or powerless?
Frankly, that is a terrifying thought. To be in a world where God can be absent at times, is to live in a world where we cannot be sure of the triumph of good. If God can be thwarted, then what sort of God is he? Not one in whom we can confidently trust at all times.
As the two passages above demonstrate, the evil which brought about the torture and execution of Jesus - surely killing the Son of God is the most heinous of acts - was in fact part of the “definite plan and foreknowledge of God”. It was not a random act, but intended to to bring about the resurrection, which is the greatest good. It doesn’t excuse the actions of those who do evil, but it does mean that the end result is within the purpose of God.
Right at the end of Genesis Joseph is speaking with his brothers, those brothers who threw him into a pit and then sold him into slavery. The brothers were fearful that Joseph would take revenge, but he assured them: “as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20). Never think God is absent in the face of evil. He is not.