Many have made sacrifices. Parents give up their own personal desires so that their children will have what they need. A husband or wife give of themselves to support one another and make their marriage strong. Friends set aside differences to maintain their friendships. A soldier will lay down his life to protect and defend his country or the people of a foreign land. Police officers, firemen, soldiers all put their lives on the line for the sake of others.
It is the most noble act. It's nothing new. It has been going on for centuries. Men and women of courage and integrity and honor give their lives for others.
So what makes it so incredible that Jesus sacrificed His life for us?
For one thing, although Jesus was a man, He was no ordinary man. He was our Creator God in the flesh. He is the One that walked in the garden with Adam and Eve. He is the one that spoke and the whole earth and everything in it came to be. He is the one that holds it all together.
For another thing, He planned His sacrifice. He knew it would be necessary from before creation, before time began.
God created us to be His friends. He made us to be like Him. He wanted someone to relate to. Someone to hang out with. He wanted us. But He didn't want us to be slaves to His every command. He wanted us to choose Him, so He made us with our own volition. He gave us options. And He only had one rule. Don't eat the fruit from that tree. You will die if you do. Everything else in the world is yours. But don't touch that tree. In fact, it would be good if you didn't even look at it or think about it. Hah!
Being human, and having self will, of course we were curious. When some charismatic creature came along and sweet talked us into eating that fruit, how could we be blamed? After all, God is so good. Everything else in the garden was made for us. He won't let us die over eating one little bite. Will he?
The tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Before we gave in and gobbled it up, we didn't even know there was such a thing as good and evil. Everything just 'was'. Neither good nor bad. No right or wrong. Except for that tree. Even the tree was not good or bad. It just contained knowledge.
But now we knew. Or at least we thought we knew. It was confusing.
The fruit tasted pretty good, but had a funny after taste.
Now we were consumed with new thought. What was right was wrong. What was wrong was right. We knew there was good and we knew there was evil. But we had no understanding of it. How do we decide? So we tried to hide that we knew. Our conscience had been activated and for the first time in time, we turned away from God.
We not only turned away. We tried to hide. From God. What a ridiculous plan. Already our thought processes were skewed.... and all because of some tasty fruit.
God came looking for us. Everything was going according to plan. He knew what we had done. He knew where we were 'hiding'. So naturally He tossed us outside the garden and sealed it up so we couldn't get back in. Like the disobedient children we were, we had to suffer the consequences of our decision and live with this terrible knowledge from the tree. He separated Himself from us. It was horrible!! But Gaaawwwddd! It's not fair!
However, if we had never chosen that tree... if we had never been cast out of the garden. and away from Him.. how would we know the difference? We would be those innocents lolling around in the luxurious garden with no understanding of God's goodness. No appreciation for what He provided for us. We would be His slaves. Loving Him because we didn't know any different.
We would be unspoiled by sin, but we wouldn't have to choose Him over the "pleasures" of sin. And that's what He wants. He wants us to choose Him. He didn't want it to be mindless and effortless on our part. He wanted us to know the difference it would make to choose Him. He wanted us to know what it was like to live separated from Him so we could make an intelligent choice.
He knew what we would do. He created us to do it. He had already made arrangements. He spent eternity planning it and setting everything in place for it. He contemplated it beforehand.
When it was the right time on earth, He left the eternal streets of gold and the glory of Heaven. He left the light of the Father's righteousness. He left His glory and magnificence. He left the worshiping angels.
He stepped into time.... into His creation. He became one of us. He didn't come as God to rule over us. He came as God in human flesh. A baby, held and fed and nurtured. A child under the discipline of his parents. An adolescent. A young man. An adult.
He was subject to every rule and regulation of man. He was subject to every human emotion, feeling, pain, heartache, fears, desires, satisfactions, lusts, hunger, weariness.
He knew His future. He had planned, anticipated and dreaded this for eternity. He came to die. To be tortured. To be outcast. He came to sacrifice himself for us. To cover us with His blood so that we could be made right with God. He came to love.
Every breath He took, He knew what was ahead. Every passing year brought Him closer to the event. Birthdays came and went. Every choice He made took Him to torture, humiliation and mutilation. The closer in time He came to the cross, the more difficult it became for Him. Every miracle was part of the countdown. It was almost unbearable for Him that last night in the garden... when he plead with the Father to remove this 'cup' from Him. He could have stopped it. He could have wiped the slate clean; put us all back in the garden and cleared our heads of knowledge. He could have removed the choice from us. He could have done anything.
He offered Himself up to be beaten and bruised. He laid Himself on the whipping post. He dragged His cross up that hill. He let us drive the nails into His hands and feet. He even became the thing that He detested. He became that thing that cannot exist in the flesh crushing presence of God. He became every wrong thing we ever did or will do or think to do. He became the stain that is inherent within each of us. He suffered separation from the Father as God turned His back on His only Son. Like Adam and Eve being cast out of the garden, the Father cast Jesus away from His presence. God the Father could not look on the sin.
It was accomplished. The plan had come to it's climax. The ultimate sacrifice had been made. God died for His creation. Dead. Finished.
Three days later.
He's been to Hell and back.
He rises from death to live forevermore.
HE ...RISES...FROM ...DEATH ...ALIVE ... FOREVER
Why do something so drastic? To get our attention. To make us sit up and take notice. To pay the price that the Father deemed necessary. To fulfill His promise. To make a way for us to be saved from eternal condemnation and damnation. To make a way for us to be what He created us to be: His friends, His children, like Him. Now we have the knowledge and the understanding. We are now capable of making a choice because we know the difference between choosing Him and rejecting Him.
The difference between relationship and separation. Between good and evil.
It is a simple choice but it is not easy. The choice is to believe... to have faith... and to ask Him to forgive us and save us because of what He did on the cross, not because we deserve forgiveness or salvation.
The words 'thank you' are not enough. A life spent worshiping and serving Him is not enough, but it is all we have to give in return for His sacrifice.
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that
whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is
condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only
begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world,
and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God." ( John 3: 16 - 21 )