“God’s response to the belittlement of His name from the beginning of time, has been the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on a Roman Cross.” Matt Chandler
Free gift. If we’ve been in church long enough you have most likely heard about the “free gift” of salvation, offered to us by Jesus’ atonement on the cross and by His death-defeating resurrection. But the term “free gift”….it just doesn’t sit right with me. It never has. A “free gift” is what you find at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box or the t-shirt you get when you sign up for a new credit card at the airport. Now I understand the theology and the well meaning intent behind this statement. You and I have done nothing to earn Heaven. Our salvation comes strictly because of what God did on our behalf. This is absolutely true. We didn’t ever “find God” as the saying goes. He found us. Yet somehow, to me, this term reduces the power and value of this grace that we’ve been offered….
Just this morning I read an article about a group of Jewish activists (if interested, check out The Temple Institute’s website) in Jerusalem that are planning to conduct the ritual Passover sacrifice of a lamb in full view of the Temple Mount. Historically speaking, an unblemished lamb is bled out and it’s blood is caught in cups and sprinkled on an altar. It is then hung on hooks, skinned and it’s fat is burned. This is not a “pretty” thing but at the time of the Old Testament writings it was necessary, per God’s instructions. In my opinion this was a tame foreshadowing of what the one true “Lamb of God” had to endure.
Familiarity can tend to breed indifference. Many people have grown up hearing the story of Jesus’ crucifixion told through classical art, stained glass windows and felt boards in Sunday School. However, if we only see Jesus’ sacrifice through this lens, it easily becomes sterilized and loses its power. It inadvertently becomes just another story we grew up hearing as we file it away in our minds under “religion.”
Have you ever thought this through? I mean really thought it through….
We don’t pause to hear the lies and abuse heaped upon Him by the false accusers. We don’t see His expression when all of his friends desert Him when he’s taken into custody. We don’t hear the crack of the whip and the tearing of His flesh as he’s flayed open. We don’t hear the mocking as He’s beaten or see the spittle dripping off of his swollen face. We can’t imagine watching a human being, let alone Jesus, being laid out in front of us on planks of wood as iron spikes are violently driven through his hands and feet….hearing his gasps and guttural groans as he’s lifted up for all to see…hanging there for three hours being mocked, insulted, cursed and told to come down from the cross.
“‘He saved others,’ they said, ‘but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him….'” Matthew 27:42 & 43(a)
Yet Jesus stays. Faithfully doing the will of His Father, so that those doing this to Him and those who continue to mock God today, have a chance to be with Him in Heaven.
“Jesus said, ‘Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.'” Luke 23:34(a)
Then for the first time in all of eternity, the Father leaves Jesus as the full weight of the world’s sin bears down on the Lamb. ‘My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?’ (see Matthew 27:46) I can’t help but imagine His cry came from a place of pure, heart wrenching anguish. Yet still, He stays. Never wavering. Strength. He knew this is why He had come….to seek and save the lost, of which you and I either were or still are.
Let us be purposeful in that when we think about this gift of salvation, we no longer think of it as receiving a “free gift” but instead, the most costly of gifts. Purchased in the most sacrificial way….by way of a most tortuous death. His life for ours. Only then will we begin to see and grasp the true nature and depth of the God’s love for us.
“My command is this; Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this; to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Jesus speaking in John 15:12 & 13