Sacrifice can be a beautiful thing. My wife tells a story of sacrifice from when she as a small child. There was a little boy that lived down the street who, because of certain circumstances, was going to live in foster care, and had to ride a commercial bus to get there. My wife, also very young at the time, could only imagine how lonely and afraid this little guy must have felt getting on this big metal bus going to live with people he didn’t know. She did the only thing she could think to do in this situation and ran to the bus just as he was about to take the first step into the bus. She handed the little boy her most cherished, most comforting possession, her Winnie the Pooh she’s had since she was born. As adults, we see this as sweet and kind, but between those kids, it was much more significant.
Some sacrifices, however, even when they are on our behalf, can be hard to accept. It is our own sinfulness that calls for Jesus’ greatest act of love and self-sacrifice. It is also this sinfulness that makes that act feel offensive to the sinner. Some do not see it as the sweet, selfless act of the Savior, because it speaks to our own lack of innocence. It calls us to account, even though we are not the one bearing the burden to pay for our actions.
The crucifixion is so violent, so bloody and horrific, so repugnant to our senses that it is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that man can, with contrition, accept this sacrifice as necessary payment for one’s own actions. Much of humankind has, throughout history, vigorously fought physically, intellectually, and physiologically to ignore the crucifixion, or to explain it away.
Yes, it remains the single most important act of love in all of human history: Jesus dying for your sins and mine.
32 As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. 33 They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). 34 There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. 35 When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. 36 And sitting down, they kept watch over him there.37 Above his head they placed the written charge against him: this is Jesus, the king of the Jews.
38 Two rebels were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” 41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42 “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 in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
Questions for Reflection
Though the cross can be offensive to those far from God, how much more offensive must sin be to God?
How much greater still must His holy love be?
Father, I thank you for sending Jesus to die for my sins. Forgive me and cleanse me of all unconfessed unrighteousness, and help me live for you through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.