by Brian G. Bettes
This coming Sunday evening at sunset, many of us will memorialize the death of our Savior by taking the symbols of the New Testament Passover. We will meet, quietly and reflectively, to review the meaning of these symbols, and participate, by washing one another’s feet (John 13:3-17), eating unleavened bread, and drinking what amounts to a sip of wine (1 Corinthians 11:23-26), to commemorate the killing of Jesus Christ as the perfect, sinless sacrificial Lamb of God (1 Peter 1:19; 1 John 3:5), slain for the sins of mankind (John 1:29; Revelation 5:9). It is the celebration of a very sobering, yet triumphant event. Jesus died so that the rest of us might have life - real life - eternal life (1 John 2:2; John 6:40)!
As we approach this very somber event, how deeply appreciative are we for the giving and the being of this incredible moment in history? What do I mean by that; the giving and the being?
During the event of Jesus’ beating, crucifixion, stabbing (by a spear in the side), and finally His death, there were two colossal decisions that had to be synchronized and in complete harmony with each other for the event to take place. The one we know as the Father had to be willing to give (let go of) the life of His only begotten Son – the giving! And, the Son had to be willing to be the sacrifice – the being! As incredible as this even was, it could never have occurred without complete oneness in thought and purpose.
Let’s think about how astounding this is for a moment. Scripture says that this event was established from the foundation of the world (1 Peter 1:19-20). That means the decisions were made and the course was set. How often do we as humans make a long term, future decision to do something that is really difficult and requires a great deal of personal sacrifice? How often has that decision involved the intentional loss of a family member, who has to be willing to give up their life for the cause. I’m going to venture out here and say, pretty much never. But if we did, how likely would we be, having the human nature that we have, to actually carry out that decision – both parties committing to it! Again, I am going to guess, pretty unlikely. And yet, that is exactly what happened with the Father and Jesus.
The gift of a Savior, a perfect sacrifice to atone for the sins of mankind, came from the Father. Let’s review a few scriptures in this regard (emphasis added throughout):
“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” (John 3:16).
“In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His Son only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we love God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1John 4:9-10).
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
“And this is the will of Him who sent me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life…As the living Father sent me…” (John 6:40,57).
Do we fully understand the gravity of this action on behalf of us, His future children? Do we grasp that, what the Father was doing here would be considered the unthinkable within the human realm? Have we thought about the feelings of the one Being in the universe with all power having to tell His very own Son, when asked with tears streaming down His face if the cup could pass from Him, He had to tell Him quite possibly with a breaking heart, “No Son, this is the path and we must stick to it.” How many of us would have caved in right there?
He then had hold back and not intervene as His Son was having the flesh ripped off of His bones from a beating few men lived through; watching as a “crown of thorns” was jammed down upon His head and hearing Him cry out in pain; watching as He had to try to carry His stake up the hill to his death place; watching as nails were driven through His hands and His feet, then he was lifted up to be supported by those nails; watching as He hung on that stake like a piece of meat out in the hot sun; watching as His only Son, His beloved Son, was ridiculed, humiliated and writhed in agony; yet not intervene?
I tell you now, as a father, I personally could not have done that! I know I couldn’t! And yet, He did. He allowed it to happen, and He did so for a greater cause. That cause brothers and sisters…was for you and for me. He gave His only begotten Son for us.
Thank you, Father, for the giving of the Sacrifice.
Jesus, as our perfect, sinless Savior, had to be willing to lay down His life for our sins – for us! Once again, let’s review a few scriptures on this:
“…and I lay down My life for the sheep…Therefore My Father loves me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself…” (John 10:15,17-18).
“And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8)
“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame…” (Hebrews 12:2).
“By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).
Jesus was indeed willing to be that sacrifice for us. He predetermined, before the foundation of the world to be that sacrifice, and He followed through on His decision.
There was a point where Jesus requested that if there was any other path that could be taken, if the cup could pass from Him, to please let it happen (Matthew 26:39,42). I don’t see this as Him wavering in His commitment to His “pre-foundational” decision, or to the cause for which He was committed. I do see a human being, which He was fully, looking down into the future and seeing the horrible pain He was about to suffer, and, knowing how much it was going to hurt, wishing He didn’t have to experience the physical side of it. Who wouldn’t? However, the real beauty in this scenario was the fullness of His willingness to surrender to the will of the Father, and by doing so, the cause for which He was doing it.
What an incredible God we serve. A God who can determine long before the foundation of the world what They are going to do, then, when it comes right down to that crucial moment of truth, Each One follows through on the individual commitment He made literally thousands of years before. As we partake of the Passover this year, commemorating this momentous event, let us make sure to be thankful for the giving, and, the being!
Thank you, Father, for giving the Sacrifice.
Thank you, Jesus for being the Sacrifice.