by Richard T. Ritenbaugh
CGG Weekly, April 2, 2004
"The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good."
One of the most popular series of advertisements in recent years has been MasterCard's "Priceless" commercials. The ads list a series of desirable goods or services and their corresponding costs. Finally, the narrator names an attendant intangible that no amount of money can buy along with the punch line, "Priceless." The narrator intones, "There are some things money can't buy. For everything else, there's MasterCard." Here is similar treatment for Christians:
New Bible: $65
New Clothes to Wear to Church: $200
Contribution to Building Fund: $500
That Jesus Died to Pay for Your Sins: Priceless.
Spring has arrived in the northern hemisphere, heralding Christianity's annual memorial of the Savior's death and His resurrection as our High Priest and soon-coming King. For the church of God, that means the annual observance of Passover. It was on this day, roughly 2,000 years ago, that Jesus of Nazareth gave Himself in payment for our sins, opening up access to the Father and making possible our salvation and eternal life. What a profound deed that was, both in its execution and its accomplishment!
Because it happened so long ago in a land far removed from us in terms of distance and culture, Christ's sacrifice is often not as real to His modern disciples as it needs to be. For some of us, it is reduced to mere fact: It happened, and the result is that God forgives us by His Son's blood and we can have everlasting life. Others approach it emotionally, somewhat in the manner of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, sympathizing with Jesus' agony yet failing to appreciate fully the moral and spiritual obligations it imposes on His followers. Many who claim to be Christians figuratively leave Him hanging on the stake for all time, overemphasizing His death and minimizing His present, glorious life as our Advocate before the Father (Hebrews 7:25; 9:24; I John 2:1) and Head of the church (Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:18).
Where do we begin in trying to understand the unfathomable costs involved in this supreme sacrifice?
- The Father and the Word (John 1:1) planned this sinless death of the Creator God (Colossians 1:16-17) from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8).
- The Word had to divest Himself of His prerogatives as God and become a flesh-and-blood human being, a servant (Philippians 2:5-7; Hebrews 2:14, 17), a worm in comparison to the glories of a spirit Being (Psalm 22:6).
- Jesus, constantly surrounded by sinful men and women, had to be ever-vigilant against the pulls of human nature to give into the temptations that surrounded Him on every side (Hebrews 2:18).
- His whole life He was a target of His and His Father's archenemy, Satan the Devil, who mercilessly attempted to lure Him into sin (Matthew 4; Luke 4).
- He had to bear under constant misunderstandings of people about Himself, His teachings, His purposes (Matthew 16:13-14; John 7:14-17, 25-43).
- He was frequently in danger of losing His life (Matthew 2:13-18; Mark 3:6; Luke 4:28-30; John 8:59; etc.).
- He knew one of His closest friends would betray Him (John 6:70; 13:18-30).
- He knew another of His closest friends would deny Him three times in one night (John 13:36-38), and His disciples would forsake Him (Zechariah 13:7; Matthew 26:56).
- He knew that part of the plan of redemption included His Father turning His back on Him (Psalm 22:1-3).
- The sins of men throughout history were placed on Him, who was Himself absolutely pure (Isaiah 53:5-6; I Peter 2:24).
- He had to endure a horribly unfair and illegal trial from the Sanhedrin (John 18:12-14, 19-24).
- He received terrible beatings, scourgings, and mockings from the Jews, Roman lictors, and Herod's troops (Matthew 26:67-68; 27:27-31; Luke 23:11; John 19:1-3).
- He was stripped of His clothing and crucified, the most agonizing, cruel, and shameful method of execution man has ever devised (Matthew 27:35).
- Finally, in death, He was completely separated from His eternal companion, God the Father, for three days and three nights (Matthew 12:40).
This comprises only the major sacrifices and sufferings our God and Savior Jesus Christ—and His Father—went through to bring us forgiveness of sin, a relationship with God, and the potential for eternal life.