Who wants to take the place of a criminal? If it does happen, it rarely does and something uncommon and unheard of. Anyone can happily take the place of prestige, honor, and privilege for another person but no one would be interested to take the place of rejection and insult. No one would like to take the place of a wayward and a criminal. Would anyone be willing to suffer for a bad person? No one.
Oftentimes, the closest experience we get of a sacrifice similar to this is when a parent sacrifices for his or her child. Even when the child made mistakes and behaved terribly, parents could make sacrifices and show love inspite of it all.
I guess, consciously or unconsciously, the concept of whether the person deserves help or not rules in our head whenever we decide to help another person. I saw a social experiment where a woman was asked to act drunk and fainted in the middle of the street. When people saw her, every one made a move to help in one way or another. Some helped her get up, others asked how she is, and some even stayed to make sure she is alright. But when they switch the actor to a man who was drunk and fell on the street in the middle of the day, no one was willing to help. Most of them just passed by and took little notice of the man. The social experiment proved that people have a standard of some sort in the subconscious level even in deciding who to help. We are most likely to offer help to people we think who deserve it most.
Here is the bomb. God does not think of this way. God helped us and saved us even when we totally do not deserve His loving kindness. Indeed, how blessed we are that God does not think the way we do. Because if He does, we are in big trouble!
“For while we were yet weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man. Yet perhaps for a good person someone would even dare to die. But God commends his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”– Romans 5:6-8 (WEB)
Jesus Christ took our place. This does not bring such heavy blow when we fail to realize what our “place” was when God decided to take it upon Himself.
Every Lenten season, Christians remember the sufferings of Jesus Christ. It is pretty familiar to us, but let us get back to it one by one starting off with this passage in Isaiah, a prophecy fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering and acquainted with disease. He was despised as one from whom men hide their face; and we didn’t respect him. Surely he has borne our sickness and carried our suffering; yet we considered him plagued, struck by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought our peace was on him; and by his wounds we are healed.”– Isaiah 53:3-5 (WEB)
In Matthew 26-37, Jesus was
- spit upon
As if being denied, rejected, and despised were not devastating enough, Jesus had to endure the terrible pain of being scourged and crucified. Scourging is a Roman judicial punishment by beating a criminal through whipping him with a multi-lashed whip embedded with pieces of bone and metal. We do not need to give a graphic description of what it looked or felt like. Perhaps, the movie about it perfectly illustrated the terrible punishment. Then, the crucifixion, which is the Roman capital punishment meant to execute the most serious offenses. Jesus died through crucifixion in which we could barely imagine the great suffering. Medical studies on death by crucifixion says that when executed through this manner, a 7-inch nail is to be driven through the wrist to hold the bones and the body and that the knees are to be bent at 45 degrees angle and broken so that the person nailed to the cross would not be able to support its weight. The time it takes for the person to die depends on the manner or position he was nailed to the cross. When nailed with arms extended out to both sides, the person may last upto 24 hours. Eventually, he would die of suffocation and multiple organ failure. Call it suffering? It is hideous. It is sickening. It is unjust. It is severe. It is extreme.
Here is another bomb. That rejection, contempt, hate, shame, and extreme suffering was meant for you and me. That was our place. That was what you and me deserved. Why? Because we are sinful. Every sin we have committed brought us to that place of hate, shame, guilt, and contempt. We deserve to be executed and punished. We deserve to be treated as the worst of criminals. Yet, God’s great love, that unfathomable love, led Him to gave up His own Son, Jesus Christ, for each one of us even when we do not deserve it. Jesus took our place and willingly gave up His own life for you and me. This is grace.
Have you been rejected? Has someone denied you? Have you experienced hate and contempt? Were you insulted? Has someone treated you unjustly? Were you treated the worst? Jesus experienced it all; at a much worst condition.
We have nothing to boast about. We are here and everything we have are all because of the grace of our God. Our very own life is His grace.
Receive God’s grace for you. Jesus died and rose again so that we can have a full, abundant, joyful, and new life free from sin.
“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sins.”– 1 John 4:10 (WEB)