In Psalm 22 and Lamentations 3, the prophets wrote about what would be Jesus' struggles on Good Friday. As I ponder what it means to really follow Jesus this Good Friday, I am struck by the supreme sacrifice he made for us. What is profound is that Jesus knows our struggle with sin because he took it on himself! At the Journey With Jesus event last week, Heather Henry discussed sacrifice and helped our understanding of what sacrifice really means. So, in simple terms, a sacrifice is when you think of something you really value and you give it up to help others. Being a mother, I think about this in new terms. I value my sleep and my free time. When my children were babies, I sacrificed sleep so that they could be fed. Now, I sacrifice my sleep to care for them when they are sick. I sacrifice my free time so that they can attend lessons, games and other events which will shape their lives. So, in order to really love, one must sacrifice. When the meaning of sacrifice is put in these terms, I realize now just HOW MUCH Jesus loves us! He sacrificed his LIFE for us, not just sleep and free time! When I stop to actually internalize his suffering, I become overwhelmed. I have difficulty even grasping the amount of physical and emotional pain he endured all so that we are free from the bondage of sin. One comment Heather made really sticks with me. She said that while the physical sacrifice of dying on a cross was great, the bigger sacrifice was taking on our sin and being separated from God because being united with God is what he values the most. When we sin, we become separated from God so the fact that Jesus was willing to be separated from God just so we never have to be apart from God is the very embodiment of sacrificial love! His love for us makes me want to follow him to the ends of the earth and to sin no more! Yet, as I even write these words, I struggle with my sin. It is a comfort to know that Jesus actually understands that I struggle with my sin. He knew that Peter, even though he pledged to lay down his life to follow Jesus, that he would struggle with his own sin.
Simon Peter asked him, "Lord, where are you going?"
Jesus replied, "Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later."
Peter asked, "Lord, why can't I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you."
Then Jesus answered, "Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!"
Even though Peter denied knowing Jesus three times, after the resurrection, Peter did follow Jesus to the ends of the earth! Why? Because he understood he was free from the bondage of sin and that God gave him grace. He understood that God gave us ALL grace! Peter did lay down his life so that people would know about Jesus and to teach them how to really follow him. He instructs in 1 Peter 1:13-20:
"Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy."
Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake."
In Psalms 22 and Lamentations 3, the prophets also reveal God's glory.
"I will declare your name to my brothers;
in the congregation I will praise you.
You who fear the LORD, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.
From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
before those who fear you will I fulfill my vows.
The poor will eat and be satisfied;
they who seek the LORD will praise him-
may your hearts live forever!
All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations will bow down before him,
for dominion belongs to the LORD
and he rules over the nations.
All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
all who go down to the dust will kneel before him-
those who cannot keep themselves alive.
Posterity will serve him;
future generation will be told about the Lord.
They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn-
for he has done it.
So, if Jesus shows love for us by his supreme sacrifice, we can show love for him by our sacrifice as well. We can sacrifice our self-serving desires and follow Him! We can care for the suffering people and it shows that we care for Him! We can give people hope by sharing the good news that he loves us so much, he sacrificed his life for us! Certainly, following Jesus has challenges because he does not go down an easy road. However, following Jesus is the only way to find the true meaning of grace and love. Jesus is the way to eternal life!