I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “familiarity breeds contempt.” Have you ever seen someone who has just bought a new car? The first few days and weeks and months they can be possessive and extra careful with it. In the middle of the night, while their wife and children are sleeping, they may even go out to the garage and see if the car is still there or if it walked away! Probably all of us have experienced this with something in our lives to some degree. We buy a new shirt or dress or pen and are very excited about our new purchase. But as time goes by, we get used to it, and it no longer produces the same excitement in us.
We have to be careful not to let this happen when it comes to spiritual things. During this season, as we think about Easter and remember the Lord’s Resurrection with all the events leading up to it, we have to take time to intentionally think and feel, or we can easily miss what it’s all about. That’s why the Church very early on introduced the season of Lent as a time of preparation to meditate and look forward to Easter.
As we think about the events of that week so many years ago, there’s nothing more significant, even in all of history than this—the Son of God taking upon Himself our humanity that He could assume our fallenness and heal our brokenness. He suffered throughout His life on earth to show us how to endure suffering and give meaning to our own suffering and death. And then He accepted the suffering and death on the cross for us.
And all this He did out of love.
As the time of His betrayal and death drew near, the Bible says He set His face toward Jerusalem, toward the cross (see Luke 9:51). And as He got closer, the journey became more difficult. He knew what was coming, and He tried to prepare the disciples for it. But they didn’t understand. Peter went so far as to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” (Matthew 16:22).
Jesus had to answer Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Matthew 16:23). Peter’s view of the situation was totally horizontal. He couldn’t see all that Jesus could see.
Then finally, in the garden, you find Jesus almost giving up—almost. Why else would He pray, “Father is there any way—I mean anything that You know that I don’t know—to let this cup pass from Me?” (Matthew 26:39, paraphrased). And yet, quickly He added, “Not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).
Jesus is called a second Adam (see 1 Corinthians 15:45). The first Adam was also given this choice between God’s will and his own. The first Adam chose his own will, but the second Adam said, “not My will.” And this was in spite of knowing exactly what He was facing—that His body would be mutilated so that finally no one would even recognize He was a human being anymore (see Isaiah 52:14, NIV).
Think about it. Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God, could have gone back to heaven to be on His throne at any point during His entire lifetime on earth. Even at the last minute, when He was on the cross, He could have come down and vanished back to His own world and position at the right hand of God the Father. But He refused this temptation and the challenge from the crowd around the cross for Him to save Himself (see Matthew 27:42).
When I saw the movie The Passion of the Christ, the most moving part for me was when the wooden cross was lying there, and Jesus was straining in agony—not to escape, but just to drag Himself with that last ounce of energy to somehow get on to the cross. Nobody had to force Him to open His arms. As He said in John 10:18, “No one takes [my life] from Me, but I lay it down of Myself.”
What is it that made Jesus as a man do this thing? The answer can be found in the book of Hebrews, which says He endured the cross “for the joy that was set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2). He could see something beyond the cross—the redemption of mankind. Jesus knew that through His life, death and resurrection, He could restore us—those who were made in God’s image—to communion with God, that we might be “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).
Jesus came as the healer of a broken world that God loved so much (see John 3:16). And the “medicine” to heal us of sin, fear and death—to save us—was His own sinless blood. I’d like to share with you a true story that helps illustrate the meaning of Christ’s death and the shedding of His holy blood for us sinners.
Dr. Paul Brand was a famous medical doctor that worked at the Vellore Medical College Hospital in Vellore, India. One time, an epidemic of measles struck the community of Vellore. His infant daughter, Estelle, was dangerously vulnerable because of her age, and they found they urgently needed convalescent serum (antibiotic) or she would die. The word went around the remote rural community to find the “blood of an overcomer,” someone who had previously caught the disease, but through the antibodies they had developed could now be the means of salvation for this little helpless one. The blood from such a person would provide the serum the little girl desperately needed. There was no use for the blood of someone who had had chicken pox or malaria or some other disease. This blood had to be specifically from someone who had contracted and overcome measles.
Finally, they located one person who had had measles and had overcome, defeating the sickness. They withdrew some of his blood, let the cells settle out and injected the convalescent serum into the veins of the little girl. As a result, she was healed, saved from death. She overcame measles not by her own strength or resistance, but by the blood of the one who had defeated the sickness in their own body.
Jesus, the second person in the Holy Trinity, came down to earth to sacrifice His life on the cross and shed His holy blood, not as a way to appease an angry, vengeful God, but to become one of us, going through temptations, pain, suffering, brokenness and death in His sinless body so that His holy blood would be the saving “serum” for the sin of the world (see John 1:29; Hebrews 2:10, 2:18, 4:15, 12:2).
What an amazing gift we have been given. We have been saved, not just from the devil, sin and hell, but for something positive and wholesome—to be in communion and union with the Living God.
During this Holy Week, let us take the time to think on these things and all that Christ has done. Let’s reflect on God’s great love for us. It is because of this that we have hope.