For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. John 3:16-18
When we love someone it requires personal sacrifice. Sometimes it’s with a simple compromise: I want Chinese for dinner and Christian wants Mexican so I sacrifice my desire for Chinese because I love him. At other times though, to prove our love to one another, it takes something a little more drastic.
After 5 ½ years of dating, I started having doubts about my future with Christian. Since he was the only man I’d ever been with, I was starting to feel like I had missed something. So one night I asked him to come over to talk, because I was planning on breaking up with him. After many hours of tears and talking, I was ready to leave him. I had given him my engagement ring back and everything. But he wasn’t going to let that happen. He asked if I was willing to take a walk with him and I said “sure”, despite the fact that you could see our breath as we walked. When we got to the fountain at the center of campus I asked Christian why he was so disappointed that the fountain was off and he replied, “I was going to run through it to prove my love to you.” Christian was willing to sacrifice his health and his comfort to prove to me how much he loved me; because love requires sacrifices, sometimes big ones. The ultimate and perfect love of God for us, required the ultimate and perfect sacrifice of Jesus, for us.
Jesus – though He had done nothing sinful or against the law in His entire life – was betrayed by one of His closest friends, arrested, and secretly whisked off to an immediate trial in the dead of night. The Sanhedrin found Him guilty and sentenced Him to be flogged, and die by Crucifixion. Once sentenced, He had one chance to “get out of it” so to speak. At that time, it was the festival of Passover and during the festival it was customary for one prisoner to be released. They were given their choice between the Savior of their souls and a murderer for a rebellion against Rome. The Jews chose to release Barabbas the murderer (which is how it had to be for God’s plan of redemption to work). Jesus heard His friends and neighbors chanting “Crucify him, Crucify him, Crucify him”.
The book of Matthew tells us that Pilate released Barabbas, had Jesus flogged and then handed Him over to be crucified. Usually when retelling the story of Jesus’ sacrifice we focus on the crucifixion, skipping the fact that He was flogged – or brutally tortured – first. Flogging is where they whip your torso and your back. But it’s not just a simple whip like a horse whip, its long leather straps with fish hooks and metal shards woven within them so as to inflict the maximum amount of pain possible without actually killing the person. Most times after being flogged the skin would be hanging open, the victim’s bones, muscle and internal organs completely exposed. It is one short sentence in the scriptures, but it was not a short sentence for Jesus. It was long and painful, and only the beginning. Next, He endured more pain and humiliation as the soldiers dressed him in a “royal” robe and placed a crown of thorns on his head. Beating it into His head with a reed while spitting on Him and mocking Him. Once the soldiers were satisfied with this utter humiliation they took His robe, put His clothes back on Him and led Him out to be crucified. By custom, crucifixion victims were forced to carry the 75-100 pound cross-member of their own cross for roughly 1/3 of a mile. In John it says that Jesus carried this Himself, but in the other gospels it says that Simon, a Cyrenian, carried it for Him. It is very likely that Jesus started out the journey carrying His own cross; however after being awake all night long, beaten, bruised flogged, beaten more and humiliated, He lost His strength quickly and couldn’t carry it any further, requiring the assistance of Simon. Once He reached Golgotha He was placed on top of His cross where they drove spikes between the bones of His wrists and the heels of His feet. Not the small wood nails we’re used to seeing in the hardware store but spikes, large metal spikes. He was lifted into place on the cross, hung at 9 in the morning according to Mark’s gospel. He was placed between two criminals, equating Him with criminals; something He was not. As people walked by Him on the road they mocked, “He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe in Him. HE TRUSTS IN GOD; LET GOD RESCUE Him now, IF HE DELIEGHTS IN HIM; for He said, “I am the Son of God.” The robbers who had been crucified with Him were also insulting Him with the same words. (Matthew 27:42-44) But that’s just it. He COULD have saved Himself! Just one word and He could have sent 10,000 angels to free Him from this pain and absolute humiliation but He didn’t say a word. He endured every bit of it. Just for you and me. He hung on that cross, blood and life slowly draining from Him, excruciating pain and humiliation, His lungs filling with blood making it more and more difficult to breathe, slowly dying for SIX HOURS. Luke tells us that for the final 3 hours of His torture it was dark. Finally at 3 He cried out “It is finished” and died. That, my sister, is part of the punishment that you and I deserve for our sins, and yet we will never receive that punishment… because Jesus took it all for us. After watching the Passion of Christ I asked, “Why God, why would you do that for me? Me?” He replied, “Because my Beloved, that’s just how much I love you! I love you so much I would rather die than live without you!”
Christian was willing to be cold and wet and sick for me, which was very romantic. Christ was willing to be tortured and died for me. So who loves me more? There is NO possible way that Christian who is human can love me as much as Christ who was completely human and completely God. Christ had a choice; He didn’t HAVE to do it. He didn’t have to suffer the humiliation and the pain, yet He CHOSE to go through that so that we could live with Him forever! The ultimate love required the ultimate sacrifice to prove that love, and it DID prove it! When we ask Jesus how much He loves us, He says “This much” and spreads out His arms, reminding us of how He died for us. He… chose… YOU. He loves you that much. He died and endured things that no one, human OR God should ever have to endure, and He did it to prove to you how much He loves you. Love. That’s what it’s all about, LOVE.
First, we are to love God with our entire self, more than everything else in our life. Then, we are to love our neighbors more than ourselves. This is especially important in marriage because it’s your love for God and your husband that is the greatest testimony to the people around you. Your husband is your very own personal gift from God himself, show your husband you really love him, even when it’s hard and you really don’t feel like it. If you claim that you love God, but complain constantly about your husband you are not showing him or the people around you the kind of love that God gives. No matter what we’re doing or what our attitudes are like, God still loves us deeply and continues to show us all the time. When we are being our most difficult, He still loves us; because He knows that that’s when we need His love the most.
We have all had to sacrifice things before. But no one has ever sacrificed like Jesus did. He sacrificed His life; AND He did it VOLUNTARILY! Do you know why? Because He loves you that much. If you love your wife, you are going to have to make some sacrifices. You can’t just expect her to make them all.