Growing up in the church I’ve found that holiday sermons can feel repetitive. Some pastors feel that since there will be many people in the church who only attend a few times a year, it’s important to do a clear gospel message. Having heard versions of this message my whole life I have found it easy to check out.
This year our pastor focused on the fact that God cared so much for us that a sacrifice was done willingly. He said Jesus didn’t just die for Peter and John and Mary, but for all of us.
There are 14 generations between Abraham and Jesus. There is also a 400-year gap between the Old Testament and the New Testament. We read in Genesis that God walked with Enoch. He walked in the Garden of Eden. God spoke to Abraham directly. He revealed himself to Moses and buried Moses himself upon his death. After that, God spoke directly to prophets to allow his words to be heard by the masses. Miracles were present for the Israelites to see, but a distance certainly existed from the days of God’s physical presence on earth walking with man.
It struck me as I pondered the relationships Jesus had with his family and friends for the 33 years he was the word that became flesh” John 1:1-14 “14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
I don’t believe it was necessary for Jesus to live on earth in order to die for us. God created us in His image and nothing has changed. He has never stopped pursuing us, his patience is everlasting. At the same time, I have to wonder. Did experiencing a life, feeling a mother’s touch, laughing with friends, seeing a miracle through human eyes, did that all make the impossible a little easier?
Luke 22 “39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.[c]”
Luke tells us that Jesus was so distressed in his prayers that he sweat blood. The gospels of Mark and John also tell the story of Jesus praying just before his arrest. Jesus foretold of his death often. He even told his disciples it would be a good thing. Regardless. The time had come, and Jesus needed strength. I can’t help but wonder if part of that strength was bolstered by those he saw who so desperately needed him to act.
The disciples didn’t fully comprehend all that was happening at Jesus’ crucifixion. Peter denied Jesus as a friend 3 times out of fear, many of the disciples went into hiding out of fear for their own lives. Jesus knew that only his death AND resurrection would help others to see. The physical actions of a Savior and friend would bolster the disciples’ faith. The presence of the Holy Spirit, which would come only after Jesus’ ascension would make the difference between a few Jews understanding grace and the whole world.
Jesus presence on earth for 33 years revealed much of his character. It is why we strive to model our actions after him. He is perfect and his character unchanging. At the same time, the gift of grace includes free will. The ability to chose to disobey. Jesus had the choice to walk away when it came to dying for us. He could have said figure out another plan, but he didn’t! His love for us and his desire to obey were stronger. I can’t help but wonder if the relationships he had with Mary, James, John and Peter along with all the followers what had gathered along the way made his decision easier. Our God is a relational God, so it would make sense his sacrifice would also be relational.