Posted by: glorifyhim1 | April 3, 2012

What Sacrifice Looks Like

What Sacrifice Looks Like

I left Sunday School this week both with a smile on my face and a song of praise in my heart, but also with a tug of sadness. My kindergartners were bubbling over with excitement as they chatted about their upcoming spring break week. From going on cruises, to spending time with Nanna, to staying home and eating (!), each child was overflowing with what the week before them held. I pulled out the green construction paper as I have done on so many Palm Sundays and proceeded to help the kids cut out palm leaves as I talked about the Bible story. And, as usually is the case, the boys and girls would cut a little while, then complain that their fingers were getting tired, and begin to beg the teachers for help. Once the leaves were all cut out, however, the kids were full of energy, smiles, and laughter as they waved their palm leaves and sang “Hosanna.” Each child left Sunday School clutching their construction paper palm leaves and eagerly anticipating their spring break vacation week.

To be honest, the kids’ excitement was probably not a lot unlike that of young Hebrew children all those years ago as they traveled to Jerusalem with their families for Passover week. Passover was the most important Hebrew feast that commemorated the deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. I’m sure there was much excitement and expectancy as families planned, prepared, and participated in the festival. Yet on one particular Passover, one traveler to Jerusalem knew that this would not be a typical Passover celebration. In fact, He knew that what lay ahead of Him was mocking, scourging, and death (see Luke 18:32-33). This traveler, Jesus, knew that He would become the Passover lamb that the prophets had foretold.

“Surely He has borne our griefs and carried out sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.”

(Isaiah 53:4-7)

Jesus knew all of this, even shared it with His disciples who could not fully understand, and yet still willingly traveled to Jerusalem.

Don’t you wonder how Jesus felt as He “set His face toward Jerusalem?” (Luke 9:51). His mission was almost accomplished. He would soon be returning to the splendor of His heavenly home. Yet immediately before Him lay pain, suffering, and a weight/anguish/burden that you and I cannot begin to fathom. Jesus became our sacrificial lamb. Just as a lamb was sacrificed on that first Passover and its blood smeared on the doorposts of the Israelites to save their firstborn, Jesus offered Himself to be crucified on the cross and to bear the penalty of my sin and your sin. He did it willingly! He sacrificed Himself for you and me. As Paul reminded the Ephesians: “… as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (Ephesians 5:2b). Through Christ’s offering of Himself, we are made acceptable to God.

As hard as I try I honestly cannot understand that kind of loving, selfless sacrifice. How do you give your very life for someone who spits in your face? How do you pray for the very individuals who are driving the nails into your hands and feet? And why would you go through it all for someone like me when He knows how many times I will fail Him? Yet that’s the nature of sacrifice. It surrenders or gives up something of value for the sake of something or someone else. And believers are called to do the same. We may never be asked to give up our lives for another, but we are called to present our bodies as a living sacrifice. As Paul told the Romans: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1). How do we do that? What does such sacrifice look like in our lives? Perhaps we can get some clues by seeing what Jesus did as He prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for you and me.

  • Jesus expressed genuine sorrow for those who had rejected Him. (See Luke 19:41-44). When we present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God, our priorities change. We realize the urgency for all people to hear about Christ. The sacrificed life may be willing to give more money, go more places, pray more fervently for those who are lost and who need to know Christ.
  • Jesus prayed for Himself, for His disciples, for all believers (See John 17) and for His Father’s will to be done. (See Luke 22:41-42). The sacrificed life knows he or she is totally dependent on God. Every decision is brought before God in prayer. Every concern in one’s own life as well as in the lives of others is lifted up to our Father in Heaven. But also, every hope and desire in our hearts is surrendered to the Father’s will – whether or not we can understand. We surrender everything to God in prayer.
  • Jesus showed compassion even to one who came to arrest Him. (See Luke 22:49-51). The sacrificed life does not always make sense. It doesn’t make sense to turn the other cheek, to be kind to the unkind, to do good to those who wish you harm. This is because the sacrifice life is a transformed life. As Paul also stated: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).
  • Jesus did not back down, but maintained His witness as He was questioned by the High Priest and Pilate. (See John 18:19-24,28-38; 19:5-11). Jesus didn’t try to argue His defense or convince His accusers of His innocence. He just stated the truth. The sacrificed life does not bend to worldly pressure, political correctness, or in the face of opposition or ridicule. However, neither does the sacrificed life seek to promote controversy and trouble. Paul advised the Ephesians: “That we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ” (Ephesians 4:14-15).

More and more I’m becoming convinced that the sacrificed life is not so much something we do, but the way we live. Christ paid the ultimate sacrifice when He died on the cross. When the Pharisees questioned Jesus for hanging out with sinners, Jesus replied to them: “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Matthew 9:13). God doesn’t want our time, our money, or any gift we can offer Him. He wants us! A truly sacrificed life recognizes all that Christ has done for him and the only response is one of absolute devotion and surrender. The outpouring of that love for Christ can take many different forms in practically every walk of life as the surrendered, sacrificed life walks in mercy and love.

I can still see my kindergartners waving their construction paper palm leaves and singing “Hosanna.” I know they do not understand all that Jesus would be experiencing this week, but for today they know that Jesus is special and someone to be celebrated and loved. And the more I experience life with Him, the more I want to celebrate and love Him  – and to live a sacrificed life.

“Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”

(Hebrews 13:15-16).

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