How Was Jesus’ Death a Sacrifice?
When Jesus was killed on the cross to pay for our sins, He was also resurrected. How was that a sacrifice to God, His Father?
One of the most quoted verses of the Bible is John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."
I've been asked a few times how Jesus' death can be considered a sacrifice since a mere three days later, He was risen. The Son was not lost to the Father forever, so surely this is not like an earthly father giving up a child, knowing that they will never see them again in this life. If Jesus did not remain dead and they were reunited days later, what did God really sacrifice on the cross?
From the perspective of proving that He was the Son of God (and for the purposes of conquering/overcoming sin and death) it was important that Christ died and rose again. It is the greatest miracle the world has ever seen. There is enormous power and significance in the resurrection and without it, we would still all still be dead in sin.
However, from the perspective of God's sacrifice, I think death is less important than the suffering, humiliation and separation. A sacrifice need not be permanent. The terrible pain and suffering Jesus endured may have lasted only a few hours, but that does not take away any of its significance or meaning.
The pain and suffering are self-explanatory, especially if you've seen Passion of the Christ several years ago. Jesus' death was not a quick or painless one by any means. It was horrific, and because He was fully human, Jesus had no supernatural protection from the pain. He endured it just as any man would have.
There is another aspect to the suffering – the emotional side. Jesus knew precisely what was about to happen, and the anticipation was so enormous that he stayed up all night, praying to the Father. It must have been agonizing for Jesus to contemplate what was about to happen. And, of course, the Father had to stand by and watch all this happen to His beloved son. This alone could be considered more than enough sacrifice that we should be in awe of what the Father and Son endured for us.
Next, consider that the Lord of the Universe – the one through whom the entire universe was created – was mocked, spit upon and beaten. Furthermore, crucifixion was the worst kind of ignominious death, reserved for the lowest, most despicable criminals. That Jesus, the King of Kings would subject himself to that kind of humiliation (and the Father should have to see His son treated thus) should once again fill us with awe and gratitude.
But even these are not the most important parts of the sacrifice. Since before the beginning of time, the Father and Son had shared a perfect, intimate union. Then, with the weight of all of humanity's sin upon Him, Jesus became separated from the Father just as we were separated from God before we accepted Christ. We cannot possibly imagine what those moments of separation were like for Christ while He was cut off from the greatest source of love in the universe. Nor can we imagine what it must have been like for the Father to have to leave Jesus alone on the cross. Jesus was so shocked and dismayed by the separation that He cried out, "Why hast thou forsaken me?" Yet, they both allowed this in order to save us from our sin, and they did so because they love us.
Jesus was a perfect man who knew no sin, yet he was tortured and humiliated. Then, as the weight of our sin was placed on His shoulders, He was separated from the Father and felt greater abandonment than we can imagine. He was in agony on the cross, terrified and alone, yet the Father desired so much to redeem us that he did nothing to help His perfect, beloved Son.
That was the real sacrifice.
Michael Lane is the executive director of Delve Christian Ministries.
Originally published on the Ontario-based website, DelveIntoJesus.com,
Used with permission. Copyright © 2009 Christianity.ca.