If you would like to read my views on religion and how we got started with the ministry, you can read this.
In this article, I want to focus on the definition of a “sacrifice.” We will examine what it was that Jesus sacrificed, what were the benefits to him (and thereby to us) for his doing so, and what it will look like for us to follow in his steps. I think it will become clear that we too should be making sacrifices in our own lives for the good of others.
1 Corinthians 5:7 and 8 (NKJV)
(7) Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.
(8) Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
There is much figurative language in the above verses, but the point I want us to notice here is that the truth in verse 7—that Jesus gave his life for our sins—is the basis for the action that verse 8 encourages us to take—to live our lives with sincerity and truth. As Scripture says, Jesus Christ is the example for each of us, and we are therefore to walk in his steps (1 Pet. 2:21). Let us look at a contemporary dictionary definition of sacrifice: “The surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim.”
Now that is provocative. Think about it—this connotes a value system in which one thing, while deemed valuable and thus not easily let go of, is not considered as valuable as another thing in one’s overall estimation. This involves the exercise of one’s free will and the power we each have to make choices.
What was Jesus called to sacrifice? His very life. Psalm 22 prophetically depicts the crucifixion, resurrection, and exaltation of the Messiah, with the first 18 verses pointing to his torture and death, and the last 10 verses pointing to his resurrection and his reign in the Millennial Kingdom. In between are the following pivotal verses, which poignantly foreshadow his crying out to God for deliverance from the grave.
Psalm 22:19-21 (NKJV)
(19) But You, O LORD, do not be far from Me; O My Strength, hasten to help Me!
(20) Deliver Me from the sword, My precious life from the power of the dog.
(21) Save Me from the lion’s mouth And from the horns of the wild oxen! You have answered Me.
In that vein, it is noteworthy to compare the attitude of Socrates just prior to his death with that of Jesus Christ before his impending torture and execution. Socrates threw a party, gathering his friends to help him celebrate his exodus from this life via drinking the poison hemlock. Jesus, on the other hand, agonized alone in the Garden of Gethsemane to such an extent that the Greek text says he was “crushed with anguish” (Luke 22:44-NKJV “being in agony”).
Why the stark difference in their attitudes? Was it because Socrates had a better understanding of life than Jesus did? No, it was because Jesus had a truer understanding of death than did Socrates. Socrates erroneously believed what many people today believe (even most Christians), that death is the immediate “doorway” to a better life in some other realm.
Jesus Christ, however, knew the truth that death, as accurately defined in the Word of God, is “the end, or the absence of, life.” By definition, one cannot be both dead and alive. Jesus knew, therefore, that if he chose to step into the theretofore unbridged abyss of death, the only way back to life would be via his heavenly Father keeping His promise to raise him from the dead (Gen. 22:1-13; Ps. 16:10). That is why, in absolute contrast to Socrates, Jesus’ decision to sacrifice his life was not a flippant one.
What were the promised benefits that motivated Jesus Christ to lay down his precious life, which was most definitely “something prized or desirable” to him. What was the stupendous “something [that he] considered as having a higher or more pressing claim” compared to the preservation of his own life? The following verses answer that question:
Hebrews 12:1 and 2
(1) Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
(2) Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
The “joy set before” Jesus was the great truth woven throughout the Old Testament that if he would go the distance as the only man who could live a sinless life and die a torturous death as the true Passover Lamb, he would be raised to newness of life, and so would all those who ever believed on him. He would reign over the world for a thousand years and later rule as second-in-command to God on a new earth, enjoying everlasting life with all the redeemed throughout the ages.
Because Jesus knew who he was, and that there was no one else who could do what he was called to do, he chose to walk the path set before him, which called for him to sacrifice his life. Now you and I are members in particular of the Body of Christ, representing him in this fallen world. So who are you? What are you called to sacrifice? And how will that look, behaviorally speaking? What will the benefits be to you for so doing?
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Thanks for reading.