Before the Cross
Forgive: To pardon someone for an offense, or to cease feeling resentment against an offender.
Forgiveness: The act of forgiving.
Funny thing about forgiveness…
If someone has wronged or offended us, and offers an apology for their wrongdoing, we aren’t always so quick to forgive them. What they did may have hurt us, embarrassed us, or caused suffering, so sometimes we’re just not ready to let go of our anger, or perhaps the desire to “get even.” “I’m sorry” just doesn’t seem to cover it. As far as we’re concerned, there should be a greater price to pay.
On the other hand, when we seek forgiveness from someone else, we expect to be forgiven immediately. After all, we humbled ourselves in offering an apology and that in and of itself should be enough, right? Besides, we didn’t do it on purpose; it was just an accident (even if our actions were premeditated and blatantly purposeful)! So why can’t we just forget the past, and let bygones be bygones?
We often seem to view situations from the perspective that best defends our position, rather than that of the other party. Perhaps we’re afraid that if we looked through a different set of eyes, we might see things differently.
Have you ever stopped to think about what a relationship with God looked like before Jesus was crucified? Before the cross? Before he paid for our forgiveness with his blood? Before he gained God’s Grace for us with his selfless submission to the misguided fears and hatred that other men had for him? Before he gave his life for us so that we may eternal life with his Father?
God’s forgiveness, which is so readily available for us today, was anything but that before Jesus died. At that time, man had to pay for forgiveness, in some form or fashion, and it was spelled out by God. For example:
God spoke to Moses: "Tell the People of Israel, When a man or woman commits any sin, the person has broken trust with God, is guilty, and must confess the sin. Full compensation plus twenty percent must be made to whoever was wronged. If the wronged person has no close relative who can receive the compensation, the compensation belongs to God and must be given to the priest, along with the ram by which atonement is made. All the sacred offerings that the People of Israel bring to a priest belong to the priest. Each person's sacred offerings are his own, but what one gives to the priest stays with the priest." Numbers 5:5-10 The Message
Notice that God didn’t single out what we consider to be serious offenses, such as murder, adultery, or theft. He says “any sin.” And what was the atonement for that sin? Confession, full compensation plus 20 percent, and a ram (livestock was extremely valuable in those times). Burnt offerings and blood sacrifices to please God were a part of everyday life; that is, if you wanted to stay in His good graces. The point here is that before Jesus’ death, God’s forgiveness wasn’t a given thing; you had to earn it.
And today? If you stand before God with remorse in your heart for your actions, you’re forgiven. Just like that. Done. And get this: God doesn’t want to condemn us. In fact, He sent His only Son to die for us so that forgiveness could be ours!
Jesus paid the price with his blood sacrifice so that every sin that you have committed in the past, and every one that you will commit in the future, has and will be forgiven. No burnt offerings or blood sacrifices are necessary; just sorrow in your heart and asking God to forgive you.
On this day, Good Friday, I’m challenging you to do something for me. Better yet, I’m asking you to do this, and it’s not for me, but for you and your relationship with Jesus…
Find a quiet place in your home or office. Spend a few moments prayer, separating yourself from the world and all that’s in it. Ask God to open your eyes, your mind, and your heart so that you may fully receive, experience, and feel what you’re about to do.
In your “mind’s eye,” put yourself in Jesus’ place on that hill at Calvary. I want you to look through the eyes of Jesus as your arms are brutally stretched to the point of being dislocated, and watch in terror as the Roman soldiers prepare to drive those huge nails into your hands and feet. Feel the unbelievably excruciating pain as each is driven in with the swing of the mallet. You can close your eyes because the pain is so unbearable that you can’t bear to watch, but stay in the moment for a bit longer. Be Jesus. Imagine the sensation of being lifted on the cross and then your full weight tugging on the nails in your hands as the cross slams into the hole that has been dug into the ground…
When you reach the point to where you just can’t bear either the pain, the vision, the anguish, or the sorrow, and you have to open your eyes because you just can’t take it anymore and you’re getting sick at your stomach…
Be still. Thank him for what he did.
Look, I’m not trying to be sick or perverse. It’s just that I want you to feel, perhaps in a way that you’ve never done before, what Jesus endured for us. I remember the impact that it had then, and still has today, on my life.
It’s my prayer that you’ll never take his sacrifice, or the forgiveness that he gained for you, for granted. I know that I don’t.
May you have a Happy, Joyous, Jesus-filled Easter, celebrating our Risen King!