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The sobering reality is that all human beings who have ever lived would permanently cease to exist were it not for the heroic self-sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
In January 1982 Air Florida flight 90 crashed into the Potomac river 73 seconds after take off. All 74 passengers and five crew members were killed except three men and three women who clung to their lives on the mangled remnants of the plane. As they bobbed up and down in the freezing waters advancing hypothermia diminished their ability to hold on by the minute.
Among the six survivors was a 46-year-old bank executive from Atlanta, who was the first to have the rescue line dropped to him. To the astonishment of the rescuers aboard the helicopter, he refused safety for himself and placed the line around another passenger.
He then proceeded to do the same thing until the five other passengers were winched to safety as a result of his assistance.
Having delivered survivor No. 5 to shore, the helicopter returned to the scene of the crash to rescue the hero, only to find he had slipped out of sight to join his fellow passengers in the watery grave. If he had put his own life first some—if not all—of the five who survived the tragedy of January 13, 1982, would have died.
Another man at another time gave up His life so others would live, but rather than cheering His heroism, the fact He had been sentenced to a torturous, humiliating death was approved and celebrated. His own Father was also aware of the impending sacrifice of His life, but He did nothing to stop it. In fact, His Father had had a hand in planning His own Son’s death!
This man was Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross was a heroic act by both Father and Son. The Bible tells us the death of Jesus Christ was planned “from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8) and John 3:16-17 helps us understand more fully why Christ had to die: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:16-17). These verses tell us God the Father sent Jesus Christ so mankind would “not perish” but would “be saved.”
Every man or woman who has drawn breath has been corrupted by sin, and the Bible shows that eventually death comes to all: “Through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death’ spread to all men, because all sinned . . .” (Romans 5:12). Jesus Christ was “without sin” (Hebrews 4:15; 1 John 3:5) therefore, God could offer His Son’s life as the single hope to pay the death penalty for the sin of all mankind.
Christ’s life is worth so much it outweighs the value of all human lives who ever lived and who will yet live. His divine state before He was sent to earth as a man is evident from His last recorded prayer: “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began” (John 17:5, New International Version).
What Christ’s death successfully challenges is the permanence of death (2 Timothy 1:10). Having paid the debt for the sins of all, Jesus possesses the authority and capacity to reclaim people from death. To Martha, shortly before bringing her brother back to life, Jesus spoke these telling words: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11:25).
Christians assemble every spring on the Passover to commemorate Christ’s courageous, loving sacrifice. According to His instructions, this annual memorial begins with the ceremony of washing each other’s feet. This is a powerful reminder of the humble service Christ performed in His life and especially in His death. It also clarifies His expectations for His followers as He tells us to follow His example: “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14)
There are also two other symbols during the Passover service by which we are to remember Christ’s sacrifice: unleavened bread and wine. Of the bread, Jesus said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me” (1 Corinthians 11:24). Concerning the wine, He instructed, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:27-28). Both are dramatic representations of the most meaningful and powerful self-sacrifice in all history.
We cannot give our lives to pay for sin, because nothing we could do can buy back our lives corrupted by sin, but we are urged in one of Paul’s epistles to “live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2, NIV).
The Good News magazine