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Beyond Today: The Greatest Sacrifice

Beyond Today: The Greatest Sacrifice

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Beyond Today: The Greatest Sacrifice

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Mar 12, 2020


Beyond Today Magazine -- March/April 2020 -- Most people are aware that Jesus Christ was crucified and died for our sins some 2,000 years ago. But why was that necessary? Why did He go through the horrible suffering He experienced? Why did He, specifically, go through this and not someone else? And what does this mean for you and me and your relationship with God? In this issue of Beyond Today magazine, we address these key questions and their revealing answers. Inside this issue
-- The Greatest Love Story
-- The Greatest Sacrifice
-- Why Was It Necessary for Jesus Christ to Suffer?
-- “That Rock Was Christ”
-- Many Scriptures Point to God as Israel’s “Rock”
-- How Does Christ’s Suffering Help in Our Suffering?
-- Yeast, Unleavened Bread and Pride
-- Easter: Why Shouldn’t We Celebrate Jesus’ Resurrection?
-- The Resurrection Connection
-- Plagues on the Horizon?
-- Follow Me: “I Go to Prepare a Place for You”
-- Current Events and Trends
-- Letters From Our Readers
Mar 12, 2020

Informazioni sull'autore

The mission of the United Church of God is to proclaim to the world the little-understood gospel taught by Jesus Christ—the good news of the coming Kingdom of God—and to prepare a people for that Kingdom. This message not only offers great hope for all of humanity, but encompasses the purpose of human existence—why we are here and where our world is headed.

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Beyond Today - United Church of God


The Greatest Sacrifice

Many are moved by inspiring stories of great courage, conviction and self-sacrifice, as we should be. Yet one sacrifice stands far above all others as the greatest of all time. And whether you realize it or not, it directly impacts you!

by Scott Ashley

Have you ever been inspired by a story of great courage and conviction? Or stirred by an example of great personal sacrifice for the benefit of others?

We hear of such stories from time to time, and often they are truly inspiring. They can and often do move us to want to emulate such positive examples. They appeal to our better nature, as they should.

The Bible, too, records many such positive examples. Consider a few:

• The young shepherd David, who defied the Philistine army and common sense to do battle with the giant warrior Goliath.

• The young king Josiah who took on his nation’s religious and cultural establishment to rid the land of pagan idolatry and restore worship of the true God.

• John the Baptist, who stood up to a powerful ruling family and paid for it with his head on a platter.

• The apostle Paul, who first appears in the Bible as a persecutor of the Church but then dedicated his life to it, enduring such hardships as hunger, thirst, shipwreck, beatings and being stoned and left for dead.

And there are many more we could mention, faithful men and women who sacrificed greatly for a purpose greater than themselves.

The greatest sacrifice of all

But of all the examples of great personal courage and sacrifice found in the Bible—and indeed in all history—one stands immeasurably far above all the rest. It stands alone because it was the greatest sacrifice ever, the greatest of all time.

It stands alone because it involves One who gave up the most that has ever been given, and it involves One who gave the most to those who benefitted from that sacrifice.

It stands alone because it involves not just a great sacrifice that was remarkable enough in itself—but another, lesser-understood aspect of that sacrifice so great as to be almost beyond human comprehension.

I’m referring to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, astounding on more than one level.

Why was Christ’s sacrificial death necessary?

Many people are likely already familiar with Jesus Christ’s death by crucifixion, in which He was executed as a criminal.

This is a major theme of the Christian religion, and rightfully so. It lies at the heart of biblical Christianity, although certainly not all who know of it understand it.

Many biblical passages tell us the importance of this sacrifice and why it was necessary. Let’s notice a few:

• "If we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7, New Living Translation used unless otherwise noted, emphasis added throughout).

• "[God] is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins" (Ephesians 1:7).

• "For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God" (1 Peter 1:18-19).

"For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood" (Romans 3:23-25).

• "And [Jesus] took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, ‘Each of you drink from it, for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many’" (Matthew 26:27-28).

These and many other similar passages tell us that Jesus Christ had to die as a sacrifice in our place so that our sins could be forgiven. He willingly took on Himself the death penalty that each of us deserved. As Hebrews 9:22 tells us, without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness. Had Jesus Christ not died for us, we would all die guilty of our sins, forever cut off from God and any hope of life beyond this one.

This is of profound importance,because God’s plan for mankind revolves around giving every person the opportunity for eternal life! (More on this later.)

Jesus knew how He would die

Have you ever considered whether you’d want to know when, where and how you would die? Many have wondered about that over the years. For some, the thought of knowing when they might leave this life could be comforting. For others it might bring great anxiety.

Uniquely among human beings, Jesus of Nazareth knew exactly when, where and how He would die. And His death would not come peacefully. It would come through brutal, violent, premeditated murder.

Only a few months into His ministry Jesus told the Jewish religious leader Nicodemus, "As Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life (John 3:14-15). Here Jesus was comparing Himself to the bronze serpent Moses erected on a pole which, when people looked to it, spared them from death (Numbers 21:8-9). Christ’s use of lifted up was a reference to His coming crucifixion, when He would be lifted up" above the ground in this public execution.

Several days before His death, Jesus used the same expression when He told a group of people, "When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself." The apostle John then adds parenthetically, He said this to indicate how he was going to die (John 12:30-32, see also John 8:28).

Can you imagine what it would be like to live with that knowledge? How would it impact your life to know that, in a few short years, on a particular day of the year, you would suffer a horrible and bloody death? And to know that you would face that fate abandoned by your closest friends?

Yet in spite of this knowledge, Jesus unhesitatingly carried out His mission. Luke 9:51 tells us, "As the time drew near . . . Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem." He was determined to finish the mission for which He had come to earth.

As He traveled the roads of Judea and Galilee, He no doubt had seen men crucified. Crucifixion was meant to be a public spectacle, a warning to potential wrongdoers. He knew exactly what awaited Him. He knew He would suffer the same horrible fate.

The excruciating pain of scourging and crucifixion

Crucifixion may well be the most horrible form of execution ever devised. An early form of it was practiced among the ancient Assyrians, who impaled defeated enemies on wooden poles. From there it passed to other ancient cultures, and eventually to the Greeks and finally the Romans, where it gained widespread use.

This form of execution was bloody, ugly and humiliating—exactly as it was intended to be. Victims were often crucified naked, the more to add to their humiliation and shame. These public executions were typically carried out along the main roads or outside city gates to send a very public message: Defy the might and power of Rome

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