If there’s one thing I’ll never get over, in this life and I’m sure for eternity to come, it’s the unmatched, incomparable love of Jesus Christ, proved by his ultimate sacrifice on the Cross. “Ultimate” doesn’t say it strongly enough, though. It was the ultimate ultimate sacrifice.
“Greater love has no man than this,” He said, “than to lay down his life for his friends.” A few short hours later He did that.
On the one hand you could say Jesus was one of many who have sacrificed their lives for others. First responders rushed into the doomed twin towers of the World Trade Center. Maximilian Kolbe offered his life in place of another’s at Auschwitz. Sgt. John A. Chapman received the Medal of Honor posthumously for giving his life to save his friends.
This is exactly what Jesus calls the greatest love. We call it “the ultimate sacrifice,” and we rightly honor men and women like this as heroes. Jesus’ sacrifice was on another level altogether, though.
His death was torturous, with pain beyond imagining. He bore the world’s sin on the Cross. That makes His sacrifice great beyond all worlds, but that’s not all of it. There’s one more thing which I think makes His sacrifice the ultimate ultimate: His free choice to die, a choice that no one else has ever made, one that no one but Jesus could make.
Heroes and Cowards, Final Choices, Final Thoughts
I can imagine the decision as it runs through a hero’s mind, given time in the moment to think them. I think it might sound something like this: I don’t want to die, but that’s not my choice. Death is bound to come someday. These people need me now. Today’s the day.
I can also imagine a coward’s version: I don’t want to die, so let’s just put it off as long as possible, okay? The coward takes the easy way out, lives a long, wretched, coward’s life, does his best to avoid even thinking of the realities of death. Then reality takes over in spite of him, and he dies.
I can imagine those two scenarios. What I can’t picture is any person thinking, I was expecting to live forever since that’s normal, and if I can make it through this alive, I can keep on expecting that. But my life isn’t so important to me, even if it could last forever. I’ll give it up for these who need me.
That’s obvious fantasy: No one could possibly have that option. It’s total fiction — with one exception: Jesus. When He chose to die, He wasn’t just working out the when and the how. He had the choice not to die at all. He could have kept on living for days without end. But He chose death. For us.
The Ultimate Exception
For us, death is the one most certain effect of being born. If you could have chosen not to be born, you could have chosen not to die. Obviously no one has that choice; no one but Jesus, that is. He gave up the privileges of heaven. He chose that for us.
Death comes not just from being born but also from sin. It was the curse God laid on humanity when Adam and Eve first disobeyed Him in the Garden, in Genesis 3. Before that sin, they had the option never to die, but they gave that up for all the wrong reasons. Human death since then is so closely tied to sin, that a person who never inherited sin from his parents, and who never sinned himself, would never need to die.
There has never been anyone like that — no one but Jesus. He didn’t die for His own sins. He didn’t have to. He died for ours.
Greatest Sacrifice, Greatest Love
I have met people who love greatly, but I have never seen anyone who loved like Jesus. Ordinary humans may show extraordinary love by offering the ultimate sacrifice. Jesus’ ultimate ultimate sacrifice shows love that’s far beyond extraordinary.
I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get over that. Not now, not even throughout eternity. Jesus is just too astonishingly good.
But that’s okay: I never want to get over it.