Midweek 3 LSB #’s 544, 425, 430
Text – 1 Peter 1:19
But with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.
LOVE THAT SPARES NO COST
In the name of Jesus, who demonstrated His love for us in this that He shed His precious blood that we might live with Him forever. Amen.
For Lent we are meditating on the size of God’s love & mercy for us in Christ. In doing so, we should ask, “How do you measure someone’s love for someone else – how deep it is, how broad, how high?”
Holy Scripture tells us that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that God ransomed sinners, but with something far more dear – the precious blood of Christ, slain on the cross, like a lamb of sacrifice.
A fish has been used as a symbol for Christianity from the early days of the church, & you still see it today – the fish symbol drawn with two curved lines. Most early Christians understood Greek, & the Greek word for fish, ichthus, was an acronym for the Greek words that said, “Jesus-Christ-God’s-Son-Savior.”
So the fish symbol was a visual reminder of this short little confession, that Jesus is the Messiah, the very Son of God, who saved us from our sins. It’s a good symbol, that fish.
I’m not sure how you would draw an empty tomb in a simple way, so maybe that’s why it wasn’t used. Yet, for a faith that confesses the triumph & the reign of the living Jesus, raised to life again, for a faith that rejoices in the promise that – because He lives, we too shall rise & live forever, it seems like Jesus’ empty tomb might be a great symbol.
But for Christians throughout the ages, the chief symbol has always been the cross. Have you thought of how strange that is? The cross was a Roman instrument of public torture & execution. When we wear a cross around our neck, it’s like decorating ourselves with a shiny little image of an electric chair. When churches hang a huge cross on the front wall of their church, it’s like displaying a gallows or a hangman’s noose. When architects design a church steeple with a cross at the top, it’s like lifting up before the world a guillotine.
So why do we Christians keep this symbol, this executioner’s cross, so prominent among us? For one thing, that is where Jesus accomplished our salvation. That’s where, by His blood & death, He paid the penalty for every one of our sins, which created peace between God & man.
Another reason the cross is such a precious symbol to Christians is that, in the cross of Jesus, we see most clearly just how much our God loves us. The cross, like no other symbol, should cry out to us every time we see it: Behold how much God loves you!
It’s been many years now since Mel Gibson produced the movie The Passion of the Christ. It was a movie focusing on the last week of Jesus’ life, especially His trial & crucifixion. The film was controversial & sparked a lot of conversation & debate. It has its strengths & weaknesses.
It was certainly violent, graphic & bloody. Some objected to the extended scenes of the torture of Jesus as gratuitous violence, the product of a director who was in love with violence, produced for an audience that had a thirst for violence. Others warned that the film portrayed the Jews as Christ-killers, & that it might result in violence against Jewish people.
Some lamented that across the entire, long film, there was nothing of the purest, highest aspect of true religion, which is love. Still, for many Christians who saw the film, though they may have found it hard to watch, they also found it to be a powerful display of just how much Jesus does loves us – that He would endure for us such hatred & scorn, abuse & pain.
How large is God’s love for you? How do you measure how much He values you? One
way to understand that is to ask, “What would He pay to have you?” What would God be willing to give for your good, for your welfare & for your safety?
Putting that into perspective, how much do you value a good cup of coffee – enough to pay four or five dollars? How much do you value your dog or cat – enough to pay for all the food & grooming & medicine & check-ups? How much do you value having the latest phone – enough to pay . . . whatever it is they’re asking these days?
To some extent, the cost you’re willing to pay for something shows how much you value that thing. At the cross of Jesus, a price was paid; a cost that cannot begin to be measured in money. At the cross, you & I were ransomed, purchased & obtained for God, “not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ.”
It is a staggering cost which reveals a staggering love. The Bible marvels at this cost from two perspectives, that of the Father & that of the Son. The 1st is that of God the Father offering up His only & beloved Son for sinners.
When the Bible speaks of Jesus as God’s only Son & as God’s beloved Son, it evokes the heart-wrenching story of Abraham & the near-sacrifice of Isaac: “Abraham! Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, & go to the land of Moriah, & offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” (Genesis 22:1–2) Can you imagine?
In the end, God sent His angel to stop Abraham, who had the knife in hand, & God instead provided a ram for the sacrifice. In the fullness of time, God would again provide a sacrifice, a more perfect sacrifice, One for the sin of all humanity: not Isaac, the only & beloved son of Abraham, but rather Jesus, God’s only & beloved Son from all eternity.
This time, no animal would appear in a thicket to spare the Son or the Father this cost. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world is not a lamb, but a Son. In His love & mercy toward sinners, God the Father gave up His only, beloved Son to the pain & shame of crucifixion, to divine judgment & abandonment: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus cried out from the cross. Oh, what His mercy toward us sinners cost the Father!
The Bible doesn’t dwell on the emotional poignancy of the Father sacrificing His Son, but it does derive great comfort from the fact that the Father spent so much. St. Paul wrote, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:31–32)
Our salvation has come at a staggering cost to the Father, but the Bible also speaks of this cost from a 2nd perspective, that of the Son, who goes willingly to the cross: “I lay down my life for the sheep. No one takes it from me, I lay it down of my own accord.” (John 10:15, 18)
Jesus was determined, He was resolute, in walking His path to the cross, even though He knew the cost would be dreadful. Facing the hour of His betrayal & suffering, Jesus deliberated, “Now my soul is troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ But for this purpose I have come to this hour!” (John 12:27)
In Gethsemane, Jesus said, “My soul is very sorrowful, even unto death.” Yet He prayed, “My Father, your will be done.” (Mt 26:38, 42) The cost was so unthinkable that Jesus sweated drops of blood while He prayed. An angel appeared, not to prevent the sacrifice, but to comfort Him, & Jesus refused to summon the twelve legions of angels who could have rescued Him.
Jesus’ mercy was so rich & His love so abounding that He paid this staggering cost for sinners. “Glory be to Jesus, who in bitter pains, poured for me the lifeblood, from His sacred veins.” (LSB 433:1) How great is God’s love for you? What are its depths & dimensions? Behold the cost to the Father & the Son, willingly paid, willingly suffered, willingly offered to give up one’s life for another is a tremendous sacrifice. We call it “the ultimate
sacrifice.” A life is an enormous payment, a staggering cost, but the cost at the cross of Jesus was something of even greater worth. It was the lifeblood of the Son of God. The holy & eternal Word, now in our flesh, heaves & gasps on the cross.
The all-glorious Son of God, before whom the angels of heaven cry aloud in joy & praise & awe, the only-begotten Son of the Father from eternity, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God. His blood runs out. His breath expires. God dies, for the lives of men who killed Him. One drop of His blood is more precious than heaven & earth.
The cost of all this! Behold the love of God, how deep, how broad, how high. This great cost proves God’s love for you & also reveals how desperately we need His forgiveness. The precious, infinite cost reveals how serious & damnable our sin was.
In the garden, Jesus had prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39) If it had been possible, if there were some other way, if there were some lesser cost, some lesser price that would have restored us, would the Father have denied the Son’s prayer?
But our sin is so wicked, such an offense against God & so much harm to God’s creatures, that it required the blood of the only, beloved Son of God – a cost that He has willingly paid.
“Ye who neither think of sin but lightly nor suppose the evil great here may view its nature rightly, here its guilt may estimate. Mark the sacrifice appointed, see who bears the awful load; ’Tis the Word, the Lord’s anointed, Son of Man & Son of God.” (LSB 451:3)
“He has redeemed me, a lost & condemned person, purchased & won me from all sins, from death, & from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood & with His innocent suffering & death, that I may be His own & live under Him in His kingdom & serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence & blessedness.” Yes, the cross is the most cherished symbol of our religion. It reminds us again & again & again of the saving death of Jesus Christ for sinners. It reminds us again & again & again of just how much our Creator loves us. Amen.
When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died, my richest gain I count but loss & pour contempt on all my pride. See, from His head, His hands, His feet sorrow & love flow mingled down! Did e’er such love & sorrow meet or thorns compose so rich a crown? Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a tribute far too small; love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all! Amen. LSB 425:1, 3-4.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet