Simple but Powerful: What is the meaning of Jesus’ sacrifice?

Jesus came to give himself as a sacrifice for all peoples so that we could escape our corruption and reconnect with God.  This plan was announced at the beginning of human history, such that even the ancient Chinese knew of it.  It was signed by God in the sacrifice of Abraham by pointing to Mount Moriah where Jesus’ sacrifice would be provided.  Then the Jewish Passover sacrifice was a sign pointing to the day of the year when Jesus would be sacrificed.  Further details were predicted in various prophecies in the Old Testament.

Why is his sacrifice so important?  This is a question that summarizes the whole Bible – it is its main message.  The Bible declares a Law when it states:

For the wages of sin is death… (Romans 6:23)

“Death” literally means ‘separation’.  When our soul separates from our body we die physically.  Similarly we are even now separated from God spiritually.  This is true because God is Holy (sinless) while we have become corrupted from our original creation and so we sin.

This can be pictured with two cliffs with God on the opposite side from us separated by a large gap.  Just like a branch that has been cut from a tree is separated and dead, so we have cut ourselves off from God and become separated and spiritually dead.

We are separated from God by our sins like a chasm separating two cliffs
We are separated from God by our sins like a chasm separating two cliffs

This separation causes guilt and fear.  So what we naturally try to do is build bridges to take us from our side (of death) to God’s side.  We do this in many different ways: going to church, temple or mosque, being religious, being good, helping the poor, meditation, trying to be more helpful, praying more, etc.  These deeds are often through religion to gain merit and can be very difficult – and living them out can be very complicated.  This is illustrated in the next figure.

Good Efforts – useful as they may be - cannot bridge the separation between us and God
Religious Merit and Good Effort – useful as they may be – cannot bridge the separation between us and God

The problem is that our hard efforts, merits, and deeds, though not wrong, are insufficient because the payment required (the ‘wages’) for our sins is ‘death’.  Our efforts are like a ‘bridge’ that tries to cross the gap separating us from God – but in the end cannot do it.  This is because good merit will not solve our root problem. It is like trying to heal cancer (which results in death) by eating vegetarian.  Eating vegetarian is not bad, it may even be good – but it will not cure cancer.  For a cancer cure you need a totally different treatment.

This Law is Bad News – it is so bad we often do not even want to hear it and we fill our lives with activities and things hoping this Law will go away.  But the Bible stresses this Law of sin and death to get our attention to focus on the cure that is simple and powerful.

For the wages of sin is death but… (Romans 6:23)

The small word ‘but’ shows that the direction of the message is about to change directions, to the Good News of the Gospel – the cure.  It shows both the goodness and love of God.

For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23)

The good news of the gospel is that the sacrifice of Jesus’ death is sufficient to bridge this separation between us and God.  We know this because three days after his death Jesus rose bodily, coming alive again in a physical resurrection.   Most of us do not know about the evidence for his resurrection.  Jesus’ sacrifice was prophetically acted out in Abraham’s sacrifice and the Passover sacrifice.  These signs pointing to Jesus were put there to help us find the cure.

Jesus said about himself:

 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I AM!” (John 8:53)

When Jesus said he was ‘I Am’, he was using an Old Testament name for God.  But Jesus was also a man.  As the Bible says:

For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 2:5)

Because he was both human and Divine, he is a mediator between God and mankind.  Therefore he can ‘touch’ both sides of the chasm and span the gap separating God and people.  He is a Bridge to Life which can be pictured like this:

Jesus is the Bridge that spans the chasm between God and mankind
Jesus is the Bridge that spans the chasm between God and mankind

Notice how this sacrifice of Jesus is given to us.  It is offered as a … ‘gift’.  Think about gifts.  No matter what the gift is, if it is really a gift it is something that you do not work for and that you do not earn by merit.  If you earned it the gift would no longer be a gift – it would be a wage!  In the same way you cannot merit or earn the sacrifice of Jesus.  It is given to you as a gift.  It is that simple.

And what is the gift?  It is ‘eternal life’.  That means that the sin which brought you and me death is now canceled.  Jesus’ bridge of life enables us to re-connect with God and receive life – which lasts forever.  God loves you and me that much.  It is that powerful.

So how do you and I ‘cross’ this Bridge of Life?  Again, think of gifts.  If someone wants to give you a gift you must ‘receive’ it.  Anytime a gift is offered there are two alternatives.  Either the gift is refused (“No thank you”) or it is received (“Thank you for your gift.  I will take it”).  So also this gift offered must be received.  It cannot simply be mentally believed in, studied or understood.  This is illustrated in the next figure where we ‘walk’ on the Bridge by turning to God and receiving his gift he offers to us.

Jesus sacrifice is a gift that each of us must choose to receive
Jesus sacrifice is a gift that each of us must choose to receive

So how do we receive this gift?  The Bible says that

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:12)

Notice that this promise is for ‘everyone’.  Since he rose from the dead Jesus is alive even now and he is ‘Lord’.  So if you call on him he will hear and give his gift to you.  You call out to him and ask him – by having a conversation with him.  Perhaps you have never done this.  Below is a prayer that can guide you. It is not a magic chant.  It is not the specific words that give power.  It is the trust like Abraham had that we place in him to give us this gift.  As we trust him He will hear us and answer.  The Gospel is powerful, and yet also so simple.  Feel free to follow this guide if you find it helpful.

Dear Lord Jesus.  I understand that with my sins I am separated from God.  Though I can try hard, no effort and sacrifice on my part will bridge this separation.  But I understand that your death was a sacrifice to wash away all my sins.  I believe that you rose from the dead after your sacrifice so I know that your sacrifice was sufficient.  I ask you to please cleanse me from my sins and bridge me to God so I can have eternal life.  I do not want to live a life enslaved to sin so please free me from sin.  Thank you, Lord Jesus, for doing all this for me and would you even now continue to guide me in my life so I can follow you as my Lord.

Amen

This message is what is known as the gospel – which literally means ‘good news’.  The gospel does raise alot of questions.  Feel free to browse the articles and questions on the side-bar in our sister websites.  Or you can browse the articles in other languages.  For sure, the gospel is worth becoming informed about, and I hope you can take opportunity to consider it.  One way is to view a film about Jesus’ life from the gospels or listen to audio stories from the Bible.