The Ultimate Sacrifice

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As Passover approaches, we are reminded of the ultimate and loving sacrifice Jesus Christ made for us. We must also, however, remember our part in the plan of salvation—choosing to obey God.

Astronauts returning from a space mission have often commented on the incredible beauty of our planet as viewed from a space shuttle. Yet there was a time when our earth and the entire universe as we know it became devoid of beauty, and empty darkness covered the entire earth (Genesis:1:2).

Then God through the power of His Holy Spirit began to re-create the planet astronauts now admire as a beautiful sphere hanging in space. In the re-creation of earth, God also created the image of His family, the human race—man created from the dust of the earth, woman created from man. A renewed earth was born from the chaos of Satan's rebellion (Isaiah:14:12-14).

But it wasn't long before the first couple disobeyed their Creator and fell for Satan's subtlety. Falling prey to the wiles of the devil, they broke the First Commandment, allowing Satan to become their god (Exodus:20:3). The human race has been under the influence of a false god ever since. Even the apostle Paul warned that Satan was, and is, the god of this world (2 Corinthians:4:4).

The Ability to Choose

God created mankind with free moral agency, the ability to choose between right and wrong, good and evil. It was all part of the plan God instituted from the foundations of the world to save His greatest creation, the human race.

Eventually He called an entire nation from slavery, gave them His laws, His statutes and His commands. But He also gave them choice: "I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live" (Deuteronomy:30:19).

But rather than obey God, the Israelites chose the way of the devil. Like Adam and Eve, they were more interested in forbidden fruit, and the whole world has eaten of the forbidden fruit ever since.

So God, in His forgiving love and mercy, gave the human race a solution, a plan of salvation, a plan blueprinted in seven annual festivals. The key to the plan was sacrifice. Sin, the transgression of God's law (1 John:3:4), brought mankind the penalty of death, a penalty that required payment (Romans:6:23). In order to settle the debt and remove the death penalty, a loving merciful God gave the world a sacrifice for sin (John:3:16).

In his letter to the Church of God at Rome, the apostle Paul put it this way; "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned... For if by the one man's offense death reigned through the one [Adam], much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ" (Romans:5:12, 17).

God's plan to save a sin-filled world involved one perfect sacrifice for all imperfection. Jesus explained to His disciples the events that had to transpire: "You know that after two days is the Passover, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified" (Matthew:26:1-2), just as it was prophesied in the Old Testament.

"He [Christ] is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah:53:3-6).

One perfect life of the Son of God served as the debt for every imperfect human being that ever lived, but at the same time God did not remove mankind's ability to choose. Payment for sin is not automatic. We still have a choice to make, and that choice is to accept or reject the One who paid the price, the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf (John:6:51, 53).

Jesus died under the most cruel and inhumane method known at that time. A riotous mob, whipped into frenzy by the Pharisees and others, demanded He be put to death. "Pilate said to them, 'What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?' They all said to him, 'Let Him be crucified!' Then the governor said, 'Why, what evil has He done?' But they cried out all the more, saying, 'Let Him be crucified!' (Matthew:27:22-23).

Planned From the Beginning

We are reminded that the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ was designed to forgive the world of sin, eventually allowing millions an opportunity at eternal life. "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and to them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation" (Hebrews:9:27-28, King James Version).

We look at the history of creation and recognize that God, at some point in time, made a decision to expand His family. When the first created human beings disobeyed, it allowed sin to enter the human sphere. God then instituted a plan of salvation, a biblical blueprint with seven annual festivals depicting the fulfillment of that plan. Christ became the central figure, the focus of a plan that would allow the human race salvation—an opportunity to become members of God's expanded family. "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings" (Hebrews:2:9-10).

This world, including some who observe the Passover, may not fully comprehend that this one time (for all time) sacrifice put God's plan of salvation, revealed through His festivals, into effect. Passover is a serious solemn occasion, a renewal of the covenant made at baptism when we accepted Jesus Christ as our personal Savior. As a result, each year prior to the Passover observance, we are admonished to examine not each other, but ourselves.

"Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us" (1 Corinthians:5:7).  UN

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