Why did Jesus die on the cross for us?
“To save us from our sins”, some will answer. Christ is, indeed, our Saviour. As Paul writes to Titus, Jesus ‘gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness’ (Tit 2: 14a).
In the modern world, poor performance in the first quarter of a game or an ineffectual contribution to a debate might be redeemed by a better performance in the next quarter or a stirring speech. To redeem is to compensate for earlier faults.
It can also mean to make payment to gain or regain possession of something you believe belongs to you. There is a cost to bringing something home you once lost.
When Jesus died on that cross, he knowingly and willingly paid a terrible cost – humiliation, suffering and death in order that the wickedness of our hearts be forgiven, our faults be covered over, and each one of us welcomed home.
But Paul doesn’t end there. There is a second half to Titus 2: 14. Jesus also gave himself for us ‘to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good’.
Jesus forgave us and set us free from all wickedness, but he also purified us. I love the way Paul expresses it in 2 Cor 5: 21: ‘God made him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God’. We have become the righteousness of God. He has purified us. And now we belong to Him.
Think about that for a moment – we belong to Him. We are His very own. Paul also wrote: ‘You are not your own; you were bought at a price’ (1 Cor 6: 20). Years ago, as a young man and as a fairly new Christian, I was walking down a street in London and a strange thought struck me: ‘What if God was calling me to become a monk?’ The possibility completely freaked me out. I wouldn’t be able to get married, have kids. I couldn’t get the idea out of my mind.
Now, nearly forty years later, God never did call me to a monastery, and He has blessed me with a family and many other good things, but oddly I still find it difficult to completely surrender everything to Him and His purposes. There are things I want in life. What if He takes them away?
When two people, who are in love, have a healthy relationship they don’t dread their wedding day. They don’t worry about losing their independence; they are not fearful that their new life together will force them to do things they don’t want to do; or that their spouse will take something away. They know there will be sacrifice, some struggles even, but their love for each other overshadows all of that.
So, too as I/we realise afresh God’s infinite love for us and His loving care of every part of our lives, we too might relinquish our independence without fear and with enough trust in Him to pray the following prayer:
Suggested prayer: “Lord, I belong to you. You own me. You paid a precious price for me because you love me. Enable me to discover and do the things you have called me to. I submit my plans to your wider purposes. Change them or confirm them according to your purposes. I surrender to your will because you are a loving God and I belong to you. Amen”