You’ve probably said it yourself, “Jesus died for me,” but do you really know what that means? I don’t think most people do. In fact, I don’t think most people understand the perfect symmetry of the bible at all. Allow me to put it all in a nutshell for you, from the beginning.
First, I want you to think about how many books there are in your local library- how big is that building? Then, imagine how many books there must be in our National Library- about how big is that building, do you imagine? Next, think about combining all the libraries in the world- how big would that building have to be? Then, think about the fact that human beings can’t cure the common cold, haven’t traveled past our own moon or haven’t yet even traveled to the bottom of the ocean floor. Basically, we haven’t even scratched the top of what is yet to be known. Thus, all those books are just the beginning of knowledge and they still require a massive building to house them. That is the sum of human intelligence.
Then, imagine how much more knowledge the Maker of All must have. Then imagine the Maker of all putting all his knowledge into one book. That book is the bible.
God has created a book of such exquisite perfection that every word, every phrase, every sentence is of such relevance and import that nothing in it can be discounted. One must assume that every single part was included for a monumental purpose if it was included at all. God left us something to guide us through this massive existence- and he pared down all his knowledge into this one. single. missive. Imagine that.
While it may not contain every bit of God’s knowledge, we may safely assume that it contains the most valuable of what God intends us to know in this current state of being. Thus, we must pay close attention to this amazing book, mustn’t we?
Now that we have established the Bible to be the most intense body of knowledge in the world, let us study it more closely. It is full of what we would call narratives and meta-narratives, or, stories within stories; symbols within symbols. Mere prose would not due.
The bible uses stories & parables to convey the larger story of God’s love and plan for human beings. He does this to hammer his intention deep into the human psyche. He often waits for an idea to sink into the cumulative human psyche for thousands of years before introducing a new idea. He understands that we, as a People, need time to absorb knowledge.
He loves us enough to ensure that we can not possibly miss his meaning. He makes it clear by repeating his message in every way possible. He gives his message symbolically, poetically, literally and prosaically. He repeats it over and over again and leaves vast amounts of time for humanity, in general, to discuss and absorb it. There can be no mistake.
Over and over again he says, “I do this so that you will know that I am God.” Not because he is an egomaniac but because if we know he is God then we can believe in him and if we believe in him we will obey him and if we obey him we will find everlasting life with all joy and peace. He wishes this for us. But if we can’t believe that he is God, then he knows we are stubborn and we will die. This is not what he wants. His great love prevents this outcome.
So, let us get back to the question, what does it mean that ‘Jesus died for me?’ When God first created man, he created them in perfect communion with himself- sinless, but with full choice of wrong vs. right; with full choice of another Being to follow- Satan. They chose to love chose to love Satan above God- they chose to believe him above God. I know that God knew, from the beginning, that Man would make this choice- he is ominscient, nothing is a surprise to him. After all, He also created satan and put him in the Garden too. Satan was made for this purpose. Everything that happened in the Garden was according to God’s plan for Humanity. Satan didn’t do anything against God- he merely served God’s intended purpose. I don’t believe mankind was done ‘cooking’, so to speak, after God made him and unleashed him into the Garden of Eden. We were always meant to eat tht apple, gain the knowledge of good/evil, Fall the Great Fall and then, enter into the sinful world where we would be posed with a Greater Question. Whom will we serve: Jesus or satan?
God had a plan on how to reconcile mankind back to himself from the beginning. It was a plan based in logic and justice. God is not a Being who just does whatever he wants- he is not capricious, nor is he an imp. He is bound by his own love of logic and justice- his plan must make sense to himself. He can’t just make man perfect again, nor will he force mankind to love him (after all, is that love?). There must be a way to reconcile man to God that doesn’t compromise his sense of justice, logic and love. And it must be rolled out in a logical manner. This plan is evident in the Bible for those who care to read and see.
God first built a relationship with only a small group of human beings. He focused all his attention on them. From them, he planned on spreading all knowledge of himself and his plan of reconciliation to the rest of humanity. These were his Chosen people- the Israelites.
First, he needed to introduce the idea of himself, One God, omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. There is only One God and He is It. Second, he taught man about Sin, about Right vs. Wrong. Next, about how to reconcile Man back to God through the sacrifice of animals upon the altar- only the most valuable, the most perfect and pure of the flock would suffice. God demanded that man take the very best of what he had and give it to him in order to say, “I’m sorry for what I did. I want to make up with you, God. This is a sign of my repentance and desire to be close to you again.”
From the beginning, Abraham made animal sacrifices in order to honor God and to make atonement for his sins and those of his family. As herders, this was also a sacrifice of great wealth. This was the beginning of mankind’s training. In summary, we learned that God exists over us, we sin and make atonement through personal sacrifice. This sacrifice was normally in the form of a pure animal which we killed upon an altar and burned. This meant that no one could possibly eat it or use it for any other purpose- it was ‘given’ entirely to God.
For several thousand years, Israelites continued this practice, thus establishing this idea of sacrifice of life/blood to their One True God for the atonement of sins. This idea became completely ingrained into the psyche of mankind- at least into the psyche of this particular group of mankind. It was a very concentrated group of mankind. This was a purposeful unfolding of God’s plan. He was unrolling his redemption plan step by step, you see.
Next, God unrolled his next step. He needed to make the burden of sin and reconciliation impossible for mankind to prove once and for all that mankind was beyond hope of redemption on their own. Now that they knew they were sinful and needed to atone, he needed them to understand that they could not possibly do it alone.
He first imprisoned the Israelites for 430 years in Egypt to make them weak and humble so that they could hear his next message (God knows people are naturally resistant to his messages. We usually need to be completely broken before we will ever hear what we need to hear.) Then, he called Moses to rescue them. This established Moses as their great hero, thus making them more open to listening to him. He called Moses up to the mountain to give him the new, impossible, burdensome LAW. He gave Moses the Ten Commandments. While most people believe that God only gave the 10 commandments, he actually gave a huge number of commandments- books full of commandments (Genesis, Leviticus, Numbers) that outlined all the kinds of sacrifices that a person had to make for just about every kind of sin that a person could possibly make- including sins of which they were ignorant! These became known as the Jewish Law.
These became the impossible set of rules that sat like huge weights upon the necks of every Jew- even till today. No Jew can possibly live except in terrible guilt; no Jew can possibly live by this Law. Apostle Paul explains to us that the Law was given by God so that mankind could understand, once and for all, that our sin is insurmountable by us. No amount of sacrifice can atone for it. We would be standing by the altar day and night sacrificing to satisfy the Law! Paul calls the Law a curse!
God let mankind stew in that uncomfortable juice for about one thousand, five hundred years, just to drive the point home: you are hopeless on your own. God never leaves anything to chance, see. Only when humanity was fully ripe did he finally send his Son. Only when humanity was groaning once more for deliverance did he send the true hero. Oh, let’s not forget that he also had the Romans there to step on the Israelite’s collective necks. Once again, the Jews were slaves, only in their own land this time. Poor, trodden upon and despised, they were once again crying out for a Savior. All the prophets were speaking again- the Messiah was near, the Messiah was near. God sent John ahead of Jesus to tell everyone that the Messiah was upon them and was coming soon. Only then did he send Jesus.
Mankind was finally ready to hear God’s final plan for how mankind could reconcile themselves back to God. They already understood that there was only One True God. They understood death/blood sacrifice. They already knew that something of great value needed to be given to repay God for their sins against him. They already understood that they sinned and what kinds of sins they committed every day. And they understood, through generations of knowledge, that humanity was hopeless in redeeming itself back to God.
Unfortunately, their priests had begun to teach them that the Messiah whom they sought was coming to relieve them from their earthly problems (ie, the Roman invasion) and not their spiritual problems! Sadly, they were thinking way too small! They didn’t grasp the enormous, gigantic, awesome gift that the Messiah was bringing instead- absolute freedom from the torturous Law and everlasting life- no more death and no more guilt! That is why they were angry when Jesus was arrested- they thought they had been duped by an impostor. If the Messiah was to free them from the Romans, then Jesus was not the Messiah, right? How could King David Returned ever allow himself to be arrested by the puny police?? He must be a fraud and a faker! They were enraged by him. They just didn’t get it.
Even the apostles didn’t understand this when they were with him. They asked him when the kingdom of heaven would be established. They, too, thought Jesus would be establishing David’s kingdom on earth right there and then. They did not understand that Jesus was talking about God’s heavenly kingdom. I think it took them quite a while to figure it out themselves. That is why they cried when he died. They didn’t understand his death either. He had to rise again for them to finally and fully understand.
Jesus tried to tell them but it took a while for them to realize that all their previous teachings about the Messiah had been incorrect. The Messiah had come to give them much more than an earthly victory over the Romans. Jesus had come to give them victory over sin forever. He had come so that they would not die after a mere 80 or so years- so that they would live forever in perfection. So that they could die to their sin and be reborn to perfection so that they could live in peace with a perfect God.
Jesus came to be the final and perfect sacrifice just as mankind had always been required to give the very best of their flock to be their sacrifice to God. He was the most perfect blood sacrifice. He is much better than any goat or sheep or grain or dove. He is so much greater that his blood sacrifice is sufficient for all mankind forever. His one sacrifice is enough to satisfy for all of us. God allowed Jesus to do this thing for us because he loves us that much. Jesus did this for us because he loves us that much, not because he was forced to do it. He gave himself of his own free will. Thus, our need for atonement was eternally satisfied through his death on the altar.
Thus far, it makes total sense, right? That is what it means when we say, “Jesus died for me.” But there is more! Death is not where this story ends! If it ended there, what good would it do? We would still die.
But Jesus rose from the dead! That means something. The entire point of Jesus rising was to tell us that he has the power to raise us from the dead as well. He promised us not only forgiveness of sins, but eternal life. He told us we would be reborn into perfect bodies. When Jesus was raised from the dead, he was different. He was radiant, he walked through walls, he could appear and disappear. He showed himself in these ways, I have no doubt, to prove to us what our new bodies would also be like when we are also raised from the dead. He is the first to be resurrected. We will also be resurrected.
We, in our current, sinful state, can no more live with our perfect God than we could allow an unrepentant murderer to live in our home with our children. Something so completely essential must change for us to trust that person- in fact, what could possibly convince us to allow him/her to live in our home? Nothing. No, only a complete rebirth would do. We, too, must be completely remade into perfect beings before we can live with God-it is only logical.
We can’t make war or steal or wreck things in heaven. That would be intolerable, wouldn’t it? God couldn’t be our forever babysitter, could he? How would that be any different than Earth? Thus, this body and mind must die. And then we must be reborn into something new, something perfect. We must be remade. We will no longer suffer from temptation. We will be above it. When Jesus raises us from the dead, we will be in this new, perfect state and we will be able to live in God’s home. No one will ever be tempted to sin again. We can all relax. It is all perfectly logical. This is the plan for our reconciliation.
Furthermore, it was also time for God to build relationship with the rest of mankind too. His new covenant was never only meant for the Jews. Jesus told the Jews that ‘whoever obeyed God were his mother and brother and sisters’, thus adopting gentiles into his family. He also told the apostles to go out into the entire world to spread the good news of forgiveness of sin and eternal life. God revealed to Peter to go into the Gentile nations and baptize them in the Holy Spirit. Now that God had so fully concentrated all his knowledge into a single people, he was going to use them as missionaries into the world. They were to be his yeast for the entire loaf of mankind. What a marvelous, logical plan!
No more must we forever burn offerings for atonement. All we must now do is simply believe that Jesus did this for us out of love and that he can and will raise us from the dead to live forever with him in heaven. That is all- that is the new ‘deal’.
I say, “That is all”, but really, this is very difficult for human beings. The real question is: “How much do you love God?” God said that he made us in his image. Is this not the question of our lives too? “How much do you love me?” How many people do we test with this question? To whom do we not pose this question? We do so even at our work. We must be valued. We are indeed like God in this need. Those who value God will live with him forever. Those who do not value God will die. Satan was created on purpose. He is the other tempting choice. God made him tempting on purpose. He only wants true love. He made Satan beautiful, enchanting, charming and rich while he holds back his power and wealth. He wants his lovers to love him for himself and not for his riches. Who can blame him?
We are being tested, friends, because true love must be tested to be known. God gave us free will; that free will must be tested. Only when we are given a choice and only when that choice is exercised can God know our hearts. Whom do you love best? That is the question. Answering that is what your life is all about. If you choose God, then you will understand what it means, “Jesus died for me.” He died because God knew mankind needed to break away from him and move into a world of choice between him and satan. He needed you to have a difficult choice so that he could know for sure that you loved him above all else. He wanted you to love him so much that you would give up your earthly life for him. You chose him so he gave you Jesus to die for your sins so that you could be reborn. In being reborn into a perfect body and mind, you could be reconciled into an even better version of yourself than you were from the beginning and so that you will now live in perfect harmony with him forever. That, is why Jesus died for you.