How Jesus’s Incomparable Sacrifice Defeats His Scoffers and Astounds His Followers

By Tom Gilson Published on March 29, 2024

Today, on Good Friday, we remember Jesus’s death on the cross for our sins. It’s easy to underestimate what that means — or rather, it’s impossible to understand all that it means. Atheists and skeptics scoff at the facts and the meaning of Jesus’s sacrifice, not realizing their mockery shows Jesus in an even greater light. Meanwhile, the Scriptures keep giving us even more reason to worship Him for the amazing magnitude of His sacrifice for us. 

Scoffers vs. the Facts

Some scoffers challenge the fact of Jesus’s death and resurrection by making His story just another myth. “There are lots of dying and rising god myths,” they say, as if there were any other story like His. It only serves to show that there isn’t.

The most famous myth they can point to is that of Orpheus and Eurydice. According to Greek mythology, Orpheus descended to the underworld to see his dead wife, Eurydice. The god of the underworld, Hades, gave them both the chance to return to life together, but they failed his test. Orpheus was forced to leave and not return, while Eurydice remained in the realm of the dead. Really: Does that sound like Jesus?

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No. None of the other resurrection myths sound even remotely like Jesus, either. No mythical god died as a willing sacrifice for others’ sins. No god of mythology forgave his killers. None of these gods ever conquered death through dying and rising again.

There are hundreds more reasons we can be confident the accounts are true, so we need not worry about these scoffers.

Scoffers  vs. the True Meaning

Others attack the meaning of  Jesus’s sacrifice, even going so far as to say, “According to your story, Jesus knew He was rising again soon. So how can you call it such a great sacrifice, when all He had was a bad weekend?” Seriously. I’ve seen this often, and you’ll find a lot of it in a web search, especially on Reddit. I’m grateful to say you can find good Christian responses there, too, including some of these, for example. For the best answers we don’t go to Reddit, we go to Scripture. Peter says, for example,

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God. (1 Peter 3:7)

and

He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:22-24)

He “bore our sins in his body on the tree.” That one fact separates the Passion story from every bad weekend every one of us has ever had, put together. Before the Cross there was the flogging, and upon the Cross there was the slow death by exhaustion and asphyxiation. But the physical pain was from being the worst of it.

Jesus was and is God, the Holy One, meaning He had no sin in Him. No dirt. No ugliness of thought. No stain of greed or lust or impatience. No self-centered anger. There on the Cross, though, He bore our sin upon Himself: all of the anger, the murders, the greed, the back-biting, the enslavement, the hatred, all the evil we do and all the evil we have ever done or will do, throughout all time.

So we need not worry about these scoffers, either. They only help us see how great Jesus’s sacrifice was, and therefore how great His love for us. 

Forget the scoffers, though. There’s still more to marvel at in Jesus’s choice to die for us.

Was Jesus’ Sacrifice Any Different from Martyrs?

He isn’t the only man who’s made the hard choice to die for others, though, right? Don’t be too quick to answer that.

It’s true that first responders willingly gave up their lives in the Twin Towers on 9/11. Soldiers have willingly thrown themselves on grenades, dying to protect their buddies from the blast. These examples represent many other heroes who have demonstrated the greatest love a person can have by giving their lives for their friends, or sometimes even for strangers. Jesus said so Himself. These people deserve every honor we give them, and more.

Still, there is no comparison: Even the best of us cannot compare to Jesus.

Still, there is no comparison: Even the best of us cannot compare to Jesus. We say, “These heroes chose to die for others,” and that’s true but it’s also not true, both at the same time. They made the brave choice of when, how, and for what purpose they would die, but that doesn’t mean they chose to die. In the long run, death is not a choice.

Not even heroes decide whether to die. To be born, or even to be conceived in the womb, is to be destined to die, no choice about it, unless Jesus comes back first and makes the life choice for us. So in truth is that no one choose to die — no one but Jesus. He also is the only person in history who ever made the choice to be born.

Who Can Make This Choice?

How do we know this? We could speculate about what it means that He had no sin. Did that mean He didn’t carry the original cause of death in Him, declared by God in Genesis 3? Could He have lived on forever in His human flesh? Or did His human inheritance through Mary mean He had a mortal body that eventually would have expired had He not elected to go to the cross? I don’t know, and I don’t need to know. We can still be sure His death was His own free choice — a choice no other person has ever been able to make. 

Consider this: There’s only one way to ensure you will never die, and that is by never being born. It’s a weird thought, but strangely enough, five years ago a man in India named Raphael Samuel sued his parents for wrongful birth, almost as if he should have been allowed prior informed consent. (Yes, he’s either a nut case or a publicity hound, I’m not sure which.) Still his story did some good, at least for me, because it got me thinking: Imagine if he actually  had been allowed that prior informed consent. He could have chosen whether to be born or not, which would mean he also was choosing whether to die or not.

Only Jesus

Only Jesus gave prior informed consent. He chose to be born. It didn’t just happen to Him, as it does to all the rest of us, and it wasn’t forced on Him through the activities of others. Though He was God, He chose to take on human nature, to be born as a child as all are born, and to grow up just as we all grow up, if God wills.

Pray for the scoffers. Meditate on Jesus’s glorious sacrifice, His perfect love, His unparalleled goodness. Thank Him for it. And worship Him.

And when He died, He died by His own choice. In fact, He chose to be born so that He could die – die for our sins, that is, to reconcile us to God in forgiving love.

Heroes may decide whether, when, and for what purpose they die, but only Jesus truly chose to die. He chose to have that “bad weekend” — that incomparably, painfully, horribly bad weekend, bearing all our sin and all our pain. He chose it for our sakes.

Two Encouraging Conclusions

I draw two conclusions from this. (I’m sure you can think of more.) First, the scoffers are wrong beyond all conceivable wrongness. Never let them take you in with idle talk about Jesus’s being some ordinary “dying and rising god story,” among all the other dying and rising god stories. His is far too different for that, and His goodness is far too good to be force-fit into that category. And don’t be swayed by dismissive talk about the crucifixion being “just a bad weekend.” It comes from ignorance, boosted by rank foolishness.

Second, what Jesus did for us on the cross was a greater sacrifice, a greater demonstration of love, than we could possibly grasp. It was stunningly, amazingly, astonishingly, and in fact perfectly good. We have never seen goodness like it anywhere, except in Jesus Himself.

Pray for the scoffers. Meditate on Jesus’s glorious sacrifice, His perfect love, His unparalleled goodness. Thank Him for it. And worship Him.

 

Tom Gilson (@TomGilsonAuthor) is a senior editor with The Stream and the author or editor of six books, including the highly acclaimed Too Good To Be False: How Jesus’ Incomparable Character Reveals His Reality.

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