Would you sacrifice your life to save someone who hated you?
Jesus came to earth knowing what we would do—knowing that he would be hated and betrayed. Knowing that we would love him on Palm Sunday and hail him as a hero, and that by Friday we would be in the crowd shouting, “Crucify him!”
That we would demand the freedom of a murderer over his freedom.
That in his most desperate hour of need, even those of us closest to him would deny him.
That he would be betrayed by the kiss of a friend. For money.
It is one thing to sacrifice for someone you love. But it is quite another thing to lay down your life for someone who has betrayed you, adamantly denied knowing you, demanded that you be killed… and mocked you in your final hours.
In five day’s time Jesus went from being loved and adored by crowds of followers to being beaten, pierced, scorned and nailed to a cross. But he went willingly, a lamb to the slaughter, even though he knew.
That’s the part that gets me every time. He knew that he had come to earth to save the lost, to heal the broken—and to give his life as a ransom for many. He knew that those who loved him would leave him and those who followed him would turn around and hate him.
He knew that for generations, people would deny him and hate him. Love him for a moment and then spit in his face the next. That even those of us who believe in him would go astray and doubt him, shake our fist at him in anger and turn away. Deny that we know him. Betray him for money. Cast our lots for his clothes in his very presence.
But he came anyway. He came and he hung on that cross and looked down upon all those who had hatred in their hearts for him and he prayed to God to forgive them all. For we knew not what we had done.
He did it for Peter, and for Judas, for the criminal hanging next to him on the cross, and for all of those followers who shouted “Hosanna!” on Sunday and “Crucify him!” on Friday.
Jesus saw our frailty and our fickleness. He saw how easy it was for us to tell him we loved him and then take it away at the first sign of hardship. He saw the ugliness of our hearts, and he knew, long before Good Friday, what kind of people we were—the kind of people who didn’t deserve to be saved. Insecure, deceptive, disloyal, cruel. He should have left us to suffer for our wickedness. That’s what we deserve.
But he didn’t. He hung on that cross until it was finished. Until the gap between Heaven and earth was closed and we were covered in mercy by the blood that should have been on our hands. Instead we were cleansed by it, covered in it, overcome by it.
What kind of love is this?
The kind of love that is willing and eager to look past our faults and failures and offer us hope, a future, redemption. It’s perfect love, the likes of which we would never know if not for the sacrifice of a perfect savior.
Easter reminds of us of that redemption, but Good Friday reminds us what it cost.
Our savior, our perfect and most loving king, nailed to a cross, bleeding out for an undeserving crowd of scoffers and sinners, betrayers and killers. With anguish in his heart running deeper than we could imagine—but with a love powerful enough to overcome it. That’s why he came. That’s what he knew.
And that’s how he loves.