WHY DID HE DO IT?
In our last essay we showed how the Sermon on the Mount was a complete summary of God’s purposes in creating man and His desire for man’s imitation of Him. Made in the image of God, man has all the spiritual qualities necessary to be like the Father. However, this is a matter of choice, and man must get his personal egocentric motives out of the way, and completely humble himself before God in order to accomplish this.
At the close of the dissertation on the Beatitudes, Jesus was very honest and warned His listeners that following Him would make them very unpopular with the world. In the world, people are strongly prone to strive for power, riches and self-satisfaction. Anyone who considers these things of no importance, and preaches self-discipline and sacrifice, love of neighbor and respect to all men, in addition to worship of Christ as Lord of all, is going to be very unpopular to the people of the world.
In the years following Jesus’ sermon, thousands of His followers were persecuted and died rather than deny Him. Today we are not called on to make such sacrifices, but Christianity is still very unpopular with the world. That is why Jesus pays incredibly high compliments to His followers when He says, “You are the salt of the earth…and the light of the world”. However, with these compliments He also implied a heavy responsibility to all His followers to not only obey all the will of God but to proclaim it to the world. As William Barclay says, “He did not say, ‘You are the light of the church’…He said, ‘You are the light of the WORLD’ “. This means that those who claim to be Christians (followers of Christ) must not be content to just go to Church regularly, but must exhibit Christian action in every phase of their life, so that the world will see them and glorify God, whom they worship and who motivates their life.
As I studied for this essay and read the awful story of martyrdom suffered by so many, it made me wonder. And as I took communion last Sunday and thought back to the suffering Jesus endured on the Cross, I wondered…WHY? When God could have done it all another way. Jesus pointed out to Pilate that He could ask the Father to send a host of angels to wipe out His opposition. Why not? God could have protected every martyred soul, but He did not. Why?
The answer to this question is so important that I want each of you to stop and read very carefully the following words, with prayerful consideration.
God created the world and man because He wanted man, created in His own spiritual image, to come to Him and imitate Him byCHOICE. Unless man wanted the spiritual life that God offered, he could not have a loving relationship with God because God is Spirit. And unless man loved the spiritual things that God IS, he could not love God, and he was created to be a child of God, sharing the perfection that Heaven is. But unless he was left free to make his own choice, the result would not be a love of God, and this is what God wanted. So nothing must ever be done to disturb man’s freedom of choice, and the world must be allowed to choose to do evil if that is its choice. According to Jesus, every martyr was guaranteed a special place in the Heaven of God. No temporary suffering was too much for that reward.
Now to the suffering Savior and the Cross. This shows us how much God loves us and how much He wants us to know and love Him. The only power that God had, to cause man to love Him, was for man to know how much God loved us. “We love Him because He first loved us”. We have just observed Easter, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. But we must not forget the reason that He died in the first place, or the resurrection is meaningless to us. “The wages of sin is death”. Sin is choosing to ignore God. We all do this at times. “Without the shedding of blood, there can be no remission”. Unless man can be separated from his attachment to life in this world, he can never enter the perfect world of God. But if I am separated from my life in this world, I am dead and no longer exist. So Jesus died in my place, and my faith in Him and His sacrifice cleanses me “from all unrighteousness”. These quoted passages are all in the Bible, but few people ever stop to realize their tremendous import to us. Man could never have imagined God, if He had not chosen to walk the earth as a man. Even more impossible, man could never imagine the incredible love of God for Him without the Cross. Why did He do it? That’s why!