“I just can’t believe your skin can stretch like that!” my husband declared one day in my ninth month of pregnancy. Honestly, I couldn’t believe it either. I was long past being able to see my feet, my ankles were swollen, and I was definitely feeling like a beached whale. This was my fourth pregnancy…you would have thought we’d seen it all, but the reality of what new life does to an old body was still a miracle (or travesty!) to behold. I couldn’t sleep comfortably, suffered from terrible indigestion, and was absolutely miserable, but just a few days later, we were holding our new bundle of joy. The sacrifice was worth it all.
Six years later, Mark and I sat in a run-down courtroom before a Russian judge. After months of paperwork, expense, and unimaginable hours of time, we were on the verge of adding another son to our family…this time through adoption. We knew that Kolya belonged in our family; we now had to convince the judge of this. The judge just couldn’t understand why we would want a 9-year-old child from Russia when we had four of our own back in the United States. After many hours of answering questions with the help of a translator, the judge finally agreed to sign the papers. The sacrifice of thousands of dollars and hours finally paid off. Aaron Nicolai became a Savage.
Motherhood and sacrifice…the two words are synonymous. Whether you arrived at motherhood biologically or by adoption, you find out very soon that sacrifice is a part of the job. For most of us the sacrifice begins with pregnancy or those first steps toward adoption, but for moms who deal with infertility, sacrifice begins months, even years earlier.
I find it interesting that the root word of sacrifice is sacred—a word that means worthy of respect or regarded with reverence. Another meaning of sacred is something that is made or declared holy or something associated with divinity. Understanding that leads us right to our example of sacrifice: Jesus Christ.
To understand Jesus’ life and ultimate sacrifice, and to really understand why Easter is important, we have to go back to the beginning…the beginning of time. On page one of the Bible, in the book of Genesis, we begin with God creating heaven and earth, water and dry land, light and darkness, and eventually man and woman. Man and woman lived in this perfect place called the Garden of Eden. It was a place where they had a perfect relationship with God, one another, and where all their physical needs were met.
God gave Adam and Eve free will. In other words, He created them to live by His design and according to His ways, but He allowed them to make those choices on their own. God gave them full access to the garden, putting only one boundary on them: they could not eat from one tree: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God’s boundaries are always given to protect us. Even in this case, God was protecting Adam and Eve from having knowledge that would complicate their life and introduce them to the concept of death.
One day in the Garden, Satan tempted Adam and Eve to eat from the forbidden tree and they fell for his lies hook, line, and sinker. When they ate the fruit their eyes were opened and they suddenly saw life differently. They saw their nakedness and made themselves some clothes. Then, in shame, they hid from God. The garden, which had been a place of joy and fellowship, was now a place of fear and hiding from God. As a consequence of their disobedience, God required them to leave the Garden of Eden. Because of that, life became harder and now the fellowship with a holy God had been broken.
The entire Old Testament of the Bible tells the story of man’s existence from creation until Jesus Christ was born. During this time, the only way that sinful people (thanks Adam and Eve!) could have a relationship with a holy God was through sacrifice and a high priest who would stand in the gap between the people and God. The Israelites understood that God could have chosen to be a judge with no grace and mercy when Adam and Eve disobeyed. But instead of wiping the slate clean, he chose to give them a second chance! This second chance was an opportunity for man and woman to be reconciled or reconnected to their Creator. But coming into the presence of God required an admission of sin (disobedience) and because a Holy God can’t exist in the presence of sin, a sacrifice was offered to “cover” the sin. Most of the sacrifices offered in the Old Testament were lambs and they had to be offered through a priest who represented the people. The shedding of the blood covered the sins of the people so they could have relationship with a Holy God.
But for God, this was a temporary plan. His decision to send His Son to earth was his ultimate plan for reconnecting to His people. Jesus came to this earth as fully God, yet fully man. One way God connected to us was by becoming one of us. We have a God who truly understands our human experience. But God’s plan was more than simply understanding our human experience. He sent his Son to be the ultimate sacrifice and our High Priest. The Bible says,” We have a Priest-Friend in the presence of the Father: Jesus Christ, righteous Jesus. When he served as a sacrifice for our sins, he solved the sin problem for good—not only ours, but the whole world’s.”
Jesus came to share truth and eventually die on the cross as the final sacrifice for our sin. He died, then three days later he rose again and eventually went to live in heaven where He is the only priest needed—He’s our High Priest, the only one who stands in the gap between us and God. Here’s what the Bible says about that in Hebrews 7 (The Message)
This makes Jesus the guarantee of a far better way between us and God—one that really works! A new covenant.
Earlier there were a lot of priests, for they died and had to be replaced. But Jesus’ priesthood is permanent. He’s there from now to eternity to save everyone who comes to God through him, always on the job to speak up for them.
That’s a big picture to comprehend; yet it illustrates the purpose of Jesus’ life. He was a living sacrifice, known as the Lamb of God because there was no more need to sacrifice lambs or anything else after his death on the cross. He took our sin upon himself and shed his blood so we wouldn’t have to do so ourselves. He died so we could live. You don’t get a better picture of sacrifice than that.
And that’s what Easter is all about.
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