I was wondering why Jesus spent 3 days in the tomb. Jesus had to die to save us. Jesus took on our sin during that process. I understand it all the way up to the tomb. Why even bother with a burial place? Why be wrapped? Why the guards?
Couldn’t Jesus have said, “It is finished”, and then 3 seconds later, “Tada!!!!” and then hop right off the cross? Wouldn’t this have still effectively bought our sins? He still sacrificed. He still technically and actually died in our place.
I think He added that extra bit of drama for us. Not that its a part of salvation, but that He did it for our benefit. He spent 3 days in a guarded tomb to help clarify what actually happened.
For example. Lets say Jesus did the bare minimum. He cries “it is finished” and hangs his head to die. Then, after breathing His last, he jumps off the cross a fully healed, living God and He whooshes back to heaven proclaiming that we should also carry our cross to follow Him. In this example, I fear we would see Him as more God than man. We may even question what pain He felt.
Sadly, we might possibly even question whether a true sacrifice was made. If the real story of the crucifixion were a personal letter, this theoretical event would be more like a text message. It’s less personal, less detailed, and the exact meaning is confusing. We might even debate whether He actually died or not.
I’d like to offer that Jesus came, not only to sacrifice Himself for us, but also to teach us. He taught by doing. He only asked us to give as He gave Himself. And in His final act, He taught us to sacrifice. And one lesson that is painfully difficult to understand is what true sacrifice actually means. And He showed us this, while being fully man.
Our foster child went to the ER and refused to take his medicine. The Doctor told him that if he was good, she would let him pick any flavor Popsicle he wanted. He screamed, flailed arms and legs, spit up medicine… he was not good. An hour later when 4 people left the room exhausted and defeated, he asked… “where is my Popsicle?”.
And I know exactly what is going through his mind. The nurse said, “if you are good”, and he is now on the other side of the event. In his mind, he suffered. It wasn’t fun. But now its over and he is ready for the reward. Through all the kicking, screaming, and agony he both suffered and caused, what he heard was plainly, “if you make it through, you can have this”.
Our minds haven’t changed much as adults. Have you ever promised yourself rewards? If I lose 10 pounds, I’ll get myself a new outfit. And the weight never leaves, but you still feel like you accomplished a triumphant feat of strength because you drank Diet Coke that one time. Oh, the sacrifices I made!!!! We can justify the rewards quite easily.
I think a great many of us do the same thing with God. He has effectively made the same promise the ER doctor made to my boy. Roughly translated, ‘if you are good, I will reward you’. And most of us mean well. But our definition of “good” can’t in any way be linked to what God actually meant in the Bible.
But… because we went to church, and we sang, and we even tithed a bit, which was a HUGE sacrifice for us… we feel justifiably ready for this reward. But just like that ER doc… that wasn’t the deal. Being a faux Christian was not what God asked of us. He drew very specific, tangible lines. We are to sacrifice. We are to give. We are to suffer. We are to pick up our cross and follow Him. We are to stand apart from the world.
It’s because we don’t understand what sacrifice really is. We think we can act up and still get the Popsicle. This is why I think Jesus spent 3 days in the tomb. So we would know that He gave up His actual life. So we would know He actually suffered. For sacrifice to have any meaning, a true price must be paid.
In the movie, Captain America: The First Avenger, there is a scene where the tiny Steve Rodgers dives onto a grenade carelessly thrown on the ground by his superior officer. The officer’s point backfires as the overly qualified military men run for cover, while this unexpected hero jumps on the grenade to save the others around him.
His life… for theirs. This is sacrifice. If the grenade were real, he would have died a hero and all the others would have lived in debt to him. But he did not know it was a fake grenade. So even though he performed a heroe’s action, he got up, dusted himself off, and kept living life. Only now with heroic accolades. Many of us think that this is true sacrifice. We are willing to dive on the grenade… but only if its a fake. When the grenade did not blow, the sacrifice was removed. He didn’t actually pay anything.
We don’t mind facing peril, but we expect Jesus to intervene and then flash back up to Heaven after we are rescued from potential discomfort. The mere definition of sacrifice is to give something up. Jesus gave up position when He ate with the poor. He gave up status when He cured the sick. He lost empathy when He chose the ‘losers’. And He finished His lesson by giving up, once and for all, His human life. Not just temporarily, but eternally. That is what I think those 3 days are for.
To remind us that the world is filled with sick kids, unpopular people, lonely individuals, and needy folks who will fully deviate us from our path down Team ME. Most of us are up for some sacrifice so long as we are done and back to normal by 5 p.m.
The enemy is using live ammunition. There are no fake grenades here. The call to Christianity is the call to spend 3 days in the tomb. It’s to fully and without any bartering, give up everything until Jesus comes back to call us out of the grave announcing the beginning of our eternity with Him. It’s knowing that our lives are meant to be spent.
The great sacrifice isn’t figuring out that we can tithe 10% of our net rather than gross and still feel good about ourselves. Suffering isn’t sitting through sermons on Sundays. Mission work isn’t buying a stocking stuffer once a year for a card on a tree. Jesus could have told us what sacrifice means. But that doesn’t cut it. It never will. Words have no meaning. He showed us. And the way we show we learned the lesson is not to speak it back. We show what we have learned.
The pharisees where a noisy bunch. Always quoting scripture, always pointing out wrong, always blaming and judging. Jesus spoke very little. But His actions are what we are to be known by. They will not hear it from us… they will see it in us and in our works.
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