Jesus bore the cross for you
Rev. Eric Nelson, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Lester Prairie
The message of the Christian faith is not that God sent a Savior into the world. The message of the Christian faith is that God sent a Savior for you.
This is where the challenge is found. Many have no need for a Savior. After all, they have put forth an effort to be kind and decent to others. They have not committed any terrible sins. Therefore, they are basically good people in their own eyes. Certainly such people will be welcomed at the gates of heaven.
Such a deception ensnares many. We like to think of ourselves as basically good people. We do good things for others. We try to be considerate. We try to be giving. Consequently, there are people who like us and speak well of us. This provides the evidence of our own righteousness.
In addition, if we do fall into sin, there is a rationalization or an excuse which supplies the absolution we need. Consider the notorious gangster, Al Capone.
Capone actually regarded himself as a public benefactor. He was simply unappreciated and misunderstood. He declared that he spent the best years of his life giving people lighter pleasures. His only desire was that people have a good time. What did he receive for his efforts? He received abuse and the existence of a hunted man.
Lewis Lawes was a well-known warden of Sing Sing prison. He stated that few of the criminals in Sing Sing regarded themselves as bad men. Most could rationalize and justify their criminal behavior.
The cross Jesus bore for us, however, provides the cure for our delusions of righteousness. If we are righteous, why would His death be necessary? If we can earn our place in heaven, why would He take up the cross?
This means that the cross of Jesus gets in the way of any attempt to justify ourselves before God. In his exposition of Galatians 2:20, Luther states, “These words: ‘The Son of God,’ ‘He loved me,’ and “He gave Himself for me,’ (Gal. 2:20) are real thunderbolts and fire from heaven against the righteousness of the Law and the doctrine of works. So great were the evil, the error, the darkness, and the ignorance in my will and intellect that I could be liberated only at a cost so inestimable . . . Therefore it is an intolerable and horrible blasphemy to image that there is any work through which you may presume to reconcile God, since you see that nothing can reconcile Him except this immense and infinite payment, the very death and blood of His Son, one drop of whose blood is more precious than all the world.”
Our Lord was willing to make this immense and infinite payment for you. That is the message of the Christian faith.
It is not a message about making yourself righteous. It is not a message to bring about a moral renovation. It is a message about a cross that Jesus bore for you.
He suffered and died in your place, and rose again on the third day, in order to make you right with God.
That is why God sent a Savior God into the world. Christ Jesus is the Savior who has come for you.