Yearning for the Heroic Sacrifice

Reading Time: 3 mins

Sacrifice is the beating heart of the Scriptures, but also of our Christian faith.

  1. "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13).
  2. "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom 5:8).
  3. "He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Heb. 9:26).

There’s a common theme in these Scripture passages. Sacrifice. Jesus Crucified for you.

Jesus’ sacrifice is the beating heart of the Scriptures, foretold from the beginning. In Genesis 3, the Lord covered Adam and Eve’s nakedness and shame with a sacrifice. In Genesis 22, the Lord spared Isaac by providing the sacrifice. In the Exodus 12, the Lord delivered Israel from the angel of death by offering the blood and flesh of the Passover sacrifice.

At the dawn of the New Testament, John the Baptist stands by the Jordan River proclaiming, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The angel Gabriel tells Joseph that “his name will be called Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Jesus repeatedly tells his disciples, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Luke 9:22).

Sacrifice. Jesus Crucified for you.

Sacrifice is the beating heart of the Scriptures, but also of our Christian faith. Take this away, and we’re worse off than the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz; we are of all people most to be pitied (1 Corinthians 15). But in fact, Paul declares, he last enemy is defeated. Christ is risen. Sacrifice. Jesus Crucified for you. The blood of Christ cleanses you from all sin.

Still, many cry foul: “that’s outrageous. That sounds too good to be true. That’s too easy; God let’s bad people off the hook.”

Or, as Rod Rosenbladt writes in his little booklet Christ Alone:

“To which many reply ‘It can’t be that simple! Only Christ and his death? And I am forgiven? That has no analogy in my world. It can’t be true.’

But it is not without analogy. Western Literature is replete with analogies. One need only think, for example, of Dicken’s Tale of Two Cities and the main character giving his life for his double. In a lesser vein, think of Spock dying to save his fellow crew members in the Star Trek film The Wrath of Khan. Or of Tim Robbins’s character (at great cost) making opera and Mozart and cold beer available for his fellow prisoners in The Shawshank Redemption...These and many others are lesser pictures of the Great Picture.”[1]

Jesus' sacrifice on the cross is the clearest and only Gospel there is: outrageous forgiveness for undeserving sinners.

Jesus' sacrifice on the cross is the beating heart of the Christian faith.

The pages of history turn on Jesus’ objective, historically veracious, and sufficient sacrifice on the cross for us sinners. Like a giant boulder tossed in the middle of a tranquil pond, which sends out liquid wrinkles in every direction, Jesus’ death and resurrection causes a cosmic ripple effect that changes history, influences art, music, and literature, and fills us with unexpected, eternal joy.

It should come as no surprise, then, that sacrifice is also the beating heart of many good stories in music, film, and literature. The heroic sacrifice.

Prince Philip fights his way through thorns surrounding Sleeping Beauty’s castle to slay the dragon.

Anna sacrifices herself for her sister Elsa in Disney’s Frozen as she steps in front of Hans’ sword the moment she is frozen.

Harry Potter sacrifices himself to defeat Lord Voldemort.

Katniss Everdeen volunteers as tribute in The Hunger Games to save her sister, Prim.

Clint Eastwood’s character, Walt Kowalski in Gran Torino, sacrifices himself to save a Hmong family and community from a ruffian gang.

Ransom descends into the lower parts of Perelandra in Lewis’s Space Trilogy to save the planet from evil.

Gandalf descends into the lower parts of the mountain to smite the Balrog, ending his ruin, and save the fellowship of the ring on their journey through the Mines of Moria.

Darth Vader sacrifices himself to save Luke from the Emperor in The Return of the Jedi.

In the recent movie, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, a group of rebels sacrifice themselves to secure plans to help destroy the Death Star.

And the list could go on. If you think of any stories that point to the Great Story of Jesus’ death and resurrection for you, please post them on social media. I’d love to see them.

After all, these and many other examples are lesser that reflect the Great Sacrifice—Jesus Christ crucified for you.

"For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2).

[1] Rod Rosenbladt, Christ Alone, NRP Books, p. 51.

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