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He did not have to

By Randy Garrison 

This past Sunday the sermon topic was, “That Offends Me.”  

The message centered on what the cross really means and how some folks are turned off by the cross and what it stands for. Some folks look at the cross as a symbol of death for Jesus, but Sunday it was brought to the forefront how the cross represents life for a believer. 

When Christ made the final sacrifice on the cross, He paid the wages for our sin, once and for all. By His blood being shed for the forgiveness of our sin, we have life eternal – just by believing Jesus is the Son of God, that he died for our sins, was resurrected and is coming again.  

“For God so loved the world He gave His only son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NIV). 

While the cross and the price Jesus paid should always be on our minds, this time of year our thoughts return even more to the cross. We think about Jesus heading to Jerusalem and how He knew and had tried to share with His disciples what must happen.  

I am sure it was difficult for those closest to Jesus to comprehend what He was sharing. 

This story I’m about to share happened several years ago, but it comes to mind very often – each time I hear a sermon about the crucifixion, sing a song about Jesus paying my debt or read God’s word where the plan of salvation is mentioned, even back to Genesis.  

Jesus could have called a legion of angels down to take Him off the cross, but instead He willingly gave up His life and shed His blood for you and me. 

Many times, I do some of my best thinking when I am doing some type of task that does not require a lot of mental work. When you are working on something you have done hundreds of times, you can go through the motions physically and let your mind do some other type of work  maybe even accomplishing more than one task.  

One day while I was cutting grass and thinking about how much I enjoy being outside and feeling the sunshine and the wind, I felt God speak to me.  

Yes, I do enjoy working outside and even cutting grass and pulling weeds. Maybe I enjoy it because it does not require a lot of thinking, and I can let my thoughts expand and even have a time of soul searching. Many times, I have song lyrics or even Bible verses running through my mind – and sometimes, for no reason, they just appear there. 

I have always felt close to God outside, enjoying His creation – even mowing grass. Perhaps I feel the closeness since there is not a building between me and the heavens, or maybe it’s because the sunshine warms me not only outside but inside my heart, as well. Whatever the reason, while I was mowing around a large oak tree, the crucifixion of Jesus just came into my mind.  

I began to think about what He went through on that day and all he suffered for us. I thought about the weight of that cross, and I cannot even begin to imagine the pain he felt as he endured the torture and pain, both physical and mental.  

He was beaten, spat on, ridiculed and nailed to a cross, but the most horrible part of the crucifixion occurred when all the sin of the world was placed on His shoulders. He felt the sin of men past, present and future, and he asked, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani? which translates to “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Mark 15:34 (NIV) 

What really kept going through my mind almost constantly was, “He did not have to do this.”  

Jesus willingly suffered and shed His blood for all of us. He could have called on the angels to take Him down or never even let those who crucified Him perform their evil deeds.  

Even though I have known this for most of my life, it was almost like realizing it for the very first time. Looking up at that big oak tree and thinking about the wood that made up the cross, my eyes were opened wide to what He did for us that day. 

Neither the soldiers who placed Him on the cross nor the nails in His hands and feet held Him on the cross that day. His love for us and His willingness to be the sacrifice for our sins kept Him there.  

You never know when God will speak to you; you just must be willing to listen.