December 19, 2018
READ: John 10:11-18
I sacrifice my life for the sheep (v.15).
Melito of Sardis, the second century Bishop of Smyrna, wrote these haunting words reflecting on the cross’ tragic grace: God has been murdered . . . O strange murder, strange crime! . . . Therefore the lights [of heaven] turned away, and the day darkened, that it might hide him who was stripped upon a cross.
The starkness of this line ought to catch our breath: God has been murdered.
And yet these murderers didn’t overpower Jesus; rather, Jesus freely gave Himself up to endure this unjust violence. “No one can take my life from me,” Jesus says. “I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded” (John 10:18). The acts and intent of evil men were murderous, but Jesus wasn’t a victim. The Saviour surrendered His body, His life, to rescue those He loved. To rescue us.
A strange murder indeed! How could the One who holds all authority, the One who is the very Creator of all that exists, also be the One killed by the hands of humans clutching after what they viewed as power? The Bible insists on one unflinching answer: love. “For God so loved the world,” the Bible tells us, “that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 niv).
Jesus put it this way: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep” (10:11). Our Shepherd Jesus loves all of His sheep and will not allow anything—not death, not humiliation, not piercing pain—to thwart His intention to love us, to rescue us, to bring us safely home.
Yes, the day Jesus died was a strange day, a day both dark and beautiful. A day of sorrow, but a day of immense hope.
365-day plan: James 1:2-27
Read the crucifixion account in Matthew 27:32-56. What images stand out? What questions come to mind? What strangeness do you find?
How does it move you to think that Jesus willingly surrendered Himself to be murdered? In what ways are you resisting the love Jesus extended to you from this strange cross?