I just re-watched the Nicolas Cage film, National Treasure, the other day. If you will recall, the Nicolas Cage character (Ben) steals the Declaration of Independence in order to save it from the bad guy. When the FBI agent catches up with Ben, he keeps explaining, “Somebody’s got to go to jail Ben,” because the Declaration had been stolen. No matter that Ben had discovered a massive treasure for the nation, somebody still had to go to jail to make up for the crime of stealing a national document.
When it comes to a world filled with sin, the same concept applies. Because the “wages of sin is death,” in order to escape the sentence of death we all deserve, somebody’s got to die.
How fortunate we are that Christ was willing to come to earth and become the sacrificial lamb that died for the wages of all our sins. Because of this sacrifice, we all have the opportunity to escape the wages of the sin we inevitably commit. By accepting Him as the guiding force in our life, we open our arms to a different possibility. We get to live because somebody else died.
When we sin, we sever the relationship we have with God. In the times before Christ, that broken relationship could only be mended by the offering of sacrifices. Leviticus especially explains the requirements of many of these sacrifices. In most cases, the blood of a living thing, be it a dove or a lamb, would be required to be shed in order to take away the sin that had been committed and return the person back into relationship with God. Somebody had to die.
If we never take for granted the weight of knowing that somebody else has died for us, then surely we will do a better job each day of following in the footsteps of Christ. Kindness to others, showing love when we least feel like it, praising God, all these actions should be as second nature to us.
Yet, living in a world more than 2,000 years after sacrifice was a regular way of life, we may be slightly numb to the concept of a life given for us. The televised violence that flashes across our newscasts and even computer screens has desensitized us to the horror of an innocent life taken before its time. How well we would do to remember that, but for Christ, the life given for sin would be our own.
Yes, the life Christ saves is an eternal one, since all who are born to this earth also die from it. But, how much more important is the life of one’s soul compared to the blink of an eye which is this earthly existence? Paul explains:
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Romans 6:1-4)
Our new life is the one led by the Holy Spirit in us, the ultimate sign of our healed relationship with God. Because somebody has died, that is, Christ, we have a permanent, unbreakable relationship with God as long as we accept that Christ is our savior.
In a politically correct world, where we create soccer leagues that give every child a trophy and where no one can stand up and say that is wrong without risking ridicule or punishment, it may seem blunt to say with conviction that a relationship with God requires a sacrifice. But, think again, for this same, seemingly strict God is the One who loves us so much that He was willing to become the sacrifice that paid the price for sin once and for all.
Somebody’s got to die. Thankfully, Somebody did.