The Atoning Sacrifice

1 John 2:2 “He (Jesus) is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”

It’s always nice to have someone else on your side when you have problems. My wife has her girlfriends. When something is wrong I can bet that she will be on the phone eventually getting a little sympathy, or giving a little sympathy when the shoe is on the other foot.

Jesus listens to us with a sympathetic ear. But he does so much more. The hymn does not sing, “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our whines and gripes to share.” It goes, “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear.” He carried, he bore our sins for us. In the words of John, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” Jesus has satisfied God’s anger by his sacrifice on the cross.

We had real reason for concern, because sin makes God furious. You remember the sinking, dreadful feeling you had as a child when you had done something dangerous or destructive, and now you were waiting to face the music? Did you ever pack a suitcase with thoughts of running away, maybe you even made it part way down the street, hoping that you might be able to avoid Judgment Day with your mom or dad?

The great and awesome Judgement Day of God would be terrifying for us to face if we had to do it based on our own sinful record. God’s wrath at sin isn’t merely a scary story told by old fashioned church people who want to control others with fear. It is a basic assumption of the whole message of Scripture. “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men…” (Romans 1:18).

But Jesus replaces our fear with confidence because he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins. He paid the price that ended God’s anger. It’s not just the price he paid. It is the price he himself IS! Luther’s Small Catechism, borrowing from the Apostle Peter, says Jesus paid it “not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood, and with his innocent sufferings and death.”

There is nothing more precious or valuable, more powerful or effective, that could have been offered to pay the debt we owed. That single body and soul of God’s Son, that single life given in place of ours, has a value that far exceeds all the billions of bodies and souls that have ever lived, from one end of history to the other. We struggle to put a price on human life. Even more so, no one will ever be able to put a price on the life of God’s Son. That is why he can be the atoning sacrifice “for the sins of the whole world.”

God couldn’t love us anymore than to make this sacrifice. You can take the sum total of all the great acts of love through history– soldiers giving their lives to spare their friends; parents working themselves to the bone to give their children a better life; missionaries dying at the end of a spear to bring the gospel to those who never had it before; heroes of every kind who risked fire, drowning, bullets, teeth and claws to save people they didn’t even know. Add it all together, take the sum total of that love, and it still does not equal the love that led Jesus to offer himself as the atoning sacrifice for your sins.

Such a gift is proof that you are loved with a love we shall never be able to measure or exhaust.

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