Over one hundred years ago, on an autumn evening an earthquake startled the villagers living on a Japanese seashore. But, being accustomed to earthquakes, they soon went back to their activities. Above the village on a high plain, an old farmer was watching from his house. He looked to the sea, and the water appeared dark and acted strangely, moving against the wind, running away from the land. The old man knew what it meant. His one thought was to warn the people in the village.
He called his grandson, “Bring me a torch! Make haste!” In the fields behind him lay his great crop of rice. Piled in stacks ready for the market, it was worth a fortune. The old man hurried out with his torch, In a moment the dry stalks were blazing. Then the big bell rang from the temple below: Fire!
Back from the beach, away from the strange sea, up the steep side of the cliff, came the people of the Village. They were coming to try to save the crops of their rich neighbor. “He’s mad!” one said. “This doesn’t make sense!” said another. “Where’s the logic in his action?” cried another.
As they reached the plain, the old man shouted back at the top of his voice, “Look!” At the edge of the horizon they saw a long, lean, dim line, a line that thickened as they gazed. That line was the sea, rising like a high wall and coming more swiftly than a kite flies.
Then came a shock, heavier than thunder. The great swell struck the shore with a weight that sent a shudder through the hills and tore their homes to match sticks. It drew back, roaring. Then it struck again, and again, and yet again. Once more it struck and ebbed; then it returned to its place.
On the plain no word was spoken. Then the voice of the old man was heard, saying gently, “That is why I set fire to the rice.” He stood among them almost as poor as the poorest, for his wealth was gone.
While his action did not make sense to the villagers as they saw the old man setting fire to his vast fortune. In the aftermath of the tidal wave, they recognized that his sacrifice saved 400 lives.
Another case of illogical logic.
Over nineteen hundred years ago on another hillside, another man made a sacrifice that saved countless lives. His action at the moment seemed to make no sense. It, too, was illogical.
The Scriptures read, “Jesus suffered death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9). Jesus tasted what all men must taste — death. Jesus entered what all men must enter – the tomb. Jesus died for everyone, for you and me.
But why? In that same chapter Eugene Petersen in The Message paraphrases, “Since the children are made of flesh and blood, it’s logical that the Savior took on flesh and blood in order to rescue them by His death. By embracing death, taking it into Himself, He destroyed the Devil’s hold on death and freed all who cower through life, scared to death of death” (Hebrews 2:14-15). In heaven’s eyes there is logic in the illogical nature of Christ’s sacrifice. Jesus died so that we might live.
Jesus did not write a note about his willingness to sacrifice His life, He paid the price in His own blood. Jesus did not just assume the blame for our sins; He seized the sin in His very body. He is the General who dies in the place of the private, the King who suffers for the peasant, the Master who sacrifices for the servant, the wealthy rice farmer who bums a fortune to save the villagers.
As He looked at the tidal wave of our sin, from the cross Jesus says gently, “This is why I went to the cross.” Jesus, God’s Son, experienced the tortures of death so that we might know the splendor of life.
I. A Willing Sacrifice
Has anyone ever sacrificed for you? Parents, friends, employees, teachers, coaches, and many more have sacrificed for you.
Has anyone ever died for you?
During the Civil War, a company of Confederate irregulars known as “Bushwackers” were arrested by Union soldiers. Because they were guerilla fighters and not in uniform, they were sentenced to be shot. A courageous young boy in the Union army touched his commanding officer on the arm and pleaded: “Won’t you allow me to take the place of one of the condemned men? I know him well; he has a large family who needs him badly. My parents are dead and I have few friends. No one will miss me. Please let me take his punishment!”
The officer hesitated but finally gave his consent. Pulling the husband and father to one side, the young man filled his position on the death line.
On a stone that marks his grave in a little southern town are these words: “Sacred to the memory of Willy Lear. He took my place.”
Again, has anyone ever died for you? The answer is yes. The person is Jesus. He took your place on the cross. Nails and ropes did not hold Jesus to His cross. His own sacrificial love held Him there. No one took His life; He took your place of His own accord.
In Mark’s view, it was this self-sacrificing love that gave point and explanation to the cruel mockery. What did they want Him to do? “Come down from the cross and save Yourself!… He saved others, but He can’t save Himself” (Mark 15:30-31). The mockers meant it as a humorous jest, but for Mark it contained deep theological truth. Just because Jesus Wanted to save others, He would not save Himself Voluntarily, even joyfully, He gave Himself to save others. That all-important illogical logic quickly became the most basic part of the Church’s answer to the question of why Christ died. And it still is.
II. A Saving Sacrifice
The sacrifice of Jesus did for us what we could not do ourselves. “God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” The inevitable result of sin is that it separates us from God. God made Jesus a sin offering on our behalf. Jesus not only took our place, He took our sin.
When Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34), it was not a cry of anger, or of a sinner, but a cry of the presence of God leaving Him. At that moment in time, God removed Himself from Jesus because Jesus harbored the sins of all humankind. Just as sin separates you and me from God, at this moment in history God separated Himself from Jesus. Jesus had to bear the weight and burden of sin alone in order for salvation to be complete. Jesus died completely alone in order to save us. He endured the agony of human sin and the separation it brought because in no other way could He identify Himself with our humanity and make it possible for us to be forgiven and accepted by God. The message of the cross is salvation.
The beauty of Christ’s death is that it saves us from death. We will die physically, but we don’t have to die spiritually. When we accept Christ, take Him as our own, we will be saved from sin, the grave, and death.
III. A Victorious Sacrifice
The last words Jesus uttered from the cross were, “It is finished,” (John 19:30). He did not say “I am finished.” Rather the plan of salvation, the payment for sins was finished. The word is an accounting word, tetelesti, used in business transactions. When the word was written across a bill, it meant “Paid in Full.” Through Christ’s death our debt of sin is paid in full.
This loud shout was not a declaration of defeat but of victory, announcing that Jesus had completed the mission for which He had come to earth.
Mark immediately recorded two events as tokens of Christ’s victory. First, “The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Mark 15:38). The curtain separated the holy of holies from the sanctuary and was there to keep common people out. When Jesus died, God tore the veil to symbolize that the death of His son had opened the way of access to Him for every person. Jesus made a way for you to come to Him.
Second, the centurion confessed, “Surely this man was the Son of God” (Mark 15:39). This incident demonstrated the power of the cross. Silently, the dying Jesus had preached His gospel to the most hostile congregation, and the first fruit of that message of love and forgiveness was the man in charge of executing Him. Jesus’ power knows no limit. It can transform the vilest offender and the most wicked sinner. His victory can be your victory over your sin.
Jesus Christ died so you can live. He suffered the pain and agony of a cruel cross so you can experience the abundance and splendor of life. He willingly substituted Himself, taking the punishment you and I deserve. He has paid the penalty of God’s judgment, accomplishing God’s plan of salvation, for you. His death was not a defeat, but a victory.
A Russian fable describes a master and a servant who journeyed to a city. Before the two men could reach the destination they were caught in a blinding blizzard. They lost their direction and were unable to reach the city before nightfall.
The next morning concerned friends went searching for the two men. They finally found the master, frozen to death, face down in the snow. When they lifted him they found the servant, cold but alive. He survived and told how the master had voluntarily placed himself on top of the servant so the servant could live.
The story reminds me that Jesus is the Master who died for the servants. He is the wealthy farmer who burns His crops so the villagers are saved. He is the soldier who stood in a firing line, taking the place of a friend. He is the Son of Man who died so that you might live.

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