I’m happily married but no, I didn’t mean my husband – and he knows that there’s someone I love more, he’s perfectly ok with it, in fact he encourages me to love this other guy more than I love him.
The guy I’m talking about? The love of my life? It’s Jesus, and I want to tell you why I love him so much. (And my husband loves him too, but I’m not going to try and speak for him.)
I first met Jesus when I was 27 years old – I’d gone into a church for the first time in my life and, to my great surprise, he was there. I wasn’t expecting to meet him, for a whole bunch of reasons, starting with the fact that I was a total agnostic and didn’t think it was possible to find out if God exists at all, let alone meet him in person… I went into that church thinking it was just a place where people performed empty rituals – and, yanno, some people do… but Jesus was there. I kept going to that church not because of the people or because of what they were doing – I kept going because I felt a really really strong attraction to a presence there, I couldn’t define it or explain it at that stage because I didn’t have the terminology or the theology or anything to hang this onto, even the people in that church didn’t speak in terms that could help me really get it. All I knew was there was this really strong pull, a really strong desire in me to be there every Sunday.
That was back in 1989. My journey since then – it’s been very wibbly wobbly at times, but that’s down to me, not down to him. Jesus has been constant, holding onto my hand ever since I very tentatively put my hand in his back then. I’m in tears as I think back to those early years, when I was calling myself a Christian and yet in some ways so very very much not living up to that, I’d fallen in love with Jesus but there were some basic things about him I hadn’t understood, but he was so so so patient with me – not yelling at me or stomping off in a huff, not even when I did some really terrible things. His love is… [looking for adjectives, finding none that would do]… his love is out of this world.
One of the things I didn’t get back then? It’s about him being the Saviour.
Yeah, I know, it’s pretty basic, it’s, like, his name! (in Hebrew, so for English speakers it might not be that obvious. But I am a Hebrew speaker…)
Somehow I managed to read through all four gospels and not get it. Somehow I managed to be a churchgoer for twelve years before I got it. Again I’m in tears – it kills me to think how blind I was for so long, even though I was getting heavily involved in church life, somehow managing to not understand what Jesus came and died for. Not understanding my need of salvation. Trying – very sincerely – to live the Christian life but not being born again and so I was trying to do it in my own strength, and failing because, well, you can’t, you’re not meant to be able to do it in your own strength, that’s kind of the whole point of Jesus.
You see, Jesus came and died on the cross because human beings can’t manage on their own. We try to be good, decent, kind, however you want to put it – and we fail. Again and again we fail. Just as I’m congratulating myself on how well I handled a difficult interaction with someone who was getting on my nerves – hey, I restrained myself and didn’t yell at them! pat on back – someone else says something that really gets my blood boiling and… ouch, that turned ugly…
In my agnostic days, I knew about religions that give you a list of rules and regulations to follow: do x, don’t do y, etc etc etc, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll manage to do enough to please their deity and get to heaven. I didn’t know about Jesus – the one who says: look, you can’t live up to the real living God’s standards, and I love you anyway. Enough to take the terrible punishment you deserve for all your sins. Enough to have my hands and feet nailed to planks of wood, enough to hang on that cross for several hours in agony, bleeding and dying so that you could go free.
When I first met him in that church in London in 1989, and then read the four gospels and learned more about him, I fell in love with someone who I saw as kind, loving, compassionate – and he is all that, but he’s so much more! It took over twelve years before the penny finally dropped, and I finally got it: he’s the Saviour, he didn’t just come to teach us how to live, he came to be the atoning sacrifice for all humankind so that we’ll be ok even though we can’t live up to God’s standards! He is the Lamb of God, who came to take away the sin of the world. He is the ultimate sacrifice provided for us by God himself, so that all who believe in him should not perish but have everlasting life. I can speak to the almighty God, the creator of the universe, and know him as my loving dad – not because I’m good enough, not because I fulfill a list of rules, but because I’m in Christ and he, the wonderful Saviour and Messiah, has fulfilled all of Torah! and in this amazing exchange that I couldn’t ever deserve, Jesus took my sins and gave me his righteousness!
How grateful would you be if you were going to be shot and killed but someone shoved you aside and took the bullet for you? Jesus did more than that for me: his sacrifice wasn’t on impulse, but planned ahead in meticulous detail; and his death wasn’t quick – he spent three hours on that cross. But the other, more significant difference is this: when someone takes a bullet for you, all they win for you is more of this life – you get to live a while longer, maybe a few years, maybe a few decades, but you will still die. All they’re giving you is extra time. Jesus though – he died to give me eternal life.
Yes, eternal life. I was almost going to say “eternity” but that’s not really it. Eternity is what everyone gets after death – it’s just a question of where we spend that eternity. Because of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, I know that I’ll be spending that eternity in the most wonderful place, I know that after I finish this life, with all its pain and suffering, I’ll get to enjoy an eternity full of joy – rather than the eternal torment I actually deserve!
And this amazing offer is open to all – you, reading this, if you haven’t done it yet then come on, do it now! Jesus died as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of all humankind! Repent of your sin and put your faith in him, and you will be saved!