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Dr. Bryan Chapell tells the story of two brothers who were playing on the sandbanks by the river in his hometown.
He writes, “One ran after another up a large mound of sand. Unfortunately, the mound was not solid, and their weight caused them to sink in quickly.
“When the boys did not return home for dinner, the family and neighbors organized a search. They found the younger brother unconscious, with his head and shoulders sticking out above the sand. When they cleared the sand to his waist, he awakened. The searchers asked, ‘Where is your brother?’
“The child replied, ‘I’m standing on his shoulders.’
“With the sacrifice of his own life, the older brother lifted the younger to safety. The tangible and sacrificial love of the older brother literally served as a foundation for the younger brother’s life.”
In 1 John 2:2 we read that Jesus Christ is the “propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” That word “propitiation” is one of those theological words that some people say the church can do without. For me, it is one of the most beautiful and grace-filled words in all of Holy Scripture, for without it Christianity would not exist.
The word means “atoning sacrifice” and is used here in reference to Jesus to describe the purpose of his death on the cross. Namely, that Jesus died to bear the wrath of God for his people, and thus turn that wrath into blessing. In other words, it is through faith in the death of Jesus on our behalf that we go from knowing God as the holy judge to our holy father, with all the benefits that come with being his child.
This Friday, Christians all over the world will observe what we refer to as Good Friday. We remember the self-sacrificing love of Christ that was dimly illustrated by the older brothers lifting of his little brother up on his shoulders in order to save his life.
To reiterate Dr. Chapell’s observation, it was in the giving of his own life that the older brother saved the younger. “The tangible and sacrificial love of the older brother literally served as a foundation for the younger brother’s life.”
Jesus’ death on the cross was a substitutionary death – it was in the place of sinners. That means people like you and me (Romans 3:23). If not for the death of Christ, I would perish in the shifting sands of my own sin.
The love of God for sinners is seen tangibly and sacrificially in the death of Christ, which serves as the foundation of our salvation. For “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
Friend, where is your hope today? Have your trusted in the death of Christ as sufficient to save you from the penalty of your sin? If not, repent and believe the Gospel today.
Brian Owens is an associate pastor with youth and children emphasis at Farmdale Baptist Church. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.