Do you know that if you were the ONLY person in the world at the time, Jesus still would have gone to the cross to forgive your sins? Sounds incredible, huh? But it’s true, and yet I think we sometimes lose sight of that.
When we consider all the billions of people that God created, is it any wonder we can sometimes feel lost in a crowd when it comes to God? That at times, we see our needs or concerns as perhaps lost in a morass of the millions and millions and millions of others?
A passage hit me this week in my journey through the New Testament, and as I perused Luke 23 – John 2, I reflected back on a section of passages that pointed to the fact that with God, it’s definitely personal …
Luke 23:39 – 46 …
One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!” But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” By this time it was about noon, and darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. The light from the sun was gone. And suddenly, the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn down the middle. Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” And with those words he breathed his last.
Note that Jesus is at this time, on the cross, after an unimaginable torment and beating; and that was after He was falsely accused, falsely convicted, shamelessly scorned and taunted, spat upon, pierced with a crown of thorns, and ridiculed. His hands and feet were nailed with big, thick spikes onto the wooden cross, with blood pouring out (to the degree it hadn’t already after everything else) and with an unbearable burden just to lift Himself up just to take a shallow breath.
That’s the setting He finds Himself in as He’s placed on top of a hill in between two notorious criminals, who proceed to once again mock and goad Him. That is, until one of them introspectively reprimanded the other … and pled with Jesus to forgive him.
What touched me about this passage … differently than I’ve been affected by this passage before … is the fact that Jesus looked over at this criminal, who admittedly was (at least according to Roman law) right where he deserved to be, and said, “I assure you …” He assured him. That one person. At that immediate time. Jesus took the opportunity to love and forgive that one individual. And while we hear and understand in John 3:16 that “God so loved the world” here we have a clear indication that He also so loved each one of us.
I’m convinced that God doesn’t do anything accidentally. He does everything He does with an immense and loving purpose in mind. So too with this criminal on the cross next to Him. So too if it were you … or me.
When Jesus was on the cross, it’s true of course that He died for the world. Scripture is clear on that. But you’re part of “the world” and I’m part of “the world” and so we can infer from that, that He died for you and He died for me. Simple stuff there.
But think about something … if He died for you, when He died, you were on His mind. He died thinking of you. And me. And everyone else that He ever created. Individually. He literally was thinking of us, of everything we ever did, everything we ever will do. His death wasn’t this broad sweeping act of grace and mercy … it was an incredibly personal act, done in a highly specific, customized way for you and for me.
And it’s not just His death that was incredibly personal. His resurrection and conquering death was as well. More than that … when we peer more deeply into the care and concern with which Jesus responded to the criminal we have to recognize that Jesus knew everything about his life, his actions, his motives, etc., and STILL went to the cross and STILL looked on him with love as he assured him he’d be in heaven with Jesus that very day. That is the same care and concern and love that He demonstrated that day and has demonstrated for all eternity past and all eternity to come.
So when we feel lost in the crowd, let’s pray and ask God to remind us that it’s personal … deeply personal … how He loved and loves us. We’re not blended into a mass of unidentified faces. We are a uniquely-created and abundantly loved individual creation. He took the time to make us and die for us. You. Me. Individually. If you were the only person ever created, He would willingly have died for you.
It’s personal. It’s definitely personal.