The Price of Christianity (I)
As we live in a world beset by the problem of unabated inflation, we are constantly asking what certain goods cost. What they cost yesterday is usually different from what they cost today. We live in a world of high prices. There seems to be no stopping of inflation. Despite the fact that prices are going up in every other aspect of life, Americans want a cheap religion, one which costs them nothing-no time, no money, and no sacrifices. Because of the attitudes which many have toward their religion, I think that it will be profitable for us to consider the price of Christianity.
What Christianity Cost Christ
When I think of the price of Christianity, I begin thinking of what Christianity cost our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus existed in the beginning with God; He was in the form of God and, thus, had all power under His authority. There was not one thing which He could want but that it was within His power to have it. But, Christianity cost Jesus the sacrifice of such a blessed state to come and live as a man.
Having become a man, Jesus lived as a carpenter's son. He could have been king of all of the earth, reigning on the throne of His choice. But Christianity demanded a cross instead of a crown. Hence, He lived as a carpenter's son and did what carpenter's sons do. His was no life of luxury.
While upon this earth, Jesus endured much mistreatment. We think sometimes of the agonies of the cross but forget some of the things which Jesus endured prior to His crucifixion. Consider some of the things which Jesus endured prior to the crucifixion:
1. He was betrayed by one of His close friends. Judas had been hand-picked by Jesus to be one of His apostles. For three years, they had been in close association with each other and, no doubt, Jesus had come to love Judas as He did the rest of the apostles. Yet, Judas betrayed Him. With a kiss, the most intimate expression of love, Judas identified Jesus to His enemies. Anyone who has been mistreated by those whom He thought were his friends knows how Jesus' heart ached when Judas betrayed Him.
2. He was physically punished prior to His trial. At the house of Annas, one of the Jewish officers struck Jesus with his hand (Jn. 18:22). Before Caiaphas, the Jews spat in Jesus' face, beat Him and slapped Him (Mt. 26:67-68). When before Herod, the soldiers "set Him at nought, and mocked Him .... arraying Him in gorgeous apparel" (Lk. 23:11). Pilate had Jesus scourged (Jn. 19:1). The soldiers stripped Jesus, put a scarlet robe on Him, plaited a crown of thorns which they placed on His head, put a reed in His right hand, offered mock worship to Him and spat in His face (Mt. 27:27-30). Can you imagine the Lord of Glory enduring such humiliation from man whom He created? He had the power to call ten thousand angels to defend Himself but He willingly endured such mistreatment from the hands of ungodly men.
Having endured all of these agonies prior to His crucifixion, the Son of Man was then taken outside the city and crucified. They nailed His hands to the cross and then did the same to His feet. I can remember, as a kid, stepping on a rusty nail when playing at a friend's house. I can remember some of the pain that went with that. Yet, I did that accidentally. I cannot imagine the physical and mental anguish which Jesus must have felt when the Roman soldier took his hammer and spike and drove it through Jesus' hands and feet.
Having nailed Jesus to the cross, the Roman soldiers would then have placed the cross in the hole which they had dug for it in the ground. Lifting the cross, they let it drop into the hole which they had dug for it. No doubt, as the cross on which Jesus hung fell into its hole, Jesus' body sagged against the nails. His flesh was torn by sagging against the nails. The pain must have been intense.
In addition to the physical pain which Jesus endured while hanging on the cross, there was also mental anguish. Can you imagine the horrible feeling which must have welled up inside of Jesus as He witnessed a crowd of people who gathered to watch Him die? My father has a picture of a public hanging which occurred in Groveton, Texas in the early 1900's. There must have been a thousand people (that is a lot of people for a town of one thousand) who had gathered to watch a man be hung. There was a similar crowd gathered to watch Jesus die.
The crowd hurled one insult after another at Jesus. "Ha! thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself, and come down from the cross" (Mk. 15:29-30). "He saved others; let him save himself, if this is the Christ of God, his chosen" (Lk. 23:35). "And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, Art not thou the Christ? save thyself and us" (Lk. 23:39). Yet, Jesus endured these insults without so much as trying to retaliate.
As I think of what Jesus endured, I think of what I would have done had I been in His place. Had I been able to have as much power at my command as Jesus had, I would probably have spoken the word which would have caused some of those who railed the loudest to have died on the spot. I would not have been the meek lamb which Jesus was. But, my friend, Jesus did not act that way because He was paying the high price which Christianity cost.
Christianity came at a high price to Jesus. He had to shed His blood on the cross of Calvary ,in order that the sins of man might be forgiven. A greater price to be paid by Jesus cannot be imagined. He sacrificed more than His possessions; He gave His life for you and me.
The story of the cross is a story of love. God loved us enough to send His Son Jesus to die for our sins. Jesus loved us enough to go through the pre-crucifixion agonies as well as to die on the cross. We had done nothing to deserve the wonderful sacrifice of Jesus; instead, we had acted rebelliously against God, being counted as His enemies. Yet, God still loved us enough to plan the means whereby we could be saved.
Jesus said, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself' (Jn. 12:32). When Jesus laid this, He was referring to His death. Jesus recognized that the story of His sacrifice in behalf of man was the drawing power of the gospel. That Jesus gave His life as a ransom for our salvation should cause us to love Him and want to express our sincere thanks for what He has done for us. The gospel which details the story of Jesus' love for us is the only power which God will use to bring men unto Him. If men are not emotionally touched by the story of Jesus and God's love for us, they are too hard-hearted to be saved.
My friends, Christianity came to man at a very high price. God gave His only begotten Son. Jesus gave His life for us. The price of Christianity was, indeed, very high. Yet, Christianity costs more than just Jesus' blood. There are some prices which man has to pay (not in the sense of earning his salvation) in order to be saved. We shall consider some of them next week.
Truth Magazine XXI: 41, pp. 659-670