There are tens of thousands of people in this country who believe in the foolish notion of reincarnation. Of course, we don’t begin give any credence to idea. But what if was such a thing? Just imagine your chagrin, if you died tonight and awoke tomorrow trapped in the body of a slug. What if you were transformed into a slug hiding under the leaf of a plant in your former back yard? What if your mind were the same, your memories were intact, and your dreams were unchanged. But you were trapped in the ugly, loathsome, slimy, disgusting body of a shell-less snail? Listen to me now – the difference between you and the snail is not any greater than the difference between the glorified Son of God, and Jesus the carpenter’s son.
The title of our message this morning is: “The Full Circle of Sacrifice.” From that title you might be thinking of something a little more narrow than I am today. We are a week away from Easter. This is the only week of the year when many religious people think about the crucifixion of Christ. And you, as Bible-believers, know that God demands a blood sacrifice for your sin and sins. Hebrews 10:22 – “Almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.” Leviticus 17:11 – “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.” I Corinthians 5:21 – “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” Ephesians 5:2 – “Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.” When we think of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, we usually picture the horrible cross. And while that is an intrinsic part, it is actually only one part of Christ’s sacrifice. If God commissioned you to paint a portrait of the Lord’s sacrifice, one canvas would not be enough. If would actually take a mural across several walls.
And I think our scripture can be used to illustrate the magnificent variety of the Jesus’ sacrifice. Let these truth’s engulf your mind and permeate every corner of your heart. Look at Jesus’ love, and the pain and heartache which He bore to purchase your redemption. See the cost which lay behind the gift of grace at your feet. And if you are not a child of God, ask yourself how you can ignore such a sacrifice as this. “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?”
Think of the sacrifice contained in Christ’s INCARNATION – Jesus’ birth.
Verse 3 – “He was come from God.” I hope that you can see in this Christ’s absolute uniqueness. I hope that you realize that every aspect of Jesus’ birth was special. Just as Christ could say, “the Father hath given all things in my hands….” Just as He could say, “The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son…” He could have said, “No one has ever entered into human life, the way that I have come.”
YOU are the product of your parents. Many of your features, traits and abilities were seen in either your parents or your grandparents. Your nose and ears, your skill with your hands, your rapid anger or your patience came from your parentage. You aren’t beautiful of face because Grace Kelly was beautiful. You aren’t a skilled musician because Van Cliborn won the International Tchaikovsky competition in 1958. You are not directly related to these people. Nor can it be said that you were born into this world as a child of Jehovah. God is the literal father of only one person – the God-man, the Lord Jesus Christ.
And when Christ entered this world, it was more traumatic than any human birth has ever been. From what I have seen, human birth is traumatic, but none has been as much so as that of Christ. But it was not in the same way as yours. To put it bluntly, the Son of God sacrificed nearly everything that He had, to come to this place. Think of all that the missionary sacrifices to work in the jungles of New Guinea. He leaves behind him is family, modern conveniences, doctors, library, security, telephones. But does he leave himself? Does he cease to be the man that he was back home? He still has the same mind, strength, Holy Spirit, heavenly home, faith and hope.
But with reservation and reverence, I say that it was not so with the Saviour. At his incarnation he sacrificed nearly all the privileges of His deity. Philippians 2:5-8 – “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” What were some of the things that the Son of God relinquished? I am not smart enough to dogmatically answer that question. But it seems to me that He laid aside the blessing of His perfect foresight about the future. Perhaps it was in order to feel the temptation of anxiety over the unknown. He told us that not even He himself, the knew the hour of the His Second coming. Christ sacrificed the ministry of millions of angels; rarely did they serve Him in His humanity. There was the position and glory which He sacrificed in order to take upon Himself human flesh. In John 17 we see Jesus opening His heart, “Father, I long for the glory which I had with you before all this.” “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.”
Christ Jesus cut out a chunk of His heart just to come to this sinful planet. Even apart from the death on Calvary, the sacrifice was more than most have ever imagined. There is the story of a particular king who loved his nation and its people. On occasions he would disguise himself and visit his people. Once he went deep into the bowels of an old building to talk to a man who tended the boilers there. He so enjoyed the man’s company in that dark, hot, inhumane place that he returned several times. He ate of the man’s simple food, listening to stories of his pains, his plans and his dreams. After several visits the king revealed himself to the poor man, offering to make the man very rich and to take him from his hard job. But the poor furnace keeper refused. “You left your place and all its glory to sit with me, and eat my food, and care what happened to me. On others bestow your gifts, but to me you have given yourself. I have had the greater blessing.” He said, “There is no greater gift.” Ah, but there is – the gift of the incarnation of the Son of God.
We also see here the sacrifice of Jesus’ LORDSHIP.
“He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.” The sense in which I use the term “Lord” in this point is as “Master” or “Leader.” Please understand that I don’t have the slightest doubt that Jesus is the Jehovah of the Old Testament. Nearly every time we read “LORD” we can substitute “Jesus Christ” and not bend the scriptures. “Jehovah” refers to the God-head, the Trinity, as a unit, and Jesus is the Second Person of that unit. But this time, I’m speak of Jesus as “Master.” The Saviour sacrificed His Lordship over the disciples – He humbled Himself to be upon earth.
I thank God that He said, “My thoughts are not your thoughts.” That statement leaves me with an excuse. Maybe you fully understand “humility” but I do not – not in myself and especially not in Christ. I would expect the humility of God to still stand head and shoulder above the highest men. I would expect the lowest part of God’s humility to be miles above the very best humility men can offer. But that just shows you how confuse I can be.
Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords, the God-man, became a servant of sinful men. First, He laid aside His Heavenly glory, and then His glorious seamless robe. And He wrapped a towel around Himself, preparing to washed people’s feet… their feet. He didn’t give them each a shoulder massage; nor did He wash their hands; it was their feet. It wasn’t a glamorous servant’s job, like working at the White House. It wasn’t an important task, like cleaning a filthy, blood-soaked leg in preparation for surgery. It was just washing dirty feet.
The disciples were not completely wrong expecting Christ to climb into the throne of David. And if He had done so, they would have happily taken basins of water with which to wash His feet. But when Jesus came to earth, “He came not to be ministered unto, but to minister.” I know that His ministry includes “and to give His life a ransom for many.” But cut the sentence short and listen to it – He came to be a minister – a “diakoneo” – a servant. Christ not only sacrificed the prerogatives of Deity, but many of the privileges of humanity as well. And the reason? Wasn’t it that none of us should be ashamed to knock on His door? Sacrifice is one of the keys to Biblical Christianity, but so few of us know very much about it. In fact there are many religious liberals who hate and completely deny Jesus’ sacrifice, because they refuse to sacrifice anything themselves.
Christ even sacrificed simple RESPECT.
“Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean.” Jesus knew that Judas was going to betray Him.
There are servants in the Bible whom we can respect and admire. There was faithful and obedient Eliezer, servant to Abraham. I love the little girl who was a servant to the wife of mighty Naaman of Syria. “Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! For he would recover him of his leprosy.” And then there is the nearly perfect illustration of Christ’s servanthood in Joseph of Egypt. We can admire a servant who is faithful and obedient. A person with true humility is a rare and admirable soul, and I wish that possessed it. Because “every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” There is certainly a difference between that kind of humility and the humiliation which comes with making stupid mistakes.
In some way Jesus knew that Judas, a disciple in name, was not a disciple indeed. Christ knew him to be a liar, a hypocrite and a thief. But did this knowledge keep the Lord from permitting Judas into the honor of this footbath? “What a blunder; what a stupid mistake on Jesus’ part; what ignorance.” I say, “what love and compassion, what longsuffering.” Perhaps there was no better place to show the Lord’s humility and complete sacrifice. “The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy.” “The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.”
And then beyond the disciples and Judas, Christ often associated himself with the lowest dregs of society. He ate lunch with Roman tax collectors – despised by “decent” people. He didn’t run from lepers, whores and men possessed with demons the way “respectable” people did. He didn’t care what the sinful world thought about Him – He didn’t yearn for their respect. He sacrificed even a good human reputation – it meant nothing to Him.
He sacrificed Heaven, His rights as God, earthly honor and, of course, HIS LIFE.
“Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.” Christ never had very much in the way of worldly wealth – and what He had He gave away. Someone might point out that it was easy for Him because He was God. He could order a big fish to jump into the disciple’s boat to be cooked for supper. He could heal a sick woman, just so that she could fix Him a meal. He could say, “The Master hath need of this colt, or chicken or bed” – whatever. But He never arbitrarily did that sort of thing. Rather than commandeering things, He gave them away.
He even gave Himself. Calvary was not the first or only place where He gave Himself. In Gethsemane He gave Himself to the arresting mob. He proved His deity by knocking much of that mob to ground, but then He let them up. I wonder if he didn’t reach down and actually pull one or two them to their feet. Then He permitted them to take Him away. Did those who couldn’t stand before Christ without His help actually arrest Him? Don’t be silly, He sacrificed His liberty to them.
Then all the disciples forsook Him; He was beaten; His clothes were stolen; His dignity was stripped away. There was only one thing left that was really His – His life. “He took the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” He became “obedient” unto death – He became subservient to death. “For Christ also hath once SUFFERED for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh.” I know what is meant in saying “Jesus suffered for sins.” He died “because of” sins; He died “on behalf of” sins. But for the emphasis of my point, let’s use a different definition for “suffered.” He PERMITTED Himself to suffer for sins. “Surely he hath (willingly) borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man (willingly sacrifice) his life for his friends.”
What I would like you to see is that Christ sacrificed EVERYTHING for the sake of your redemption. Can you name one earthly object which He kept for Himself? He refused to sacrifice His integrity, but that was just about all that He kept to Himself. His blood flowed down the shaft of the cross by His willing permission – sacrifice. Yes, He could have called 10,000 angels to destroy the world and set Him free, but He refused.
Jesus sacrificed Himself as much as if He drove the nails through His hands.
But there is one other sacrifice contained in this scripture.
“Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.”
Peter, with the pretense of humility gives us vivid display of pride. “No, Lord, you can’t wash my feet. You are tooooooo great, and I am tooooooo filthy. If my feet are ever going to be clean, then I will take care of that myself.” Jesus’ reply knocked the stuffing right out of old Peter. “Then you will never be clean.”
With all of Christ’s sacrifices and the humiliation of the cross – God will not force anyone to be washed. God will not invite a flotilla of unrepentant, unwilling sinners in convoy to Heaven. There is another sacrifice which necessary to bring salvation to full circle. Peter had to sacrifice his pride to accept the grace Christ. I know that this isn’t salvation which we have pictured here, but the principle is the same.
You will face the fires of Hell until you are willing to sacrifice yourself to the Lord. You are a sinner, a child of disobedience, a child of Hell, a child of Satan. There is only one way overcome that heritage, and it cannot be found in yourself. Christ humbly came from glory and went to Calvary in order to redeem His chosen people. He will not club you down and pour His grace down your throat. But He will convict your heart and soul and will give you the gifts of repentance and faith in Him. Do you feel, this morning, the Holy Spirit leading you to sacrifice your pride and admit to your sin? You need a Redeemer – a sacrifice. Remember that “without the shedding of blood there is no redemption” from your sin. Look up at the Saviour on that cross, look at the blood, suffering. He sacrificed His all to save your worthless neck – our sinful souls.
Christ’s sacrifice is completed when you are brought to sacrifice your pride enough to receive Christ with repentance and humble faith.