Have you ever been to the grocery store and your jaw dropped at the skyrocketing food prices? That was me a few months ago as a broke college student wanting to buy a snack at my local campus convenience store to hold me over for the night.
I was too lazy to walk half a mile to campus dining and wanted something quick to suppress my hunger. As I looked around at the limited options within the 10-by-5-foot space, I grabbed three items that would satisfy both my savory and sweet cravings. Cheez-its, waffle cone bites, and sour punches. I went to the register to let the lady ring up my items and she said dryly, “$14.03.” My eyes bulged out in surprise. I could get those very items for $4.03 at Family Dollar! But I hesitantly gave the lady my card to complete the purchase.
As I made it back to my room, my disbelief over the price I had just paid began to be replaced by an insight. I didn’t think that $14.03 was a fair price for a box of original Cheez-its (not even family-sized!), waffle cone bites (that get their name from how few bites it takes to finish the bag), and the shrunk-down version of sour punches with roughly eight straws in the package. I could’ve huffed in frustration, complained about why the price was so high, and walked out of the store in dissatisfaction about our economy. But I still paid for it. Why? Because that’s the price I had to pay in order to get them.
“But I still paid for it. Why? Because that’s the price I had to pay in order to get them.”
It’s easy for us to talk a lot about the price Jesus paid on the cross without deeply reflecting and meditating on what that truly meant. What that took out of him. What he had to sacrifice. Here is what Isaiah 53:3-9 says, and, if you have a minute, please try to read this slowly:
“He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.” (Is. 53:3-9, NIV)
“He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities.”
At my church when we disciple people, we are encouraged to read Isaiah 53 in its entirety twice. The first time to get the gist of the passage. The second time to make a personal connection with the passage by replacing words like “our,” “mankind,” and “we” with the person’s name and he/she to help them make the connection that we are just like the people in Jesus’ time.
It wasn’t fair for Jesus to die for their sins. For him to die for people who mocked him, despised him, and kept turning to their old, sinful ways like sheep. About two thousand years later, we are not much different from those people yelling “Crucify him, crucify him, crucify him!” We can mock Jesus through the music we hear nowadays of artists glorifying evil and downplaying the seriousness of hell. We can even hate him through our words and actions toward other people (See Matthew 25:31-46). We can constantly turn back to our old ways like a dog to its vomit thinking we know better than Jesus the Son of God.
I still paid $14.03 for those snacks at the store. Why? Because that’s the price it took for me to get them. And he still paid the price—the indescribably more unfair price—of his very life. Why? For us. We didn’t ask him to, but he knew that’s exactly what we needed in order to be in right relationship with the Father once more. He didn’t see the price for saving us and think, “Oh, that is too steep. Not going to happen.” He knew the full price, saw how dreadful it would be, and yet told his Father, “Your will be done” (Matt. 26:42).
“We didn’t ask him to, but he knew that’s exactly what we needed in order to be in right relationship with the Father once more.”
He paid the price it took to give us the free gift of grace and “eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23b, NIV). He didn’t even pay it with the guarantee that you would accept it. He paid the price and he extends you the invitation. Just because it’s free doesn’t mean it was cheap. Somehow, he sees us as worth saving, dying for, and even keeping around. It wasn’t a fair price, but the result was worth it to him.