Series: The Lion and the Lamb
Message: The Love Paradox
Preacher: Tony Hunter
Reflection: Becky De Oliveira
Live Wonder: Zan Long
Live Adventure: Jenniffer Ogden
Live Beyond: Adrian Peterson
Live Purpose: Kyle Smith
Editor: Becky De Oliveira
Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Isaiah 53 in The Message (MSG). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: In the movie adaptation of James Fenimore Cooper’s novel The Last of the Mohicans (1992), British Army Major Duncan Heyward, played by Steven Waddington, offers himself to be burned alive in the place of the woman he loves—Cora (Madeleine Stowe), a woman who has rejected him in favor of Hawkeye, a rugged buckskin-clad white man who lives as a Native American and is fetchingly played by Daniel Day-Lewis. (Poor Heyward, one senses almost immediately, never had a chance with his tricorn hat and ridiculous wig.) Heyward is not in any danger; the Huron have decided to release him. All he has to do is walk away. His sacrifice is made all the more poignant by the fact that Hawkeye is trying desperately to offer himself in Cora’s place—but here’s the catch: He doesn’t speak French. Heyward, in translating Hawkeye’s speech to the Huron sachem (chief), could have easily removed his rival by translating the speech exactly as Hawkeye gave it. Instead, he convinces the sachem to burn him instead, causing much confusion for both Hawkeye and Cora who do not understand what is happening. As Heyward is led to the fire, he says to Hawkeye, “I told them to take me. My compliments, sir! Take her and get out!” From a safe vantage point, Hawkeye coolly takes aim and shoots Heyward as the flames rise, excruciatingly, around him, repaying his courage by sparing him a slow and agonizing death.
Jesus was not spared much in the way of agony—not physical pain and not mental pain either. The Newbery Medal-winning young adult novel The Giver portrays a society in which all the emotional pain of the past is experienced by one person—the Receiver of Memory. When a young boy, Jonas, is chosen to be trained by the current Receiver (who instructs him to call him The Giver), he is made to understand that his job will be to experience pain—both physical and mental. He is not allowed to take any medication to deaden this pain which the Chief Elder has warned him will be “indescribable.” The Giver is often in excruciating pain, so much so that it interrupts their training. “‘Go,’ The Giver would tell him tensely. ‘I’m in pain today. Come back tomorrow.’” He is experiencing all the suffering in the world. This helps to provide some understanding of what Jesus bore on the Cross— “our pains,” the text says, “our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.”
It is easier for me to imagine taking on pain for a loved one than it is to imagine the loved one—or anyone—doing the same thing for me. To some extent, the pure shock of Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross has been diluted in the repetition; it now seems almost like a commonplace occurrence. A-B-C-D-E-F-G, Jesus died for you and me. But that’s because it’s Jesus—whom we sometimes no longer see as a real person who would have felt all the things that we feel, the pain, the indecision, the guilt, the despair, the fear. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus sweated drops of blood in His anguish (Luke 22:43-44) and prayed “Let this cup of suffering pass from me” (Matthew 26:39). If we heard this story told differently, if the hero were someone other than Jesus—Heyward, for instance—how much more extraordinary it would seem.
Try thinking about Jesus’ death and why He died until it manages to surprise you. The way of Jesus is incredible. As A. W. Tozer put it, in Preparing for Jesus’ Return: Daily Live the Blessed Hope:
If man had his way, the plan of redemption would be an endless and bloody conflict. In reality, salvation was bought not by Jesus’ fist, but by His nail-pierced hands; not by muscle but by love; not by vengeance but by forgiveness; not by force but by sacrifice. Jesus Christ our Lord surrendered in order that He might win; He destroyed His enemies by dying for them and conquered death by allowing death to conquer Him.
Recalibrate: What are some of your favorite stories of heroism and sacrifice and how can you relate them to the story of Jesus to make it seem more real?
Respond: Pray for a gut-level understanding of Jesus’ sacrifice for you, for your family, and for your community.
Research: Watch The Last of the Mohicans or read The Giver.
Remember: “But He was wounded for the wrong things we did. He was crushed for the evil things we did” (Isaiah 53:5, ICB).
Becky De Oliveira is a teacher, writer, editor, and graphic designer. She is working on a PhD in research methods at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.
Using fruit like blueberries, grapes, and strawberries, play a game of squishing out the juice. Show your little one how when the fruit is squished the juice comes out. It never feels good to be squished, does it? It feels like what is on the inside is coming out. When Jesus gave His life, what was on the inside of Him conquered death—and that sweet thing is love.
When I was about five, I really wanted a candy bar at the store. My mom knew I didn’t need any sugar, so she said, “No!” I decided to take it anyhow. When Mom heard me opening the bar in the car, she quickly figured out what I had done, took me back to the store to return and pay for the candy. I was so very embarrassed. But I have never again stolen a candy bar. Try to think of some of the things you tried and realized weren’t good. What made you stop doing them? Sometimes, when I think of Jesus’ pain, it stops me from doing what I was planning to do because I know it would hurt me or another person, or even Jesus’ heart. We don’t want to hurt other people and this can help us remember to ask for help in doing the best things!
“But He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed” (Isaiah 53:5, NLT). I used to get in trouble a lot in school for talking, and if you know me you would not be surprised at this revelation at all! In fact, one day my teacher must have been feeling a bit cheeky because I got an award to take home for being quiet. Since I had a reputation for talking a lot I also got in trouble when my classmates were talking and the teacher just assumed it was me. There I was, minding my own business, working quietly, and bam! “Adrian! Stop talking!” Have you gotten the blame for someone else doing something wrong? It is the worst! Think about it—Jesus was willing to take the blame for the bad things you and I do. He suffered, and eventually died, for you and me. He was innocent but accepted the punishment anyway. This only leads me to believe that He must love me a lot to take the punishment that I deserve!
“Surely He took up our pain and bore our suffering.” Did you know that? Did you know that Jesus already carried all of the pain and suffering you have gone through and ever will go through in your life? Life brings many hard times. Yesterday I told you a story that changed my life forever. That time of rejection and hurt is forever a marker on the road of my life. Yet before I was a thought in my mother’s mind, Jesus knew I would face that pain. Jesus knows all of the trouble that will come your way. But not only does He know about it, He has already carried the weight of it. That means He has already suffered for me and for you! Isn’t that crazy to imagine? As you think about your life, it is tempting to worry about the future. Our generation has more anxiety and depression than any other. We are plagued with the fear of tomorrow. I want to remind you that Jesus has already been to tomorrow. He knows what is going to happen and He is standing with you, ready to point you to the way of escape. That is why we must make it a habit to be with Him through His word and prayer. He never leaves us alone in the battle.
Zan Long is GRC director for faith development groups. She lives in Sydney, Australia, and serves at her local church in nearby Kellyville.
Jenniffer Ogden serves as the children and family pastor at the Walla Walla University Church in College Place, Washington.
Adrian Peterson is the associate pastor at Burwood Adventist Community Church in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, Australia.
Kyle Smith is the associate pastor of youth and family ministries at New Haven Adventist Church in Overland Park, Kansas.