The Passion and Agony of the Cross
He was in a work detail on the railroad. The day's work had ended and the tools had been counted. When the party was about to be dismissed, the Japanese guard declared that a shovel was missing. He insisted that someone had stolen it to sell it to the Thais. He strode up and down the front of the men ranting and denouncing them for their wickedness, their stupidity and most unforgivable ingratitude to the Emperor. "Screaming in broken English he demanded that the guilty one step forward to take his punishment. No one moved. The guard's rage reached new heights of violence. 'All die, all die,' he shrieked!
"To show that he meant what he said he pulled back the bolt, put the rifle to his shoulder, and looked down the sights ready to fire at the first man he saw at the end of them.
"At that moment the Argyle stepped forward and stood stiffly to attention and said calmly, 'I did it.'
"The guard unleashed all his whipped up hatred. He kicked the hapless prisoner and beat him with his fists and still the Argyle (prisoner) stood rigidly at attention. The blood was streaming down his face but he made no sound.
"The guard seized his rifle by the barrel and lifted it high over his head and with a final howl brought the butt down on the skull of the Argyle who sank limply to the ground and did not move. Although it was perfectly evident that he was dead, the guard continued to beat him and stopped only when exhausted.
"The men of the work detail picked up their comrade's body, shouldered their tools and marched back to camp. When the tools were counted again at the guardhouse, no shovel was missing."1
The Argyle stepped forward
and stood stiffly to attention
and said calmly, 'I did it.'
Surely there is no greater love than what this prisoner displayed. His was the supreme sacrifice. Knowing that he wasn't guilty, he gave his life to save the lives of his fellow prisoners. Even Jesus said, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."2
And yet, Jesus did display an even greater love. As the Apostle Paul wrote, "Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ [Jesus] died for us."3
So why did Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Great Creator of the universe, lay aside his external robes of deity to be clothed in a garment of human flesh, and left the glory of Heaven to come to earth as a man to die for lost mankind?
He did it because of his incredible love for us, to pay the penalty of and consequences of our sin, which is spiritual death. Spiritual death is not the cessation of life. It is eternal separation from God, the author of all love and life. Jesus died for us because it breaks the heart of God to lose us forever in an unthinkable eternity that God calls hell.
And when we consider the excruciation suffering caused by crucifixion—the agony of which Jesus went through for us—we can appreciate so much more the magnitude of God's love for
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