In the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial stands one of the most solemn memorials in America, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Black granite stone against a background of lush, green grass and stately white marble monuments makes a visually striking memorial. For 493 feet the black granite stone stretches across the lawn. There are 58,272 names etched into the black granite, forever reminding us of the men and women who died fighting in Vietnam. It is enough to reduce even the most callous to tears.
When you stand in front of the wall and gaze at the names on it, you are drawn to something unique among monuments. It is your own reflection. Your reflection is a vivid and emotional reminder that the people whose names are listed on the wall died serving the United States and, by extension, died serving you.
1. The Sacrifice was Made for You
The same is true about the sacrifice Jesus made. When you read about the sacrifice Jesus made for you, do you see your reflection in the cross? Do you see in His broken and bloodied body that the sacrifice was for you? As you read the words, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me,” do you realize what it cost Him (Matthew 27:46)? Jesus Christ laid down His life as a sacrifice for you.
This is made clear in Ephesians 5:2. “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Did you notice the willingness of Jesus? He gave Himself up. Of His own volition, Jesus went to the cross. Compare this to the sacrifices offered in the Old Testament. Every animal sacrificed under the Mosaic Covenant had to be led or crated to the Temple. Jesus was not.
As He stood before Pilate and the Sanhedrin, endured the scourging, bore the crown of thorns thrust down on His head, stumbled His way up the Via Dolorosa carrying the beam of the cross, lay on the cross while the nails were driven into His hands, and hung on the cross, it was all of His own will. Even His death was under His will. “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up His spirit” (Matthew 27:50). Jesus knew all this was about to happen, yet He went willing to the cross.
Jesus went to the cross to make a sacrifice for you. But it was not just any sacrifice. Under the Old Testament law, animal sacrifices occurred daily. The amount of blood that must have flowed in the Temple is unfathomable. Even with all that bloodshed, sins were never taken away (Hebrews 10:4). The sacrifice Jesus made had the opposite effect. Just one sacrifice made by the perfect Lamb of God was enough to atone for all sins. The average adult human body contains 1.2 to 1.5 gallons of blood. On the day Jesus willingly went to the cross to sacrifice Himself for your sins, the gallon of blood in His body accomplished what millions of gallons of blood from animals could never do; it cleansed you of your sins (Hebrews 10:12-14). The willing Son of God sacrificed His body and blood that you may be washed as white as snow.
2. The Sacrifice is a Call to Action
We should be motivated by His sacrificial death to be the witnesses He has called us to be. “You shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). When this directive is given to the disciples, they are not yet setting the world on fire for Jesus.
The Book of Acts goes on to record for us what the disciples accomplished after they grasped the importance of Jesus’ sacrifice. Peter preached at Pentecost, and 3,000 were saved. Philip preached to an Ethiopian eunuch. The other disciples preached throughout the Middle East and beyond. Paul preached in synagogues throughout the Mediterranean.
Others like Barnabas, Luke, Timothy, Silas, Titus, and Apollos preached the Gospel message as well. Churches were started in Jerusalem, Antioch, Ephesus, Philippi, Iconium, and many other cities. As they went throughout the world preaching, the message started with the fact that Jesus died for their sins. Paul summed it up this way, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3).
We are now the ones who are called to be witnesses to our Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. It is our responsibility to continue the legacy of spreading the Gospel that started with the disciples. We must now tell those around us about the great sacrifice Jesus made for them. We need to tell people Jesus’ death on the cross is the one and only sacrifice that can take away their sins. If we look closely at the sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross, we can clearly see our call to share His saving message, just as those before us have.
What Are You Doing?
Jesus offered Himself up as a sacrifice for you. Are you telling others about His sacrifice and the impact it had on your life? Memorial Day is a time for all Americans to look back and remember the sacrifices made by the men and women of the United States Armed Forces. We remember their sacrifices and share them with others so the next generation will not forget. On this Memorial Day, take time to also reflect on the sacrifice Jesus Christ made for you. Then go one more step: share that story with someone else. If Jesus was willing to endure the cross for your salvation, surely you can find time to tell someone else? After all, you have an extra day off.