Summary: Life is our spring training that is preparing us for the season that lies ahead.
Every year in February, baseball players head to Arizona and Florida to prepare for the upcoming baseball season. They gather to stretch muscles, practice their skills, get in shape, and work on the fundamentals to help them play together as a team.
Pitchers will work on arm strength or some new pitch. Runners work on sliding and running the bases. Batters will practice hitting to the opposite field or bunting, or sacrificing.
The skill I want to talk about today is the sacrifice. It’s when the batter hits a ball that is caught or fielded in a way the batter is out, yet the runners already on base advance to the next base. The batter sacrifices his chance to maybe get on base safely. The batter is out, but the result was good for the team.
This morning I want to talk about another kind of sacrifice. This kind of sacrifice doesn’t contribute to winning a baseball game, but accomplishes much, much more – salvation to all of God’s children.
This sacrifice didn’t take place on a well-manicured field of green grass with pretty white foul lines, players hitting a round ball with a smooth, polished stick of wood. No, this sacrifice I’m talking about took place at a rock-strewn hill on 2 rough, splintered sticks of wood. This sacrifice took place on a cross.
The cross is at the center of all Christianity. It was while our Lord Jesus Christ hung on the cross that our sins were forgiven. He sacrificed Himself for the good of the team. This wasn’t an easy task for Him, but He did it willingly, because He loves us and it was the will of His Father. The Lamb of God, who knew no sin, had to take on all the sins of the world. And without this sacrifice, we couldn’t advance safely to the next base, which is heaven.
The timing of this sacrifice was during the Passover celebration. The Passover celebration comes from the final plague on the Pharaoh and Egypt that all firstborn males were to die. To paraphrase what the Lord told Moses in Exodus chap. 12, the Israelites were to sacrifice a lamb, a year old male lamb without defect at twilight on the 14th day of the month.
Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. They were given specific instructions on how to prepare the meat and to eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover. On that same night the Lord was going to pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn, men and animals. But to the ones with blood on the doorframes, the Lord said, “I will pass over you.” It was the blood of the Passover lamb that saved the 1st born of the Israelites in Egypt. And the Passover celebration had been observed every year since that time.
Several years later Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey through the Eastern Gate at the same time the lambs for the Passover were entering Jerusalem through the sheep gate. It was 4 days before the Passover. During the preparation for Passover, the lambs had to be set apart for 4 days and inspected by the Priests to ensure that they were without blemish and perfect. Just as the lambs were examined for flaws, the Lamb of God was examined & interrogated to find some flaw in Him. Even Pilate had to admit "I find no fault in Him."
At three o’clock in the afternoon on the day of Passover, the priest lifted the heads of the sacrificial lambs and killed them. At the same time on Mount Calvary, Roman soldiers nailed the perfect Lamb of God to the cross to sacrifice him.
When the Priest sacrificed the lambs, they were not to break any bones of the lambs. When the Roman soldiers came to make sure the ones hanging on the cross were dead, they broke the legs of the two thieves, but since Jesus was already dead, none of His bones were broken. These two things were not coincidences. It was all part of God’s plan. God gave His only Son, as a sacrificial lamb for our sins.
People think Jesus was nailed to the cross, hung there for a few hours, and died without much pain or suffering. Not true. Jesus felt pain, and not just physically. He suffered emotionally, as well. Besides the extreme physical pain of having nails driven through his wrists and feet, He suffered when he took on all of our sins on himself (and I’m not just talking about yours and mine. I’m talking about all the sins of the world from the beginning till now and in the future).