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Youth Messenger Online Edition

April-June

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Golgotha
Stephanie Hazelhoff

It was a typical Sabbath afternoon. Family and close friends were gathered at my grandmother’s house. After spending some time with everyone, I decided to take a quick power nap. As I began to drift off, a very strange dream began to play. In my dream, my family was gathered at my grandma’s house, very much like that day, when someone ran into the room shouting, “It’s done! It’s done! The Sunday law has been passed!!” All of a sudden I felt this feeling of complete desperation and hopelessness wash over me, like all had been lost! That feeling is best described by David, “The pangs of death surrounded me, and the floods of ungodliness made me afraid.” (Psalm 18:4 NKJV). I remember thinking, “All is lost. Jesus is coming and I’m not ready!” But more importantly, I thought, “I am going to die!” I woke up terrified and thoughts kept racing into my mind, “What if death is final? What if Jesus’ death was final? What if God had not sent His Son down to this desolate and sin-filled world to save us? What if Jesus had decided not to die for us after all?”

A well-known Bible verse that is repeated by both young and old is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Have you ever stopped and thought about the words and the message they are trying to convey? I thought I knew what the verse was saying until Brother Adrian Finaru brought out a few key points. The first part of the verse says “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, . . .” God gave us His only Son! God didn’t LEND us His Son but rather GAVE Him to us, not expecting anything back! Nowadays, whenever you download an app or even music on your phone or computer, there is a “Terms and Conditions” page that requires your attention. In order to continue, you must first “Agree” to the contract (that you may or may not have read). But with God, there isn’t a “Terms and Conditions” agreement. He didn’t expect anything from us in return. Why would He do this? “But God commendeth [demonstrates] his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8 KJV). God’s love for us is unmeasurable. It is agape which means it is the “highest form of love” (https://www.britannica.com/topic/agape). Jesus chose to die for you and me because of how strong His love is for us, not because He required something from us in return.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t a walk in the park. Jesus had to go through a tremendous amount of physical and mental suffering. The verses in Matthew 27:28–31 describe the mockery and humiliation that Jesus suffered right before His death. The Spirit of Prophecy (The Desire of Ages, pp. 734, 735) describes how His abusers afflicted the most intense suffering imaginable. They purposefully tried to make His death as shameful as possible. They mocked Him. They spat on his face. They ripped His clothes from His body. They put a crown of thorns on His head. There was so much agony and pain. Yet, He submitted meekly and humbly. He did not try to struggle against the soldiers but instead, with complete surrender, let his accusers nail Him to the cross. It seems almost impossible to comprehend. Why? Why would Jesus lay down everything in heaven just to come and be brutally beaten and mocked if He wasn’t automatically going to get something from us in return? There is this beautiful quote that I came across that Sis. White wrote. “If sinners can be led to give one earnest look at the cross, if they can obtain a full view of the crucified Saviour, they will realize the depth of God’s compassion and the sinfulness of sin.” (The Acts of the Apostles, p. 209). [Emphasis supplied.] God’s love or compassion for us is so deep that the only way we will fully understand it is if we could actually see His pierced body upon the cross.

There was a darkness that cloaked Golgotha while this unimaginable scene took place. Although the sun was shining, darkness seemed to settle over the area. This darkness showed that the earth “expressed her sympathy with Christ in His expiring agony” (The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 3, p. 167). More importantly, it represented the obstacle of human transgression that got in the way of God and His Son. Jesus felt the separation between Himself and His Father. Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). Jesus, in His final hours, felt alone. He felt as if His Father had turned His back on Him. Even though God had turned His face away from the horrible scene, God was still suffering right along with His Son. He felt the pain and suffering that His Son was feeling.

Suddenly, the gloom seemed to disappear and a light encircled the cross. Jesus with a loud cry proclaimed “It is finished,” and continued by saying “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (John 19:30, Luke 23:46). With a face shining “with a glory like the sun,” Jesus bowed his head and died. (Read The Desire of Ages, pp. 755, 756.) The veil in the temple separating the Holy from the Most Holy place was torn in two from top to bottom by the hand of God. There was lightning! A mighty earthquake shook the earth. Rocks began to break. Graves opened and the Breath of Life filled the bodies of the saints once again! I’m sure it took a moment for the people of Jerusalem to comprehend the chaos that was taking place; once it registered, they became so afraid and began to run for their lives! In awe and fearful realization, they proclaimed, “Truly this was the Son of God” (Matthew 27:54). They realized that a terrible mistake had taken place, one that could never be undone. They had crucified the Son of God to the cross. They had mocked and taunted Him to prove that He was the Son of God. And now, they were seeing the immediate consequence of their actions. Even in death, Jesus Christ had the victory! All of heaven rejoiced because Satan had been overcome! Jesus had won the controversy between the heavenly and evil forces. There would be no more tears. There would be no more pain. There would be no more eternal death!

When I think back on all the questions that had raced through my mind, the one that stands out the most is, “What if Jesus had decided not to die for me?” The more I thought about this question the more I realized that if Jesus hadn’t made that ultimate sacrifice for us, we wouldn’t be here today. I would not have had the opportunity to write this article and you would not have the chance to read it. All of this depended on just one thing: Jesus taking all of our sins and being subjected to the death like a hardened criminal. I don’t know about you, but that just makes me love Him all the more!

When Jesus was in Gethse-mane praying, He wasn’t praying for Himself or crying about the pain He was about to face. When He was dying on Calvary, He wasn’t thinking about Himself. Do you know what He was thinking about? Jesus was thinking about the soldier that just finished nailing His hands and feet to the cross. He was thinking about the man who cursed Him. He was thinking about the woman who just spat on His face. He was thinking about His mother who was watching all of this with a broken heart. But more importantly, He was thinking about me. He was thinking about YOU. He was thinking that although it wasn’t required, maybe, just maybe, one day you and I would give our hearts to Him. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).