“What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”
“Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”
When did I forget this wonderful truth? What happened between September 1974 – when I first learned this song – and the year 2005? Somehow my knowledge of the saving blood of Jesus had become a vague memory. Was it because churches we attended had replaced their hymnals with modern choruses and anthems of praise? Or was it my familiarity with the facts of Christ’s death that made this gift of grace simply historical information. Whatever the reason, that “precious flow” lost its riveting appeal.
I can remember sermons exhorting us to “come to Jesus,” who died for our sins. Our pastors preached that only Jesus, the spotless lamb, could atone for the rebellion of Man against a loving and righteous Creator; that Jesus Christ, alone was pure, righteous and without sin, that He alone could become for sinners the perfect blood sacrifice for the atonement God required.
When I heard this preached, I pondered that loving work of grace, that undeserved forgiveness purchased on a splintery wooden cross for the sake of all mankind. Simply knowing this seemed enough for me. I was satisfied that I had chosen to accept Jesus’ gift of salvation.
However, Rich became aware of his lack of focus on the Lord’s passion in early 2000. He placed a crucifix in his office and told me he needed to be reminded of the costly debt God paid for our rebellion. But I missed the point, and mumbled an agreement about remembering the cross. I must have been sleeping.
Five years later on Easter Sunday 2005 my eyes opened again and I was dismayed. As we entered the Catholic Church we were to call home, there in full sight and centrally located was – to my eyes – a shocking wooden effigy of Jesus in agony on the killing field of my sin. It was repulsive and brutal, with its stark nails, drooping head, and spear-wound in the side. I hated looking at it. I would not look at it.
Yet I deeply yearned to know Christ better.
That yearning grew because as I knew in my heart the Holy Spirit was calling me to want to know Jesus Christ better. But to know Him you have to look at Him. To see Jesus the Messiah with the eyes of faith means to see Him on the cross.
God’s love for His creation is not a sweet chocolate-pudding type of love. It is love that is bold and sharp. It is not only joyful but also excruciatingly costly.
In my sleepy state of spiritual numbness, living for Christ meant I wanted Christ’s love to be comfortable. His life renewed in me should be like a happy warm summer afternoon. I wanted to follow Him without recognition of how much Christ set aside for my salvation. I wanted to minimize His very human pain and the blood dripping from His wounds. I wanted to muse on Calvary and consider the cross simply a treasured symbol of faith.
However, the more I encountered Jesus’ body dying and garlanded with our hideous sins, I glimpsed the mercy and love of the Father.
After weeks of avoiding the Crucifix, I looked. And my look became a gaze, and then a longing to know Jesus better. I learned that my will, my anger, and my plans were like dung. In the presence of such a gift, how could I dare be anything but contrite? The Father used the battered body of His dear Son to remind me of true love. The Holy Spirit gently took my heart in His loving hands and whispered, “Look and see how to love.”
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