Recently my husband and I finished one of our favorite rituals of the New Year—watching the previous season of the hit show 24 on DVD. Each winter we wait patiently for that glorious day when the mail carrier delivers the newly-released DVD in the familiar, red NetFlix envelope. At that moment our anticipation is palpable. “How will Jack Bauer save the world this time?”
For those of you unfamiliar with 24, it is simply the most exciting, adrenaline-filled, suspenseful, clever, riveting hour of TV—ever! (And this coming from a girl who prefers chick flicks, weepy dramas and foreign films.)
The gist of the show is that each season, evil forces (terrorists, double agents, Russians, corporate pirates, Columbian drug dealers, presidential assassins, etc.) try to annihilate the United States and our government. And each season, the L.A. branch of the Counter Terrorism Unit (a fictitious government agency) spends a frantic 24 hours trying to stop them. At the heart of it all is CTU uber-agent, Jack Bauer who single-handedly foils the plots and saves the day!
Season after season we watch in awe as Jack Bauer selflessly serves his country to rescue it. He takes incredible risks to save lives. He bucks protocol to do the right thing. He’s been shot at, imprisoned, tortured and left for dead. Many times he’s willingly offered to lay down his life for another. There seems to be no limit to what he will endure or do to thwart evil and see good prevail. Plus, he does it all without eating, sleeping or ever losing the charge on his cell phone! There is no doubt that Jack Bauer is a modern-day superhero. A white knight in a shining armored SUV filled with high-tech weapons and gadgets.
If we could paint a picture of what a savior would look like, we might come up with someone who looks a lot like Jack Bauer.
Maybe this is the kind of messiah the Jewish people were awaiting when Jesus arrived on the scene. Many expected a warrior king who would overthrow the government, toss out the bad guys and set up a glorious Jewish kingdom on Earth.
But instead appeared a humble carpenter from unimpressive parents. A teacher who fought evil with swords of truth. A healer who offered restoration instead of condemnation. A friend who loved the unlovable. A king who became a servant. A lamb who willingly accepted the hate that tore his flesh. And a savior who bore the agonizing punishment that we all deserve.
And He did it for us. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corin. 5:21)
How amazing is it, that on the cross—tortured, humiliated, ridiculed, bleeding and deserted—Jesus, calls out to God on behalf of his killers, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
Where we would reasonably expect (and even want) revenge, Jesus offers something no superhero ever will: mercy and forgiveness—to everyone, even the “bad guys.”
To our way of thinking, grace doesn’t make sense. But Jesus didn’t die just for the sins of the really bad guys; he died for the sins of each of us. NONE of us, on our own efforts, are good enough to bridge the gap of sin that separates us from God. We are the bad guys.
What doesn’t make sense about grace is that in place of what we do deserve—death, Jesus’ amazing sacrifice gives us what we don’t deserve—eternal life. All for the price of acceptance and repentance.
This Easter I pray that you lay your sins at the foot of the cross and accept Jesus’ gift of grace. He died not to condemn you, but to save you. He did this because He loves YOU.
“For God so loved [your name here] that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16