The cold stone floor of the jail cell was impossible to sleep on. Not that I could anyway. Being condemned to die will keep you up at night. All around me were the cries of desperate men. Men who all knew their fate just like I did. Our crimes were all different but one thing remained the same. Our sin had separated us from God. And now we were going to die with no way to fix that.
The day dawned overcast with a low fog hanging over the ground. A fitting forecast for what lay ahead. Judgment loomed before me and although I wished to ask for mercy, I knew I had not earned it. Punishment is like that. Only in hindsight did I understand that I would receive what I deserved. But that realization made my fate no easier to bear.
At that moment, when all appeared to be lost, came my last chance of hope. A ragged man, hated by many, stepped forward to speak. He spoke with a confidence I had never heard before and introduced himself. “Hello Joe, I am Jesus,” the man said. Something about him made me want to listen. His words carried grace and mercy, hope and and understanding. He took me by the hand and spoke again. “I love you Joe. I’m here to die in your place.”
Who was this man that he would offer such a thing? “I don’t know you,” I replied. “But I know you Joe. In fact, I’ve known you since before you were born. I’ve watched you grow and learn. I love you for you are my child. I am prepared to die for you. In fact, I would be pleased to do so.” After Jesus said that, I fell at his feet. “Please Jesus, I don’t deserve your sacrifice. There is no way I could possibly earn it. I am scared. I don’t want to die.” Then Jesus leaned in close and embraced me. “This is my gift to you Joe. I have been sent so that anyone who believes in me will never perish but have eternal life. Do you believe Joe?”
At that moment Jesus was grabbed by the guards. They would see to it that he would die in my place I followed the mob as they led him to a hill outside the city. They beat him and spat upon him and nailed his frail body to a cross. As he was raised for all to see, I looked into the eyes of Jesus my Savior. His face wore the pain and fear that I had earlier felt. He looked at me and smiled and I knew right then that he truly did love me.
At last he turned his eyes toward heaven and spoke, “It is finished.” I stood awestruck as the guards lowered his lifeless body and prepared him for burial. Tears streamed down my face as I realized this Jesus had given himself for me, a sinner. I still remember his words before he was led away. That question that burns inside as I think about him there on that cross. “Do you believe Joe?,” he had said.
“I believe Jesus. Yes…. I believe!”