My oldest son did his Bible class during the summer for homeschool. He read four Christian books and wrote a book report about each one. We were running out of time, so the last book I had him read was the Gospel of John from the Bible. I was reading John, so I thought it would be nice to parallel read with him.
When my son finished the book, he spoke his initial thoughts aloud: “I wish there could have been any other sacrifice besides Jesus. Why couldn’t God just sacrifice a criminal who was already condemned or someone else on their deathbed?”
When he spoke these words, I thought of all the various opinions in the world about how to achieve eternity with God. So many human-centered counterfeits to the only True Entrance to the presence of God in heaven.
“I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10.9 NKJV).
“Did you know that before Jesus came to this earth, God asked for the perfect, young lamb to be sacrificed for the sins of His people? Since God is outside of time, He would see this sacrifice as a signpost to His Son, Jesus.”
“‘If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, you are to offer a male without defect. You must present it at the entrance to the tent of meeting so that it will be acceptable to the LORD” (Leviticus 1.3 NIV).
My son nodded his head. He knew I was just about to preach about my favorite topic, Jesus.
“People started to sin because they wanted to sacrifice something other than the perfect lamb. Instead of sacrificing what was perfect, they began to sacrifice what was flawed. This corrupted God’s symbolic reminder of what Jesus would accomplish. Through Jesus, God would sacrifice His absolute best, His One and Only Son, to pay for the sins of humankind.”
“When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the LORD Almighty” (Malachi 1.8 NIV).
“But why is a perfect sacrifice important?” my son asked.
I thought of how to best explain this special truth to my son because all of the world’s salvation and redemption rested in it.
“If you were to get caught doing something illegal, and they were going to throw you in jail, I would beg the judge to let me take your place. I love you so much that I would willingly give up my freedom for you.”
My son smiled. “Thanks, Mom.”
“But there is one problem,” I added.
“What?” he asked.
“I’m already guilty of doing something illegal too, so I can’t take your punishment because I already deserve to go to jail. The Bible says that we have all sinned and have fallen short of God’s perfect standard. We are all flawed, so we can’t sacrifice ourselves to atone for the sins of others.”
“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins” (Romans 3.23-24 NLT).
“God is a perfect Judge, and He upholds His laws or else there would be total chaos. A good judge does not comprise the truth. But God is also the perfect Father, and He loves His people and knew we would mess up. But His role as Father can’t usurp His role has Judge. They are both equally important. He needed to uphold His law and His love, so He did what only a loving Father and Judge would do: He put on flesh, entered this earth, upheld the law and exchanged His perfection for our sin. Jesus became the Perfect Sacrificial Lamb for all of us. He took our guilt and gave us His innocence.”
“So Jesus went to jail, so we could be free?” my son asked, grasping to understand the metaphor. “And only someone innocent can take the guilt of someone else?”
“Yes, that is why we need Jesus. He is the only One who lived a perfect life. He is the only One who can truly give His life, so we can be free. He accepted our sin and gave us His righteousness, so we could have a relationship with God. The proof that His Sacrifice on the Cross worked is that we can now have the Holy Spirit, God with us. And now that we have a relationship with God in this life, that relationship will continue after we die, and we will be in God’s presence forever. We will be in heaven.”
“I think I understand now. Jesus had to die for us. There couldn’t be any other sacrifice,” my son whispered.
“That is why Jesus in the Gospel of John, said this special truth. He is the only Way to God because no other human-centered sacrifice will ever be free of guilt except the perfect Son of God.”
“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me'” (John 14.6 NIV).