For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. –Romans 5:6-8
On January 26, 2001, a drunken Japanese man fell onto the tracks at a Tokyo commuter station. Two men immediately jumped down to rescue him, but an oncoming train struck and killed all three. The incident pricked the conscience of a whole nation when it became known that one of the would-be rescuers, 26-year-old Lee Soo Hyun, was a South Korean national who had come to Japan as a student. The event raised the question, “Why would an outsider like Mr. Lee risk his life attempting to save an enemy?” Historical relations between Japan and Korea seethe with animosity. Most recently, Koreans suffered under Japan’s occupation of their homeland from 1910-1945. Today, more than a half million people in Japan live as second-class citizens because they are descendents of Koreans forcefully transferred to Japan during that period, often as slave labor, including Mr. Lee’s grandfather. The Christ-like act of sacrifice by Mr. Lee (apparently not a professing Christian) will not fade away quickly. Four years after Mr. Lee’s death, organizers in South Korea and Japan joined hands to produce a biographical movie on Mr. Lee, We Will Not Forget You, released this in 2006.
The Father called Jesus not only to die on behalf of us sinners, but also to suffer for us, His enemies (as Romans 5:10 starkly renders it). As adopted children of the King, we rightly bask in the warmth of God’s mercy. Yet might we not experience more powerfully the expanse of His grace by often reflecting on the incomparable suffering Jesus endured from us in our enemy state—before He “brought us into the Kingdom of the Son He loves”? (Col. 1:13)
Think of it! We flogged Him…He washes our sins away! We spat on Him…He loves us! We deemed Him worthless…He pays the ultimate price for us! We treated the King like dirt…He gives us a royal welcome! We were utterly helpless, downright unworthy, intrinsically sinful, profoundly hopeless, intensely rebellious. To such a person—you, me, everyone—Jesus, the Suffering Servant, comes at just the right time to offer deliverance from the prison of sin, despair, and self-reliance. Likewise, if we endure hardship in spreading this Good News as human history unfolds relentlessly toward its climax, our suffering is ripe with meaning, never in vain, because it lives out the heart of the One who accepted the role of Sufferer…even for His enemies.
The challenge: how will we walk in the footsteps of our willing-to-suffer, willing-to-die Master? What does it mean to share His sufferings? (1 Pet. 4:13) The cross can become the core of our passion as we honestly recognize our sin that made it necessary and give ourselves to “jump on the tracks” if necessary so that others might come to know the cross.
- How did you, as Jesus’ enemy, cause Him to suffer? What do you want to say to Him?
- How are you experiencing the friendship with God that Jesus has given you?
- Do you have an enemy you need to love, or a persecutor to whom you should reach out?