I used to have a dog named Buck. My family moved from Brazoria, TX to Wagoner, OK, during my sophomore year of high school. We had Buck during that time, so of course, we brought him along.
When we got to Wagoner, my parents talked to our new landlord who said he would rather not have a dog inside. So we had to keep him in the backyard. But when it rained or got especially cold outside, we would move him into our garage.
Every time I would have to move Buck to the garage, I would open the door and look at him all balled up by the door trying to stay dry or warm. I would always feel sorry for him. Of course, I loved my dog, but when I moved Buck to the garage, it was really never motivated by my love for him. It was motivated by my pity for him.
For the longest time, this was how I saw Jesus' death. I knew He loved us, but I did not think His death was motivated by love, but by pity. He saw us balled up trying to live for Him and failing consistently, and He felt sorry for us.
When you read the passages that lead to Christ's death, you do not really get a sense of how gory His death really was. Therefore, you may miss the implications of His death. Like me, you may miss what His true motivation was for dying on the cross.
"Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged" (John 19:1, NIV). Jesus was whipped by what was called a cat o' nine tails, also known simply as the cat. The cat had, of course, nine strips of leather and inside those bits of leather was pieces of metal, chunks of sharp rocks and jagged pottery. It worked differently than a whip we know of today. The intention was to rip the skin out of the back of the person being flogged.
The person doing the flogging would let the sharp materials sink into the back of the one being flogged, then they would twist the handle in an attempt to make the pottery and metal and such sink even deeper to cause more damage. Then, the person doing the flogging would rip the cat out of the other person's back.
So by this point, Jesus' back is essentially exposed. Muscles and ligaments could be seen. "The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying 'Hail, king of the Jews!' And they slapped him in the face" (John 19:2-3, NIV).
"After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him" (Matthew 27:31, NIV). After putting a cloth on Jesus' open wounds, when the wounds started to scab over, they would have attached the cloth to Jesus' back. So when the Romans ripped it off, they reopened His wounds.
"Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha)" (John 19:17, NIV). They tried to force Jesus to carry the cross He would be hung upon for what measures out to about three miles. He had lost a lot of blood, so He was certainly weak at this point. Matthew says, "As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross" (Matthew 27:32, NIV). So Jesus was so weak He could not even carry the cross all the way.
At some point during this time, we can come to a realization that if Jesus was doing this out of pity, He would most likely have called it off at this point, if not before. If He was only sacrificing Himself out of pity, His pity would have run out. Just like if I had to chase my dog through the rain to get him into the garage, my pity would have run out.
This proves that Jesus' motivation was love, not pity. The implication of Christ's death is that He loves us so much that He would die for us. But there is nowhere in the Bible that says He died for a specific set of peoples. This means that the death He died, He died for all. But why? Because "[God] wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4, NIV). His love was not "puppy love".
So how should we respond? As God's people, what should we do with this information?
Well, first off, we should celebrate His death and resurrection. Second, we should live for Him. This means we should deny ourselves daily and take up our own cross so that we may look more like Him. We should strive to live up to the name Christian, which means "little Christ". Did you know the word "Christian" originally was used as an insult to the followers of God? What was meant as an insult has been embraced by God's people, but are we truly embracing it?
"He replied to him, 'Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?' Pointing to his disciples, he said, 'Here are my mother and brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother'" (Matthew 12:48-30, NIV).
And what has God told us to do? He has told us to make disciples of all people in the world. Black, Asian, Latinx, European. Straight, gay, bisexual. Muslim, Mormon, atheist. Jesus died for all these people. He wants a relationship with all of them. So no one is off limits for discipleship. It may take some time, but God will mold them into who He made them to be.
"How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them" (Romans 10:14, NIV)?
"'Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you'" (Matthew 28:19-20a, NIV).
How should we respond? Tell everyone of the good news and that God wants to have a relationship with them. Do that until there is #NoPlaceLeft that has not heard this news.