Jesus Paid It All

Today is Good Friday. I know I am not the only one who has ever pondered why it is called “good” Friday when it is a day of remembering the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Jesus was sinless yet He bore the sins of every person who ever lived and suffered an agonizing death to pay a price that no one else could pay. It was God’s love that caused Him to send His Son to earth as a human baby, knowing full well He would die on the cross. It was Jesus’ obedience to the Father and His own love for humanity that motivated Him to go through with God’s plan despite His desire to avoid it if there was any other way. As He prayed in the garden asking the Father to take the cup away from Him He also yielded and told God, “Not my will but thine be done.” The death of Christ is horrific and entirely unfair, but it is also incredibly wonderful. Only because Christ died…and rose again…can any of us have any hope of eternal life.

Elvina Hall’s 1865 hymn “Jesus Paid It All” is one of my favorite hymns, if not my favorite. The words of the refrain are simple yet profound. The sum up completely the fact that the penalty of sin was paid in full by Christ’s death and resurrection. The refrain says this:

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

Jesus did indeed pay it all, and I do owe Him all. Interestingly, though, my all will never come anywhere close to what He paid. I do owe Him all but even if I were able to give Him all my earthly wealth and live a life full of good deeds I would still never come close to being able to repay Him.

The first verse of the hymn says,

I hear the Savior say,
“Thy strength indeed is small;
Child of weakness, watch and pray,
Find in Me thine all in all.”

My strength is small. It is infinitesimally small, in fact–not even worth mentioning or attempting to measure. Yet, Christ made possible incredible assurance and blessing through His sacrifice and He has offered it freely to all who believe. In Him I can find my all in all. The second verse reinforces the message of the refrain that I owe Him all yet there is nothing I could hope to do to repay Him. It reads,

For nothing good have I
Whereby Thy grace to claim;
I’ll wash my garments white
In the blood of Calv’ry’s Lamb.

There is truly nothing I have that is of any value. As the Apostle Paul wrote, any human accomplishments I may have are worth nothing more than dung in comparison to what Christ has done for me…and for all who believe.

There are four more verses to the hymn, some more well known than others…

And now complete in Him,
My robe, His righteousness,
Close sheltered ’neath His side,
I am divinely blest.

Lord, now indeed I find
Thy pow’r, and Thine alone,
Can change the leper’s spots
And melt the heart of stone.

When from my dying bed
My ransomed soul shall rise,
“Jesus died my soul to save,”
Shall rend the vaulted skies.

And when before the throne
I stand in Him complete,
I’ll lay my trophies down,
All down at Jesus’ feet.

I learned that last stanza with a different ending and I am not sure which is the one Hall originally wrote. I learned it ending with “Jesus died my soul to save My lips shall still repeat.” Since that’s the way I learned it I suppose it is the one I prefer, but both endings are beautiful and accurate. I will lay down any trophies I may have; another classic hymn, “The Old Rugged Cross,” mentions this too when it says, “My trophies at last I lay down.” And I suspect I will spend eternity continuing to repeat that Jesus died for my soul…praising and thanking Him for His wondrous love.

Great hymns are great not so much because of their beautiful melodies–though some of them are indeed wonderful. Rather, they are great because they contain great theology; they are are easily-memorable, portable pieces of biblical truth. I think God loves to hear us sing about His love, to praise Him for His goodness, His mercy and His gift of salvation.

And ultimately this is why Good Friday is good…because Jesus did pay it all.

The Original Black Friday

“It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed” (Luke 23:44-45a, ESV).

In recent years the day after Thanksgiving has become known as “Black Friday.” While this term was first used to describe the date of the financial panic set off by gold speculators in 1869, dictionary.com provides this definition for the way in which the term is most used nowadays: “the day after Thanksgiving, one of the busiest shopping days because of discounts offered by retailers: so named from the use of black ink to record profits.”

The original Black Friday had nothing to do with shopping, though. Neither did it have anything to do with financial speculation in 1869. No, the original Black Friday was an event that took place on a Friday some two thousand years ago outside of Jerusalem. On that day, Jesus Christ was crucified, despite the fact that Pontius Pilate, after questioning Jesus, announced, “You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people. And after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Look, nothing deserving of death has been done by him” (Luke 23:14-15).

Pilate was exactly right, of course; Jesus was the only man to ever live a perfect, sinless life, so there could not possibly have been anything “deserving of death…done by him.” And yet, he was crucified anyway. The immediate reason for the crucifixion was Pilate’s timidity in the face of pressure from the Jewish leaders and his desire to keep a low profile in Rome after a previous situation he had been involved in. Knowing this, the Jews were essentially able to blackmail Pilate into doing their bidding in this instance. The real reason, though, was that the death of Jesus–the shedding of His blood–was God’s divine plan for providing the payment demanded by a holy God for the sins of man.

If ever there has been reason for giving thanks, this would be it: Jesus blood paid the penalty for my sins–and yours, if you are willing to accept God’s gift of salvation–and His resurrection defeated death forever, providing eternal life for those who believe.

So if you find yourself lining up hours in advance in the cold to save a few dollars on the latest gadget or this year’s Christmas presents, if you find yourself pushing and shoving or just trying to avoid being trampled in the midst of the chaotic rush for “the deal,” remember that Black Friday is really not about buying at all, but it is about paying–and Jesus paid it all.