Romans 5:6-8 (NIV): You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
It is a truth that is easy to lose track of: Jesus died for the ungodly and sinners. Those same people, the sinners and tax collectors with whom He hung out a lot of the time. THEY are the ones He died for – they are the lost ones that He came to seek and to save.
It’s not that God doesn’t WANT to save the self-righteous, the Pharisees of every generation who, whether they are truly righteous or not, see themselves as “just as good as anybody, and better than most.” God wants EVERYBODY to come to repentance (cf. 2 Peter 3:9). But those who are confident of their own righteousness will not accept the sacrifice made on their behalf. They will insist on standing before God on their own merits, and will fall miserably.
The ones for whom Jesus’ substitutionary death is effective are the spiritually bankrupt, the “poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3) who know that they are lost, that they don’t have a prayer before God. In Jesus’ day, these were the one who flocked to Jesus, those who had been written off by the “righteous” as hopeless cases; the ungodly, for whom no one would dare to die. No one but THE One. He died for those ungodly. To demonstrate God’s love for all mankind, He died for those sinners.
Today, when we see someone who is NOT among the “godly,” someone who is an out-and-out sinner, a conspicuously ungodly person, we need to remember that it was precisely for that person that Jesus died. It was out of God’s love, out of His passionate desire to save people exactly like him or her, that Jesus suffered, and bled, and died.
Father, I remember very clearly who I was when You saved me. I was most definitely NOT a righteous man. I was poor, and sinful, and totally lost. But You gave Your Son for me, to take on Himself the punishment I deserved. You reached down and touched my heart with powerful conviction of my lostness. And when I surrendered to you, You saved me and changed my life forever. Thank You for dying for poor, sinful me, and for not leaving me poor and sinful! Help me to reach out to others today who are just as poor and sinful as I was, so that they, too, can experience Your life-changing love. Amen.