As Easter was approaching this year, I’ve been contemplating the magnitude of Jesus sacrifice anew. It is almost impossible not to sanitize the crucifixion narrative, because the reality of it is so horrific. Even the sanitized version is hard to contemplate. Jesus was a real person, who suffered real pain, who felt real fear and real stress over the torture he suffered. And he did it for me. That’s the part that wrecks me every year. He did it for me. The thought of anyone suffering for any reason is hard for my heart to bear, but the reality that he suffered his torment out of love for me brings me to tears.
The verse that I’ve been dwelling on during this Lenten season (like the Easter version of advent at Christmas, Lent is when we prepare for Easter) is a phrase from Isaiah 64: “All our righteousness is as filthy rags.” Earlier this spring, God convicted my heart of pride and a sinful desire for my own fame. This verse reminds me that even on my very best day, I am not enough to earn true righteousness on my own. All of the good things that I do are just like filthy rags compared to the surpassing righteousness and perfection of my Savior Jesus Christ.
This week I completed my deep clean of my kitchen rags. About every three months I soak them in a super-duper laundry detergent so that all the deeply absorbed gross dirty mess can come out of them. What appears in the water after this soak is pretty gross. This is such a great visual for what I’m talking about.
My righteousness = these filthy rags. Gross. There is no room for pride here.
When I realize the depths of my own sinfulness and my complete and utter inability to ever be good enough on my own, my heart is overwhelmed with thanks that Jesus did indeed pay it all for me. And through my faith in him, I can be clothed in his righteousness. Paul writes about this in Philippians 3. He presents his amazing pedigree and spotless record when it comes to the law. But in the end, he realizes none of that counts compared to the righteousness Christ offers us.
He says, “8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.”
This is what I celebrate this Easter. Even though I am a lost and hopeless sinner, I can have a righteousness that is not of my own that comes from being perfect, but I can have a righteousness through faith in Christ Jesus. His astonishing sacrifice makes that possible. It hurts my heart to think of all that he suffered for me, so that I could receive his righteousness as a free gift. And all I can really give him as thanks is myself. My life lived for him, for his glory.
Whether you don’t know Jesus at all, or you’ve been walking with him for years, remember this Easter that he’s not asking for your righteous acts. He’s not asking for your perfection. He just wants you. Your salvation is free, unearned and paid in full because of his loving sacrifice.