When scripture tells us in Philippians 4:8 to think about things that are true, noble, just, pure, and lovely, there is nothing that fits all those things better than Jesus’ act of dying for us. He died in our place. He gave His life as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. He died so that we may live.
We must never forget that He gave His life. His death was not forced upon Him by a Roman government or by pious, unbelieving Jews. His death did not occur by accident. His life was not taken from Him. Jesus gave Himself for us. He told His disciples it would be an act of love. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are my friends …” (John 15:13-14). That is what He did. He laid down His life for us.
Scripture reminds us again and again that His life was given, not taken. “… our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, …” (Galatians 1:4). “And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God …” (Ephesians 5:2)
Soldiers took Jesus from the Garden that night. Judas betrayed Jesus, revealing His location to the Chief Priest. They led Him away as they would a common criminal. The high priest accused Him of blasphemy. A multitude called for Pilate to release a notorious prisoner instead of Jesus and shouted that Jesus should be crucified. He was mocked and beaten by Roman soldiers. He was led to a hillside where others were being hung on crosses for their crimes. He was nailed to a cross.
When we look at the events leading up to and including Jesus’ death, it probably appears to many that His life was taken. Pilate questioned Jesus. He was frustrated that Jesus would not defend Himself. He said to Jesus, “Do you not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?” Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above” (John 19:10-11).
A ruler of the Jews named Nicodemus assisted Joseph of Arimathea in caring for the body of Jesus after He died. As they took Him to a tomb, bound Him with cloth and applied spices to this lifeless body, surely Nicodemus thought about what Jesus told him a long time before. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). His death was a gift. His death provided forgiveness for sin, cleansing from sin, and eternal life. He gave Himself for me … and you.