“Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).
Jesus died for the church. But for Jesus the church is not an institution like Yale University or Apple or The United Way, where the corporation has the brand value and the people who populate it are an anonymous (and largely replaceable) mass, except for a few VIPs. Jesus did not die for an institution. He died for individuals.
The church isn’t even a republic like The United States of America. Jesus didn’t die for a republic. He died for persons.
Jesus died for persons with names, faces, personalities, disabilities, histories, and sins. He did that because he loves each person. Every sin Jesus bore on the cross had a name attached. They were real thoughts, attitudes, words, and actions. It was real anger, lust, evil motives, and murders. Some of these sins were yours. Some were mine.
Ponder this for a moment:
The death of Christ is not only the demonstration of God’s love (John 3:16), it is also the supreme expression of Christ’s own love for all who receive it as their treasure. The early witnesses who suffered most for being Christians were captured by this fact: “Christ loved me and gave himself for me.” They took the self-giving act of Christ’s sacrifice very personally. They said, “He loved me. He gave himself for me.”
Surely this is the way we should hear about the sufferings and death of Christ. They have to do with me. They are about Christ’s love for me personally. It is my sin that cuts me off from God, not sin in general. It is my hard-heartedness and spiritual numbness that demean the worth of Christ. I am lost and perishing. When it comes to salvation, I have forfeited all claim on justice. All I can do is plead for mercy. (John Piper, 50 Reasons Jesus Came to Die, 30)
And in light of this truth, revel in this text:
O LORD, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
It’s true, the Father and the Son had you in mind when they planned the crucifixion. Jesus died because he loved you.