Jesus knew what failure felt like so he can redeem us from ours.
His mother got pregnant before she was married. He was born in a barnyard, and he grew up near the poverty line in a backwater town. As an adult, he became a celebrity. It seemed like he was going places, but because he hung out with a bad crowd and broke society’s rules, the authorities felt threatened. They placed a bounty on his head.
Finally, one of his closest partners turned him in. Instead of protecting him, the so-called religious people helped arrest him. They turned him over to be tried on false charges, and though he was innocent, the judge sentenced him to death. The same people who used to praise him cried out for his blood. One of his best friends denied knowing him, and when he was being executed, he felt the worst pain of all—the sting of his own father’s rejection. His story reeked of failure and despair.
And it was all part of God’s plan.
The man who suffered betrayal, mockery and death was Jesus Christ. Even before He created the world, it was God’s plan for His Son, Jesus, to come to earth, live as a man—experiencing all the pain, emotions, and temptations that we do—and then die a horrible death. But why would God send His own Son to suffer and die? How could this apparently total failure be part of the plan?
In the Bible, we learn that God created humans to be his friends and agents. The first humans spent time with God and enjoyed His company. But then that man and woman distrusted God and decided to do things their own way. The relationship with Him was broken. Those humans would have to leave God’s presence and eventually die.
After those first humans, generation after generation kept defying God by telling lies, blaming others for their bad choices, and even murdering their own brothers. It seemed like the separation would last forever.
But God loved humans too much to let that happen. He developed a plan to rescue mankind and restore the relationship. There was only one way to do it. Because the first man had done wrong and received the punishment of death, another man would have to live a perfect life and die willingly in the place of others who deserved death. But all humans were corrupt—unworthy of such a task! Who could stand in the gap?
Only God was free of sin; only God could make the sacrifice. So God sent His only Son, Jesus, to live on earth as a human being, with flesh, blood, and feelings like us. Jesus lived a perfect life. He never disobeyed God. People misunderstood Him, gave Him an unfair trial, and sentenced Him to a death He did not deserve.
When Jesus faced His executioners, it wasn’t a mistake. He was taking the punishment that should have gone to you and me, exactly according to God’s plan to rescue us. Because Jesus took the punishment we deserved, God, as a judge, declares that our debt is paid and our time is served. As in the old Monopoly game, because of Jesus, we get out of jail free. His supposed failure was really a success story.
But the plan doesn’t end there.
After Jesus died and was buried, an amazing thing happened. God raised Him back to life. He broke out of the tomb where He was buried and terrified the guards who were on duty. Jesus conquered death.
In the same way, when we accept God’s free invitation to be rescued, you and I can start our lives over. Maybe our hearts and our minds feel dead because of our addictions and our guilt, but just as Jesus came back from the dead, we can be brought back to life and freed from everything that used to trap us like a casket.
All that we have to do is accept the deal that’s being offered to us. And which of us, if someone offered to do our time for us, would say, “No, thanks, I’d rather stay behind bars”?
Your life probably hasn’t gone according to plan. I doubt if, when you were a little kid, you said, “I want to be a prisoner when I grow up.” Maybe, like Jesus, you know what it’s like to feel betrayed, rejected, and looked down on by the world. You may feel that you’re so far off course, God could never find you.
But God knew you by your name before you were born. He knows exactly where to find you now. And long ago, He set the plan in motion to rescue you and turn your life around again. He loves you and has the power to turn your failure into another one of His success stories. The offer is on the table. Now it’s up to you.
God’s Son took the punishment we deserved. What a gift! Those who accept that gift will never have to face the sting of God’s rejection. The offer is on the table. All we have to do is enter a plea. It doesn’t have to be fancy—just honest and from the heart. You could say something like this:
Jesus, I’ve tried living on my own up until now, and I’ve done wrong things that caused pain for me and for others. I realize that I need You. Thank You for taking the punishment I deserved. I ask You now to come into my life, take away my guilt, and make me into a new man/a new woman.
If you said that to God sincerely, He has already started making you new. Tell other believers—perhaps a chaplain—about your decision, and ask how you can grow in faith. Read the Bible and ask Jesus to help you understand it and live it out. Inside Journal would like to help you get started by offering you a free introductory Bible study. Please write to Inside Journal, Attn: “Is Failure Final?” P.O. Box 2206, Ashburn, VA. 20146.
Alyson Quinn is a writer and editor for Prison Fellowship.