No Payback Needed
Jesus saves people from all types of backgrounds. He saves a variety of people, from a variety of sins, in a variety of circumstances. But do you know what unites all of his people? Among a few things in common, we have one very particular thing. All of Jesus's followers have nothing to offer him. We have nothing. There's nothing that you and I can give to Jesus that's going to add to his value or give him a boost or make him look better. He's already infinitely worthy. He has everything. He's sufficient. He's independent. And all of his people have nothing to give to him that he would need.
And so it's incredibly encouraging to us when we look at that. We come to a Savior who is self-sufficient and needs nothing. And that's a really important thing that we oftentimes overlook, because we look at our relationship with Jesus maybe the way we might look at it with a family member or a friend, somebody who takes you out to dinner, or somebody who takes you to a game. And what do we always say when we get done? Oh, you know, next one's on me. Next time, I'm going to take you out. We're always trying to pay people back. We feel like it's just the way we do it. Some of that's manners and some of that's just our instinct that we just need to do that. It could be pride.
But when we look at our relationship with Jesus, we can't ever pay him back. We couldn't pay then and we can't pay him back. The reality is he doesn't need anything. We see this vividly in the story of the thief on the cross.
What Jesus Wants
You might remember that Jesus was crucified on the cross between two criminals. And as he's there on the cross, the crowds mocking him as they're going by, and people are hurling insults at him. At the same time, these two criminals are railing at him as well. But something happens to one of the criminals. In the midst of the time on the cross, in his time with Jesus, he begins to have faith in Christ.
And so he actually takes up and defends Jesus against the other criminal's assaults. And Jesus, looking at that criminal, hears this request to remember him when he comes into his kingdom. And Jesus, looking upon this one, tells him, “Surely I say to you today, you'll be with me in paradise.” Jesus welcomes this criminal, this man who, just hours before, was hurling insults at him. And he welcomes him to himself.
All of Jesus's followers have nothing to offer him. We have nothing.
Now, if there was ever somebody who had nothing to give, it's this guy. In a short period of time, he's going to be dead. He can't come down and be baptized. He can't do missions work. He can't serve in Sunday school. He can't give money to the church. He can't do anything. But what he can do is respond to the King and say, Remember me.
Faith and trust are what Jesus wants. The things that we give Jesus are allegiance, worship, faith. And that is a gift from God. If you think, How am I going to pay Jesus back? What am I going to do?—that's not how it works. The way we should respond to Jesus's generous, gracious gift of salvation is just like the thief on the cross, realizing we have nothing and clinging to him in faith. As the hymn writer says, “Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to that cross I cling.”
Jesus welcomes those who have nothing and find their all in him.
Erik Raymond is the author of He Is Not Ashamed: The Staggering Love of Christ for His People.
According to Jesus, the people who are ashamed of him are those who refuse to deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow him. They’ve considered Jesus unworthy of their devotion and obedience.
God has gone through great pains to prove to us that he's not as ashamed of us as we often are of ourselves.
It's not hard to feel overlooked, right? In a world this big, we can kind of just blend in and it just makes us feel, in many ways, insignificant.
Erik Raymond talks about why nothing in our lives is a surprise to our Savior because Jesus’s heart is bent toward those who have an embarrassing history, feel far from God, or struggle with sin.