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Many hymns refer to the immense cost that Jesus paid on the cross. In one sense this is consistent with evangelical theology in that Jesus was taking the sins of the world upon himself.

But some songs use phrases like "You gave up everything for me", or "So infinite the cost". What can that mean? Presumably it must be either the Incarnation or, more likely, his sacrifice on the Cross, right? But, well, Jesus rose from the dead 3 days later, and ascended back into heaven 40 days after that, going back to the Father.

It always seems to me that Jesus, the Word, the Second Person of the Trinity, had spent a long time in heaven even after Earth was created before his first coming (at least four thousand years and possibly millions); he's spent at least two thousand years between his first and second comings; and will have eternity with the redeemed praising him after the second coming. So why is spending 3 days (or rather 1-and-a-half days) separated from the Father, or even 33 years on earth, such a big sacrifice in the grand scheme of things? Even more so given "a thousand years are like one day to the Lord".

I'm most interested in answers compatible with a (British) evangelical position, but up for helpful answers from anyone :)

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I might make this into an answer but for now just a comment: He had never been separated from His Father before. And how long would those "three days" have been to Him? And let's not forget the permanent scars. –  Wikis Sep 16 '13 at 11:33
@Wikis technically He was separated from the Father for the entire time that He was on the earth, He had communication with Him but was still separated (what I think, not what I know). even though He had this communication with the Father, it's more like being able to call someone on the phone rather than being able to hug or hold that person when they are in pain or sad or happy or proud of that person. –  Malachi Sep 16 '13 at 16:59
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3 Answers

I think Philippians chapter 2 shares some good light on this:

5 ...Christ Jesus,

6 Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider being equal with God a treasure to be grasped,

7 But emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, becoming in the likeness of men;

8 And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient even unto death, and that the death of a cross.

To go from Creator to creature, that's a big cost. But He not only became a creature, but He became like a slave among men. Even if He were to come down and be a king, that's still a big cost, but He was mistreated, hated, and abused by the very people He was doing so much to save. That's quite a cost. After all His living and work on the earth, His closest disciple, Peter, swore and cursed, saying he never even knew Jesus, right as Jesus was being tortured, and about to be crucified. That's quite a cost.

There's the physical pain, too. I've heard that when they whipped people, as they did Jesus, they had to count out the whippings to make sure the people didn't die. They also had a doctor stand by to make sure they can survive to continue in the whippings. He didn't drink for about 24 hours I think in that last day, and He lost a lot of water when He was bleeding out. His hands and feet were nailed with big, rough (not factory made) nails into a cross and He was hung from these wounds. The way they put people on the cross means you can't breathe properly, so you have to pull on your hands to lift up your torso for every breath.

But in all these things He never cried out. He only cried out in the last moment, to say "My God, why have You forsaken Me?". This indicates that with all the sin laid up on Him, God the Father turned away from His Son, and that was worse to Jesus than any of the humiliation, rejection, betrayal, physical and emotional pain that He suffered up to that moment.

I used to think that it wasn't a big deal, if Christ could just resurrect again, it doesn't matter if He dies; but I think it's much bigger a deal than I'll ever know ;)

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Welcome to the site! This is a pretty good answer. As a new visitor, I'd recommend checking out the following two posts, which are meant to help newcomers "learn the ropes": help page and How we are different than other sites? –  David Stratton Sep 16 '13 at 0:13
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Good question, because the answer forces us to pursue Christ’s perspective. God is eternal, thus Christ is eternal, He was there in the Beginning: Ephesians 3:9 “And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:”

He entered into time as the son of man. Subjecting Himself to human constraints and even to human authority. He said in Matthew 22:21 … “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s”.

He allowed Himself to be mocked and spit upon and hung from the cross. Much has already been written about the horrendous nature of Roman crucifixion, which He endured when in fact He did not have to: Matthew 26:53 “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?”

The work on the cross: 2 Corinthians 5:21 “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Notice Christ who knew no sin became sin. Imagine the most heinous sin and then realize that Jesus became that sin and not just that sin but also all the sin of the redeemed. He personally became drunkenness, sexual perversion, a murderer, a thief, arrogant and so much more, yet He Himself never sinned.

Falsely accuse someone of a heinous sin and watch them form their defense, Jesus bore all this without saying a word. He did this, not because He had no choice, but because He loves us and only through His unjust death could His righteousness be eternally extended to all of mankind.

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Those were great answers to a great question. Let me try a more personal answer. Your death will cause you to give up everything. The fact that the death of Jesus, true God yes, but true Man also, payed for all of our sins, reflects how sacred life, your life, everyone's life, truly is.

I'd also weight Jesus' life by the Man He was: that is, perfect. Infinitely perfect. Now, I don't know you, but I'd guess that, great as you are by asking that question, your perfection is, well, finite. However, your life has infinite value, at least to you! Jesus' death reflects the value The Father applies to life.

So, I'm not really answering your question, but since the Scriptures are unerring, I'm pointing out the implications.

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Welcome to the site! Please don't take this next as a discouragement: As a new visitor, I'd recommend checking out the following two posts, which are meant to help newcomers "learn the ropes": help page and How we are different than other sites?. Also, I'd add that this might be helpful: What makes a good supported answer? –  David Stratton Sep 18 '13 at 2:06
I do agree with what you say, by the way! Personal opinion and commentary is more than welcome in chat! –  David Stratton Sep 18 '13 at 2:08
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