Lincoln wrote this newsletter at the last Easter he celebrated on earth; somehow he knew his time was drawing near. At our family reunion that summer, at the age of 93, he gave his final admonitions to us to love and serve our Lord faithfully.
Jesus died for our sins? How can that be? We live nearly two thousand years after him, and yet he died for us? Let's see how this fits together.
There is a germ in human nature; it has been there since the beginning. That germ is sin, that tendency to favor ourselves, that inability to see things clearly when we are involved, to make ourselves the center of the universe. Self and its pride rule so strongly that hardly anyone makes decisions in which they do not stand to gain. In small matters, and in the love of other people, we can decide matters which involve us, and pretending humility, can think a little objectively. I think this is due to the previous influence of the gospel in that life, or the strong urging of someone who loves us.
The sins that plague us are the same ones that pervaded Jesus time. The growing hate of the religious leaders in Jerusalem is easily understood: it looked as though Jesus were genuine, and they would be shown to be partly phony. The common people loved what Jesus said; the temple crowd would lose out in a popularity contest.
What Jesus said to them was frightening: "before Abraham was, I am, and I will build it up again in three days...You brood of vipers," and so on. From this distance it is clear that their jobs were at stake. Nothing was more important than that. You would think that something so minor was not in the same league with the life of the Prince of Glory, but it was.
The lesson of the death of Christ is that mankind will destroy the highest and best in revenge for a wounded ego. He was wounded for our transgressions; he was bruised for our iniquities. There is no scale on which we can show ourselves to be only somewhat evil. And since Jesus lives today, and we live today, the confrontation is both continuous and inevitable; sins like ours do cause the death of the Son of God.
The crucifixion was not only an event in time; it is also a moral attitude in eternity. It is a process; God loving us, and we tearing his heart out with our selfishness. We were not there on that Friday afternoon, true, but we are descendants of the situation, and the call is clear to us nonetheless.
And the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all. Yes, Jesus died for our sins. The living Christ says "Come to Me." He is willing to forgive our sins.