Christina had been a very bad little girl. She sat on her bed and hugged her pillow. She was in big trouble and she knew it. What she had done was so bad that I will not mention it. Just think of the worst thing you have ever done, then double it, and you will have some idea.
Christina had been planning on having a great weekend. Do you know how it is when you have your mother or father all to yourself and you can just talk--about anything--for a really long time? Christina was looking forward to a time like that. Her mother was going to visit her sister, Christina's Aunt Lizzie, in another town. Aunt Lizzie had a daughter, Molly, who was Christina's age. Christina loved playing with her cousin Mollie. On the long car ride to Aunt Lizzie's house, Christina and her mother would talk and talk.
Mother would be angry with Christina now, though, and that car ride would not be very nice at all. Maybe her mother wouldn't even let her go. She would surely be punished. Christina didn't even want to look at her mother, because she knew what she had done would hurt her. She just wanted to hide. She was so ashamed of herself. She hugged her pillow tighter and began to cry.
"What's wrong, Chris?" Christina's brother walked into the room. "Are you sick?"
Christina told her brother all about what she had done. She told him how she had been looking forward to the weekend with Mom, but now she would surely be punished. Maybe she wouldn't be able to go at all.
"I'll tell you what," said her brother. "I will take your punishment for you. Then Mom will be angry at me and I will take the punishment, and you can stop feeling guilty and enjoy Mom's company, and go on your trip."
"What are you saying? How could that work?" asked Christina.
"I will work it out with Mom. She will agree, and you will be free."
"Why would you do that?" Christina asked.
"Because I love you, and I want you to enjoy your time with Mom." Her brother patted her on the head.
"How can I pay you back? she asked.
"You don't have anything I'd want," he laughed. "Just call it grace. Just love me back." Her brother left the room and went to find their mother.
Christina did love her brother, but this was too good to be true. How could one person take punishment for another person?
Christina and her mother did go on the trip that weekend. When Christina saw her mother, she said how sorry she was for what she had done. Mother was cheerful. "That's already taken care of," she said. "I am glad you're sorry, but we needn't worry about that any more." She smiled. "Where do you think we should stop for lunch?"
Christina soon felt easy again. She and her mother talked and talked about just about everything.
Don't you think Christina had a wonderful brother? He always wanted the best for Christina, and he wanted her to have a good relationship with her mother, too. He was willing to do whatever had to be done to make things right for Christina.
This story about Christina is a picture of what Jesus does for His people. Jesus is God the Son and He wants us to have a good relationship with God the Father, but our sin gets in the way. If I asked everyone who had never done anything wrong to raise their hands, the only people who would raise their hands would be liars, because everyone has done wrong! Of course, God is perfectly good, and He cannot just excuse our sin. He has to punish us for it. Jesus loves His people so much, that He was willing to do whatever had to be done to save us from our punishment and set us free to enjoy God.
Today we celebrate a holiday we call Good Friday. On that day we remember the Friday when Jesus died. You might wonder why we would call the Friday Jesus died good. What could be so good about that? When Jesus died, He was taking punishment for other people. He was whipped and beaten and accused of many bad things. Then He was nailed to a cross as punishment, and there He died. What is so good about that is that now His people are free! We don't have to be ashamed any more. We don't have to hide from God. We can enjoy Him forever.
Of course we have trouble believing that. We think that we have to do something to deserve such a gift, but we cannot pay Jesus back. We can only love Him.
This story has even a better ending, because two days after Jesus died, He came alive again! He rose up, came out of His tomb, and visited many people He had known. This is what we remember when we celebrate Easter. We remember how Jesus came alive again after He was dead. Then, one day, Jesus rose up and went to heaven. That is where He is now. He is with God the Father and He prays for us. He also sends the Holy Spirit of God to be with us and to help us. The Holy Spirit helps us to love God and to do a better job of obeying Him. You might say He gives us a new heart. We can never learn all there is to know about God, but He did give us a book, the Bible, that tells us many things. The Holy Spirit that Jesus sends can help us to understand the Bible, too.
When God looks at us now, He does not see our sin. That is already taken care of, because Jesus took the punishment for us. He sees us as good. We can pray to God and talk about anything. We can tell Him when we are sorry. We can tell Him when we are happy or sad, and we can ask Him for the things we need. We can ask Him to help us to be good.
One day Jesus will come back again. Then there will be a new heaven and a new earth and God and His people will all live together in peace. Then we will be able to live without ever doing anything wrong. Won't that be wonderful?
So what can we do to pay Jesus back for doing all these things? We cannot pay Him back. We can only love Him.