I found out yesterday that one of my old students lost his first-born child, a newborn son. Another friend and co-worker just lost her father. Death is always a sobering reminder of the results of sin in a fallen world, but the death of a child always feels even more so. It seems to contrast so sharply with the “abundant life” that we were created for and Jesus came to give us. How can we begin to understand why a baby dies in its first 48 hours? Having experienced the death of a son myself, I was reminded of a verse that often comforted me at that time. Hebrews 4:15 says “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (NASB). I realized that God knew what it was like to lose a son, because He had experienced it Himself.

As I was considering the “wages of sin” through death, it brought to mind a parable that Jesus told dealing with wages. In Matthew 20:1-16, Jesus shares the story of the workers in the Vineyard. Some men that were hired worked all day, some half a day, and some barely put in a couple of hours. However, at the end of the day, they were all paid the same. This parable is often used to demonstrate God’s grace. He lavishes His love and salvation on us, even though we don’t deserve it and can’t work enough to earn it. As is often the case, though, grace and mercy are two sides of the same coin. I realized the “mercy” aspect of this through Jesus’ sacrifice. Jesus is usually portrayed as the generous owner of the vineyard in this parable, but for the first time, I considered the idea that he was a worker hired at the very end of the day. Because he lived a perfect, sinless life, Jesus did not deserve to die, nonetheless He offered His life so that we could be freed from the penalty of death. Even though he had done nothing to deserve it, Jesus was paid the wages of sin – death. Because of His death, our life was given meaning.