The word “sparrow” was technically any small songbird. They were sold two for a penny, or five for two pennies. Imagine that: the birds were of such little value that you could get five for the price of four.
Low price, high sacrifice
The “sparrow” Jesus mentioned likely was a turtledove or pigeon, the smallest acceptable sacrifice that could be made at the Temple. Those small birds were a poor man’s meat, and meat was a luxury. And the “penny” was an assarion—a copper coin worth less than two cents. So, even though the price of two sparrows was low, sacrificing them would have been significant to people of little means.
What beautiful hyperbole! Jesus picks the most insignificant, cheapest sacrifice a person could make at the Temple—an offering the priests would surely snub just like they did the widow’s coins—to drive home how God loves and cares for all His creation, especially the parts that seem to have virtually no value.
Jesus was concerned about the sparrows because the One who had created them was concerned about them. Jesus was concerned about the people listening to Him talk about sparrows because so many people felt overlooked, disenfranchised, or worthless. Some of them also realized they had no resources or virtues of their own that could get them into a right standing with God.
If God stoops to care for sparrows, how much more would He stoop to care for His pinnacle of creation—mankind?
Highest price; greatest sacrifice
What He did would break the heart of any earthly parent. He gave up His only Son. It was the only way to pay the penalty for mankind’s sins: past, present, and future.
God bookended the breadth of His love for you with sparrows and His Son. By doing so, He said He would go to whatever length it takes to rescue you, redeem you, and restore you.
That boggles my mind.
God knew me long before I was born—even before conception. He knew I wouldn’t seek Him out, so He sought me. He knew I couldn’t bring anything to the table that would satisfy His righteous judgment. So He offered up His Son instead. Jesus the sinless One placed all my sin upon Himself and gave me His righteousness in a swap that defies explanation. But that enabled God to see me as holy and blameless. In some indescribable way, even though I continue to work on being more like Jesus, positionally I already stand in heaven. The same is true for you. And everyone else.
A rock-cut tomb sealed with a stone weighing upwards of two tons wasn’t big enough to keep Jesus in the grave. His sacrifice was perfect. His death satisfied God’s justice; His resurrection proved God’s power and love for us.
Nothing is impossible for God. That deserves a three-fold response: praise, gratitude, and surrender. You can’t tell a God that big that any part of your life is off limits to Him. Nothing is too big, too messy, or too painful for Him to deal with.
My friend, you are worth infinitely more than a sparrow. You are worth Jesus’ life that He gave willingly for you on the Cross! I pray you can celebrate that fully this Easter!
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Don Francisco singing “He’s Alive”