April 4, 2023

At Any Cost

The prospect of “perishing” was final in effect

Martin Mato

Furious black billows of smoke rose through the dry, dusty air, distant and ominous. We knew only too well what that meant. There had been statewide tension for weeks between two prominent tribes in Kaduna State, Nigeria. A few weeks earlier there had been bloodshed in villages not far from the state’s capital city (also called Kaduna), and following that, there had been widespread rumors that the antagonistic faction planned on bringing the fight to the city. The smoke made it frighteningly clear that they had made good on their threat.

The city was far from where my family lived (more than six miles [10 kilometers]), and we would be safe if we stayed home. The rising panic within us was not for ourselves, but for my younger brother and sister who had gone to school that morning, far away on the other side of town. That town had now become a cluster of mini war zones. We worried, too, for my father, who had told us almost casually before he left three or four hours earlier that he was going to “pick them up.”

The usual amount of time it took to “pick them up” passed. Nothing happened. Daddy didn’t return. We waited and waited. Suddenly we saw our little red car turn a nearby corner and drive in our direction. With amazement and joy we watched the car approach, and when it stopped, out came my father, my brother and sister, and four soldiers, all unharmed. All seven of them had somehow managed to cram themselves into that tiny two-door sedan.

I will never forget the words, spoken in Hausa, of the first soldier that stepped out: “Baban ku nan, shi ma soldier ne.” Translated into English, what he said meant: “Your dad, too, is a soldier.” Then he proceeded to tell us of how my dad had arrived at a soldier-erected roadblock, of how they had tried to prevent him from going farther by explaining that there were many dangerous places between where they were and where he wanted to go, and of how he had replied, “My children are out there. If you will help me, join me. If not, give me way. I must go.”


It was about 2,000 years ago. The moon was full that night. The sky was clear. If you didn’t mind straining your eyes a little, you could read off a scroll in the bright moonlight. The garden was quiet as usual, and the four individuals in it were no strangers to its peaceful groves.

The difference that night was that the Leader of the company wasn’t Himself, not by a far cry. He was clearly burdened. He had walked to the garden as one trying not to buckle under a heavy weight. He was sweating profusely, although the weather was mild. At this moment He was praying, not in His usual posture, but prostrated facedown, His hands clutching the ground with desperation. His companions lay fast asleep just a little distance away.

But even if they had been awake and could see the great drops of blood on His forehead and hear His unintelligible moans, they surely would not be able to fathom the magnitude of what was going on. They wouldn’t have been able to see that His Father had all but withdrawn every token of His presence from their agonizing Leader. They wouldn’t have been able to comprehend how alone He felt or feel the crushing weight of the eternal decision that was before Him.

The issues were clear to the Sin-bearer Himself, though. He knew that He could call off the rescue mission and just go back home, home to the adoration of thousands and thousands of angels and all the unfallen beings on countless planets. He could justly leave the ungrateful humans to their fate, save Himself from what looked like certain and eternal death, and be perfectly right in doing so.

But “He sees that the transgressors of the law, if left to themselves, must perish. He sees the helplessness of man. He sees the power of sin. The woes and lamentations of a doomed world rise before Him. He beholds its impending fate, and His decision is made. He will save man at any cost to Himself. He accepts His baptism of blood, that through Him perishing millions may gain everlasting life.”1


The prospect of “perishing” was final in effect. It didn’t look to Him as though He would “rise again on the third day,” as He Himself had said with assurance in vastly different circumstances. What happened that night was that the Creator of the universe saw that we would be hopelessly lost if we were left to ourselves, and decided to die in our place “at any cost” to Himself. 

Even if His Father rejected Him forever for taking my place, as vile and wretched as I am, He would do it. Even if His mighty throne was to be forever empty so that salvation and sanctification would be sure for the fraction of the human race that would accept His sacrifice on their behalf, He would do it. Whatever the cost might be, if it saved us, He was ready to pay it. This was the tenor of His whole life on earth, and now it was revealed for the whole universe to see.

In the hours that followed, one disgraceful scene after another took place in quick succession, calculated to try the Lord to the utmost, but His mind was made up, and He didn’t change it to the bitter end. A mob handled the Prince of Peace as if He were a common criminal. A late-night court that lacked even a semblance of justice tried and condemned the Judge of all the earth. Ignorant Roman soldiers spat on and laughed at heaven’s finest Soldier. A cowardly ruler questioned the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Another vile, murderous despot commanded “the Resurrection and the Life” to work a miracle. Demons in human form initiated and swelled the cry to crucify Michael, the Archangel. But nothing would deter His laser-like focus on ransoming the inhabitants of this speck of a planet.

Even as He hung upon the cross, Satan with his fierce temptations wrung the heart of the despised and rejected Man of sorrows. “The Saviour could not see through the portals of the tomb. Hope did not present to Him His coming forth from the grave a conqueror or tell Him of the Father’s acceptance of the sacrifice. He feared that sin was so offensive to God that Their separation was to be eternal.”2

A song I grew up loving is wrong. He didn’t tell the soldiers to “go ahead, drive the nails through My hands,” assured that He would “rise again.” He more likely told them to “go ahead, drive the nails through My hands,” for by this many would be saved. “Maybe not I myself, but many.”Elder Tambaya Mato is a bent-over septuagenarian now, and the love that moved him to risk his life to save his two children many years ago lives in our minds as a testimony of fatherly love. But as high as the infinite is above the finite, so high is the Savior’s love for humanity above an earthly father’s love for his children. Tongue cannot explain, nor can human minds fully comprehend, His sacrifice, but the Infinite One ordained and foretold it; and as if to make sure that we would not forget it this side of heaven, He made the Savior’s very name on earth a promise. This was He that the angel announced would “save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).

1 Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1898, 1940), p. 690.2 Ibid., p. 753.

Ibid., p. 753.