For some reason I was thinking about this this morning...
A lot of times in the bible, God says he desires mercy and justice:
Micah 6:8 "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."
Proverbs 21:3 "To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice."
Hosea 6:6: "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings."
It occurred to me this morning that all of this was a set up, or foreshadowing, for the Messiah, and a true example of God's character. God had mercy on us by forgiving our sins, but He is still just, and our sins required payment. The Messiah came and paid for the sins, and thus came this very physical picture of mercy and justice.
He exemplified the thing He desires from us. God set the example just like any father should for his children (because we all know "do as I say, not as I do" doesn't work). So all along, He's just saying, "be like Me and here's what that looks like."
I struggle with the idea of justice and mercy sometimes, because they're almost at opposite ends of the spectrum. I'm not sure when it's appropriate for me to get riled up about a just cause, or when there are things I need to let God handle. When is it proper for us to enforce justice and when should we exercise mercy? It's a judgement call I guess; or ideally, God would let us know when each is appropriate.
Either way though, I think it's awesome that God says, "this is what I want from you" and then exemplifies it in the most sacrificial act ever!