Why would the man do that?
Maximillian Kolbe, catholic priest and Polish prisoner at the Auschwitz death camp, is remembered for his voluntary death in the place of a fellow prisoner, a man he did not know. Kolbe had sheltered many from the harsh treatment of the Nazis, and had helped more than 2000 Jews escape imprisonment. Now in prison for these “crimes,” Kolbe would make his life a gift on behalf of another. Ten prisoners were picked at random to be starved to death, no food or water. When one of the selected men cried out, “My wife! My children!”, Kolbe volunteered to take his place. The last man of the ten still alive after 14 days, Kolbe was murdered by a lethal injection of carbolic acid.
Greater love has no one than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Why would the man sacrifice himself so selflessly if not for love, the highest form of friendship? The opposite of love is not hate; it is selfishness, the placing of self-interest over the interests of the other. With Kolbe, it was personal. He loved his fellow prisoners without selfish regard. He demonstrated that love- even for this stranger- by dying, helpless and condemned. They were his friends. He would pay any price on their behalf.
And so it is with our God and His desire to be intimate friends with us. When we were helpless and condemned, our God- in the humble form of the man Jesus Christ- volunteered to take our place as the helpless and condemned. He proved He is our friend. He would pay any price to bring us back to fellowship with Him. After all, this fellowship with us is what He has wanted from the beginning.
In His great love, our God offered us intimacy with Himself. When that intimacy was lost, He moved to restore it to us and to pursue it with us. To restore us to true communion, a deep and mutually satisfying relationship with Him. He demonstrated His love for us, in that while we were still sinners (separated from Him), Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
With God it is personal. He loves us.