As we all look to Jesus’ death on the cross and his glorious resurrection, I am taking the time to think over all the wonderful things the cross achieved.
Today as we start out, I want to think of why Jesus needed to go to the cross? His death was not some tragic accident. It did not cut short a promising prophet or teacher, but a purposeful death fully chosen and necessary. It was the fulfilment of all God’s plans promised in the Old Testament.
What was God’s plan then?
God’s plan was always to restore the relationship between himself and man that was broken at the Fall. We know that at the Fall man rebelled against God, and therefore was banished from His presence, because God cannot dwell with sin. However, even at the Fall curses when man was banished, the first allusion to Jesus death and victory on the cross appears (in Genesis 3 [page 4 of my bible]):
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel. (Gen 3:15)
where the heel is a nonfatal blow, but the head is. It was promised to man that someone would come that would be wounded by the devil (Jesus dying on the cross), but this would deliver the fatal blow to the devil (Jesus resurrection and therefore man’s redemption). We get the picture of a wounded victor. It may not be very clear here, but as the Old Testament unwraps, and God continues to make promises to man, it is clear that he wants relationship, and that someone is coming that will enable it (for example the prophecy by Isaiah which discusses a servant who will come, hundreds of years before Jesus was born):
3 He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
9 And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors. (Is. 53:3-6, 9-12)
To some all this up, a servant is coming (it is so certain is it written in past tense) who will be perfect and not sin, but will be punished for the those who have sinned, and these people will kill him. This will enable peace between them and God.
So someone came to die for sinners but did he need to die for me?
This year I have been reading Romans, and Paul explains in chapters 1:18-3:20 what trouble we were in, prior to Christ. To summarise the passage, every person is sinful and rejects God:
For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.” (Rom. 3:10-12)
The consequence of this, is that God turns them over to their selfish desires, and that we are (were if you are now a christian) under God’s righteous wrath for our rebellion. Even Israel who had a special relationship with God, and had been given all the prophecies and the laws (as we have been seeing in Leviticus) was still sinful.
For a true relationship to be formed we all needed to be freed from our sins, for the promise prior to the Fall was that those people who sinned would die (spiritually as well as physically). Therefore we should die for our sins, and for God to be righteous and truthful, death needed to happen. Jesus came to enable us not to die, by dying for us and taking our punishment. Jesus could take our punishment for he is God himself, and therefore unable to sin. At the start of the gospels, we see that he is the one about whom Isaiah is speaking:
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:9-11)
He even predicted his own death:
And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.” (Mark 10:32-34)
And what his death would do:
Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. Now is the judgement of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. (John 12:30-33)
On the cross, our lives and his swap over. He carried our sins and died as punishment, and we are able to have his perfect sinless life when God looks at us. We can trust this as God is righteous, so he never punishes a sin twice. We are able to be free from God’s wrath. We can have relationship with God, through trusting in Jesus, that his death was the sufficient and perfect punishment for our rebellion.
This is why Jesus’ death was not tragic but a victory. Through his death all Christians have relationship with God, and they know that they will never be punished for their sins.
This week and prayers for today
As this week goes on I shall look at various ways this restored relationship changes our lives now, our futures, and everything that Jesus achieved through his death. Today, I am praying that I would remember that Jesus died so that I would be able to have relationship with God. I want to thank him for that, and I pray that I would delight in God and not be dismissive of Him. My Lord and Saviour had to die for me to have the privilege of being able to freely talk to him and have this relationship. I pray also that I would love spending time with God, enjoying the relationship that Jesus’ death brought about.
If you have any questions do not hesitate to contact me, for space reasons I have not been able to include everything here.
(All scripture quoted from English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)