No Christianity without Christ’s Death

Jesus explained to the disciples that he must go to Jerusalem to suffer many things, be killed and be raised to life on the third day (Matthew 16:21). Jesus faced his crucifixion not as an accident or a mistake, but as a necessary part of his mission.

Jesus came into the world to die, and every stage of the road that led to this destiny was determined not for Him but by Him. He was never the victim but always the Master of circumstance, and pursued. Jesus’ pathway from the beginning to the end was not merely in full knowledge from the start of all its turns and twists up to its bitter conclusion, but in complete control of them and of it.

Without the death of Jesus, his ministry would have been meaningless. Throughout the Bible, death is required for life. In Genesis 3:15, after the Fall, the first promise of the Messiah says that he will be struck even as he crushes Satan’s head. God then clothes Adam and Eve in animal skins, which required the animals’ death. God provides a sacrificial animal for Abraham in place of his son’s death (Genesis 22). The Passover lamb is killed so that the Israelites can be saved (Exodus 12). The entire sacrificial system of the Hebrew Bible looks forward to Jesus, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world ”.

This was proclaimed by John the Baptist (John 1:29), and by the prophecy of the suffering servant (Isaiah 53). As the hour approached Jesus became more explicit about his death:

We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified on the third day he will be raised to life! (Matthew 20:18-19).

Jesus’ sense of his impending death harmonises with his sense of mission. We noted that he said, referring to himself, “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). When explaining that his disciples should not desire for power and prestige but rather serve their neighbours, Jesus used himself as the supreme example by saying “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28.

Before the betrayal, Jesus was in great agony over his coming death and prayed, “Abba, Father, everything is possible for you take this cup from me yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36). Soon after this, when Jesus was arrested, someone tried to protect him by the sword Jesus responded by rebuking the deed and saying, “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” (Matthew 26:53-54).

The Jewish religious leaders said, “Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God” “You have said so,” Jesus replied “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26:63-64). In just a few words Jesus affirmed that he was the promised Messiah, the Son of Man, who was equal to (“sit at the right hand of”) almighty God, who was coming in divine judgment (“the clouds of heaven”).

The high priest understood He ripped his clothes, crying out, “He has spoken blasphemy” (Matthew 26:65). Jesus was then beaten and handed over to the Roman political officials, who further beat him, taunted him, spat on him and had him crucified. Jesus was savagely scourged before being crucified, and he carried the cross part way to Golgotha before another man was constrained to shoulder it the rest of the way (Mark 15:21; John 19:17). He was nailed between two common criminals In the midst of the suffering of the cross, Jesus cried, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Jesus loved his enemies, even to the end, but affirmed their need for forgiveness.

Jesus’ last words on the cross were, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). After this with a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:37-39).

The crucifixion and its meaning were revealed hundreds of years before the fact Jesus himself often quoted from Isaiah 53, that said of the Messiah:

He poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors (Isaiah 53:12).

It was fulfilled to the letter for Isaiah speaks of one despised and rejected by mankind; a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:3-5).

Although “we all, like sheep, have gone astray, on him the iniquity of us all”. He was “like a lamb” led to the slaughter, “for the transgression of my people he was punished”. And although “he had done no violence nor was any deceit in his mouth,” the Lord “makes his life an offering for sin” (Isaiah 53:6-10).

Isaiah concludes the chapter by saying, “For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12). Jesus Christ is this suffering servant, but Jesus’ death, while necessary, was not the end. There would have been no Christianity without His resurrection, this is central to the entire New Testament. As Paul proclaims, Jesus was declared the Son of God with power through his resurrection (Romans 1:4).



Categories: Theology

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