Aug 21, 2008, 8:25 AM
“...he will swallow up death forever.”(Isaiah 25:8a)
“But God demonstrates his love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6)
Jesus’ disciples could not understand how that despite the risk to his life and the hostile atmosphere in the ranks of his enemies - the religious authorities in Jerusalem - their Master was heading for Jerusalem nevertheless. Yes, tempers had risen and friction was imminent as Jesus baffled the authority of the Pharisees and the Scribes through his teachings and the miracles he performed particularly on the Sabbath. But that did not deter him. He had openly challenged and ridiculed their religious practices, exposing their hypocrisy and that had not gone down well with them.
For this reason, they had sought ways to find fault with him by trapping him, all in a bid not only to put him at loggerheads with the Romans but also to have him put to death. It had become necessary to eliminate him at a time when his popularity was mounting fast. Jesus had been a stumbling block in the way of the Jewish elders who saw him as an upstart and a rebel. Ordinarily, these different religious groups could not see eye to eye but they combined forces on a common objective to get rid of him.
Our Lord Jesus had previously alerted his disciples on several occasions of up-coming events concerning him, on reaching Jerusalem. “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!” (Matthew 20:18-19) (Mark 9:31)
On another occasion, he was a little more explicit but his disciples had still not quite fathomed all of what he had prophesied. “I lay down my life only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.” (John 10:17) This phase was the most important stage of Jesus’ life on earth. He was born to die for the redemption of our sins and nothing could have stopped him. “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father save me from this hour?’ No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father , glorify your name.” (John 12:27) In spite of the humiliation, ridicule, the pain he endured and the affliction he suffered, Jesus remained steadfast to the end.
Writhing in pain, as he gasped his last breath, he cried out with a loud voice; “It is finished!” meaning that his mission on earth was completed. The culminating point of his existence was satisfied, wholly. As God’s beloved Son he had been obedient to his Father. That was what mattered. “Then I said, ‘Here I am – it is written about me in the scroll – ‘I have come to do your will, O God.’ ” (Hebrews 10:7)
In the face of open hostility and unjust atrocity, Jesus affirmed himself “The king of the Jews!” He persevered to the very end and conquered death. This he did so that we may be freed from the shackles and the fear of death. No longer on earth, Christ’s spirit still lives on, in us! Hallelujah! Death could not hold him captive in the grave. He has power over the grave which he demonstrated when he raised Lazarus from the dead. “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11:25)
Our Lord Jesus did not go the cross to die for his sins – in that he was sinless - but for our own. The Bible teaches that the wages of sin is death (Romans 3:23) and that the one who sins is the one to die (Deuteronomy 24:16). Until Jesus paid the price of sin on the cross, sin was only covered by animal blood using a spotless lamb. That was a foreshadowing of things to come. The Lamb of God, designated by the Father - that would come to take away humanity’s sin - is Jesus. “He only could unlock the gates of heaven and let us in” writes the hymnist.
On Resurrection Sunday, that memorable day, death met its death. Jesus became our Substitute by dying in our place. We must see death from henceforth as a ‘trapdoor’ to a new kind of life which is eternal, everlasting.
Jesus told his disciples: “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24) He died that his resurrection may impact our lives because he will give life to many and you and I are that seed. Do you believe this? The hymn writer renders it thus: “He died that we might be forgiven, he died to make us good; that we might go at last to heaven, saved by his precious blood.”
“Because I live you also will live.” (John 14:19) Because he lives, I can face tomorrow.