Saturday, March 30, 2013
Jesus himself believed that he needed to die.
Pilate placed a sign on Jesus’ cross that read “The King of the Jews.” This fact is found in all four New Testament Gospels and in some later non-canonical gospels as well. This “title” helps to explain the nature of the charges against Jesus.
Jesus fully expected that he would be tortured and killed. Yet he spoke of his death, not merely as something that would happen, but as something that must happen. So, for example, in Mark 8 we read, “Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again” (8:31). On numerous occasions Jesus predicted his pending death in Jerusalem (Mark 9:31; Mark 10:33-34), yet he did nothing to prevent it. In fact, his actions in Jerusalem – cleansing the temple, failing to flee from those who sought to arrest him – if anything, propelled him to the cross. Yet the big question is: Why? Why did Jesus believe that it was necessary that he die?
In the Gospel of John Jesus makes it clear that he is choosing to die. Nobody is forcing him to do it:
For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father. (John 10:17-18)
Here, alongside Jesus’ claim that he freely gives up his life, is the observation that he has “received this command from [his] Father.” So, one major reason Jesus believed that he must be killed is that he also believed this to be the will of his Heavenly Father.
This observation is confirmed in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus asks his Father to “remove this cup” from him. Yet, he adds, “not what I want, but what you want” (Mark 14:36). In other words, Jesus asks not to have to go to the cross, but he perceives this to be the will of his Father in heaven. Thus he offers up his life out of obedience.
“See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; the will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.”
You shall drink your sister’s cup,
deep and wide;
you shall be scorned and derided,
it holds so much.
You shall be filled with drunkenness and sorrow.
A cup of horror and desolation
is the cup of your sister Samaria;
you shall drink it and drain it out,
and gnaw its sherds,
and tear out your breasts. (Ezek 23:32-34)
Jesus speaks of drinking the cup, he is alluding to these images from the Scriptures. By going to the cross, he will drink the cup of God’s wrath. He will bear divine judgment, that which rightly falls upon Israel, and, indeed upon all humanity.
Drinking the cup is a symbol of receiving God’s judgment. Jesus will drink the cup in the sense that he will takhttp://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=5841131344029130658#editor/target=post;postID=41079097997769320e upon himself the penalty for human sin by dying on the cross.
Jesus revealed that his mission as the Son of Man involves suffering and dying (Mark 8:31; 10:33-34). When he said this in Mark 8, Peter actually began to rebuke him, presumably because he thought Jesus was speaking nonsense (8:32).
Why Did Jesus Have to Die? The Perspective of Jesus of Nazareth:
A Ransom for Many
“For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
He was despised and rejected by others
a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;
and as one from whom others hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him of no account. (53:3)
Yet this Suffering Servant endured such scorn for the sake of others:
Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases; . . .
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him as the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed. . . .
Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he poured http://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=5841131344029130658#editor/target=post;postID=41079097997769320out himself to death,
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many, . . . (53:4-5, 12)
Although this passage from Isaiah does not use the word “ransom” (lutron in Mark 10:45), it clearly conveys the idea of one who suffers for the sake of others, so that they might be made whole. Through his painful death, the Servant of God bears the sins of others.
Jesus believed that his death was the will of his Heavenly Father, so he chose to obey the Father’s will (John 10:17-18; Mark 14:36).
Jesus believed it was his calling to “drink the cup” of God’s judgment, taking upon himself the righteous judgment of God upon the sin of Israel (and, indeed, all humanity) (Mark 10:38; 14:36).
Jesus believed that his mission as the Son of Man was to serve rather than to be served, and in fact to give his life as a “ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Thus he combined the Old Testament visions of the Son of Man (Daniel 7) and the suffering Servant of God (Isaiah 52-53).
Jesus believed that his death was at the center of God’s plan for salvation, even as the exodus from Egypt was central to Old Testament salvation. Through his broken body and shed blood the new covenant would be inaugurated (Mark 14:22-25).
From a historical point of view, one can argue that Jesus died as the victim of Roman oppression or the machinations of Jewish leaders, or both. But from Jesus’ point of view, he was no victim at all. As the Good Shepherd, he chose to “lay down [his] life for the sheep” (John 10:15). “No one takes it from me,” Jesus said, “but I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:18).
Paul refers to the core truth of the Christian faith, that which had been handed on to him from the first believers, and which he in turn passed on to the Corinthians. Then he quotes verbatim a portion of this tradition:
For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: the Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. (15:3-5)
“Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures.” His death was not simply a terrible accident or a result of his having offended Roman and Jewish authorities. Jesus died “for our sins,” both because of our sins and in order to insure our forgiveness. By implication, Jesus had to die so that we might be saved from that which caused our lives to be broken.
How did the earliest Christians know this? Because it was “according to the scriptures.” Remember that the scriptures of the first Christians were not the writings of the New Testament, but rather the collection we know as the Old Testament. These Jewish scriptures, though written centuries before Jesus, nevertheless pointed ahead to his death and its purpose.
We are all born into sin and we are all sinners.
So how does God deal with our sin, so that we might be reconciled to him? We find the answer in 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Though scholars continue to debate the precise nuances of this verse, its basic sense is clear. Allow me to paraphrase: “For our sake, God the Father treated Jesus as if he were sin itself, so that in Jesus we might experience right-relationship with God the Father, the kind of relationship that Jesus himself had with the Father.”
When did the Father treat Jesus as if he were sin? In the crucifixion. Far more horrible than the physical pain Jesus experienced was the spiritual reality he endured, being forsaken by his Heavenly Father, entering into the very essence of Hell. This was necessary, not because Jesus himself deserved it, but because humanity deserved it. Yet in God’s amazing grace, Jesus’ suffering counted for all of us. In his death Jesus bore the sin of the world. So we read in 1 Peter 2:24: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” Behind the logic of 2 Corinthians 5:21 and 1 Peter 2:24 we find, once again, the image of the suffering Servant of God in Isaiah 53: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and be his bruises we are healed.”
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.
It is inappropriate to look for explanations of Jesus’ death that blame God. God is not the one who killed him but the one who raised him from the dead. Jesus died because those in power ordered him killed. They could not tolerate someone who challenged the status quo as forcefully and thoroughly as Jesus was capable of doing. (THE REV.) DOUGLAS P. CUNNINGHAM New York City
Invite Christ to be the Lord of your life. Accept that He died for your sins.