I’ve changed how I talk about the gospel story, the good news that Jesus saves people from sin and death. When I was little, I spoke the highlights: Jesus died and rose again. Those two concepts rooted themselves in my heart and mind. I knew that Jesus loved me and had died for me.
The older I get, the more I recognize the need to better communicate the truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Jesus did die and rise again, but he accomplished much more than that. He lived a perfect life, died for sinners like me, and rose again to never die again.
Jesus is called Immanuel for a reason: he was “God with us” in the flesh. John records that the Word became flesh and dwelt among mankind (John 1:1-14, NASB). The author of Hebrews explains the purpose for that human body.
He says Jesus becomes like man “so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since he himself was tempted in that which he has suffered, he is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:17-8, NASB).
Jesus, unlike man, lives the perfect life. He experiences temptations and overcomes them. His desires never ensnare or enslave him. Instead, Jesus remains centered on carrying out God’s will, even if that will means mockery, torture, betrayal, bone- and soul-crushing loneliness, and death on a cross.
Jesus lives that life not merely to be the perfect sacrifice for sins but also to give believers hope. A day will come when I will be like him. Sin will have no hold on me. I will be set free, completely, perfectly, gloriously.
Jesus dies a brutal, hideous death. Some friends betray him. Others deny him or run away and hide in fear. Miscarriages of justice abound. Jesus’ “trial” occurs in the dead of night. Pilate releases an insurrectionist and murderer at the behest of the people.
Prior to the actual crucifixion, the Romans press a crown of thorns upon Jesus’ head. A whip, similar to a cat of nine tails, tatters his skin. The Romans set a purple robe upon his shoulders. The Bible remains silent on the robe being removed, but skin surely tears as the robe is swept away.
By the time of the crucifixion, Jesus is so bruised and battered that he can’t carry the cross. The Romans seize Simon of Cyrene, “a man coming in from the country,” to carry it for Jesus (Luke 23:26, NASB). The Romans then pound the nails through Jesus’ tendons, his hands and feet, and into the wood beneath him before lifting the cross up.
Jesus hangs there. His side is pierced. He sees his mother and asks the disciple he loves, who is standing nearby, to watch over her. He speaks with the men being crucified alongside him (Luke 23:39-43, NASB). Jesus asks the Father to forgive the people. He hangs there and hangs there while the sky darkens and God turns away—turns away from his beloved, one-and-only Son. Jesus bears God’s wrath against sin until the debt is fully paid.
When the work is complete, Jesus knows and acknowledges it. He says, “It is finished,” and breathes his last (John 19:30, NASB). The veil in the temple is torn in two, from top to bottom, and the whole earth shakes (Matthew 27:51, NASB).
He Rose Again
By the time Jesus arrives on the scene, the Jewish people are familiar with resurrection. Some of their greatest prophets prayed to God and saw people brought back to life. Jesus continues the movement. He raises several people, the most notable being Lazarus who, presumably, has gone rotten in the tomb.
Jesus’ own resurrection, then, may not be the most significant portion of the action. It matters—Jesus fulfills his prophecy about razing and resurrecting the temple in three days (John 2:12-22, NASB). Perhaps what matters more, though, is God resurrects Jesus to never die again.
Jesus lives forevermore. Because he lives eternally, I will, too. This is the glory of the resurrection: forever-after life. Paul writes of it, expressing his earnest desire to know the “power of the resurrection” (Philippians 3:7-11, NASB).
Peter, too, notes the coming reality of forever life to those who believe. He says, “For he [Jesus] was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” (1 Peter 1:20-1. NASB).
Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection demonstrate God’s glory. He lives the life I couldn’t and can’t so that I wouldn’t have to pay the wages of sin. His life also provides an example to follow. Jesus’ death covers my sins and reconciles me with God. His resurrection…his resurrection gives me hope of eternal life spent with him. It proclaims that one day I will have a new body and spirit, and they will be glorious because they will be like Jesus’.
Image: freestocks.org (Creative Commons)