05 Oct Conveying the Gospel in Today’s Culture: Jesus’ Death and Resurrection
There is a lot to say about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. John’s gospel concludes with the words, “there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written” (21:25). Even in regard to Jesus’ death and resurrection, much can be and has been written. N.T. Wright’s book, The Resurrection of the Son of God spans 817 pages of rich content.
Jesus’ death and resurrection are the apex of the gospel story. Everything in the preceding accounts direct us to this event and this event points us forward to our entrée into the coming kingdom. So why did Jesus have to die on a cross?
The obvious reason is that humanity was in rebellion and the only hope for us was for God to redeem us. We could not, as was discussed in an earlier blog post, pay for our own debt of sin. Even if we could pay the debt, our sin nature would prevent us from being able to do so. Yet, this still begs the question, why a cross? Why not by stoning, another popular method of capital punishment of the day?
Crucifixion was a popular form of capital punishment during the first century. If offered a slow and torturous means of death during which the victim suffocated over the course of many hours as he continually tried to push up with his legs to allow him to breath as his arms were outstretched. After hours of this, the victim would run out of strength to continue pushing up putting so much pressure on the lungs that he couldn’t bring in enough oxygen. This is why, to speed death, the soldiers would break the legs of those hanging onto life, removing even the option of pushing up for more air.
Yet, there is another reason why crucifixion was the means of death in Jesus case. Jesus came to take on sin. Even before his birth, the angel proclaimed to Joseph in a dream regarding Mary, “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” John the Baptist, upon seeing Jesus coming to him to be baptized, said of Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” In the Old Testament a spotless lamb was used to offer the atoning sacrifice on the altar to take away the sins of the people.
The author of Hebrews says of Jesus, “Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God…For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” (10:11-14)
Yet, how is this accomplished on the cross? Paul recounts the book of Deuteronomy in his letter to the Galatians. He writes, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” (3:13, also see Deut. 21:23). By being subject to the cross, Jesus made himself a curse so that we could be freed from the curse of trying to have to live under the law (Gal. 3:10) and so that we could gain entrance to the Kingdom, where there will no longer be a curse.
John writes of the Kingdom in Revelation, “There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads” (22:3-4). This is that to which we look forward. Jesus has become a curse, to remove our curse, so that we can live eternally in a Kingdom free from any curse! He did all of this by hanging on the cross, a symbol of agony that has become our symbol of hope and redemption. Praise the Lord.