A Good Friday Briefing!
At 9AM on a Friday morning almost two thousand years ago, Jesus was nailed to a Roman cross. Six hours later he declared that the work of redemption he had been sent to accomplish was finished (Jn. 19:30).
It’s estimated that as many as 30,000 Jews suffered crucifixion at the hands of the Roman government. What made Jesus’ death on the cross any different than all the other Jews that had been crucified?
Jesus’ primary disciple, Peter, by the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, gives us a short summary of the meaning of Jesus’ death on the cross.
1 Peter 3:18, "For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit," (NKJV)
One commentator writes that 1 Peter 3:18 is "one of the shortest and simplest, and yet one of the richest summaries given in the NT of the meaning of the Cross of Jesus."
Peter Affirms Six Important Facts About the Death of Christ:
- It involved a Unique Person - "Christ"- Christ is a title, not a personal name. It means "Anointed."
In the OT three types of persons were anointed: Prophets, Priests, and Kings.
In Jesus, the Christ, we find that He was anointed to fill three offices and perform the functions of these positions.
The first office for which He was anointed was that of Prophet, His words reveal the very nature of God. John 1:18 declares that He has exegeted (He has brought to light or made plain) who God really is.
The second office for which He was anointed was that of Priest, He became the representative and sin bearer for His covenant people. He offered Himself as the innocent, substitutionary, sacrificial offering for sin on behalf of all who will acknowledge their sins. He took the guilt of sinners upon Himself and endured God's judgment in His death on the cross.
His sacrificial death magnified the grace of God, the glory of God, and the government of God. It declared, that through the cross, God can be just and yet the Justifier of all the ungodly who come unto Him through Christ (Rom 3:26).
The third office for which He was anointed was that of King, He rose from the dead, conquering sin and death, triumphing over all authorities, principalities and powers. He ascended back to His Father as absolute Lord. His life of perfect obedience is now vindicated and He freely and sovereignly gives His reward of righteousness to hell-deserving sinners.
- It was an Unequaled Death - "died for sins"
The word for “died” in 1 Pet. 3:18 speaks not just of physical death, but of awesome suffering. When Mel Gibson released his movie, “The Passion of the Christ,” he was widely criticized for the brutality with which he depicted the death of our Lord. In response to that criticism, he released a “recut” version of the movie a few days later. It was six minutes shorter because he cut out part of the scourging scene and part of the crucifixion scene. He also changed some of the audio and the angles of certain shots to soften the shock of the film. But 2,000 years ago, no one could soften the crucifixion for Jesus. What they did to him was far worse than any Hollywood movie could portray.
- It was an Uncivilized Death - "on the tree"- 1 Peter 2:24, "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness." Gal 3:13, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree"
He died “for sins.” Note carefully how Peter puts it. He did not die for his own sins, for he never sinned. He was the only perfect man who ever lived. Jesus died for our sins.
Take time on Good Friday to read Isaiah 53, looking carefully for the expressions used to describe Christ' sufferings.
As your read this 53rd chapter, you will discover that the sufferings of Messiah were to be EXTREMELY VIOLENT. He was wounded, bruised, chastised, stripes (from the scourging), and cut-off out of the land of the living. In verse 10, we read: "it pleased the Lord to bruise Him and to put Him to grief." All of the above terms imply great violence. The word "wounded" means to pierce through, or to be fatally wounded.
His sufferings were to be INTENSELY SEVERE. "He was bruised for our iniquities." The word "bruised" means to crush or to beat to pieces. This reveals the intense sufferings of our Blessed Savior.
The sufferings of Messiah were DEFINITELY FATAL. Our text reveals that "He was wounded for our transgressions.” The word "wounded" is used for severe and mortal wounds, and is applied usually to persons slain by violence, particularly in battle. What He experienced was definitely fatal.
The sufferings of Messiah were EXCEEDINGLY DIVERSIFIED. Several different words are used to denote the diversity of His sufferings. He was, "despised, pierced, bruised, beaten.” An exceedingly diversified and unparalleled combination of calamities fell upon the Son of God.
His sufferings were DISTINCTLY PENAL. (Penal meaning, He suffered the penalty of the broken law for us) When Jesus identified Himself with His people, with sinners, with those that He had agreed to redeem according to the terms of the Everlasting Covenant, He was reckoned as guilty of their transgressions. There on the cross, Christ paid the indebtedness that their sins had incurred.
His sufferings were WILLINGLY VICARIOUS. The word "vicarious" means to "stand in the stead of,” “to be a substitute for." Isaiah reveals that our wounds, our griefs, our sorrows were carried by Him. This is the language of substitution.
- It was an Unrepeatable Death - “once and for all time"
When Peter says he died “once for all,” he means Christ’s death was sufficient for all time and therefore could never be repeated by anyone else. What the blood of bulls and goats could never do, Jesus did in his death on the cross. Jesus died on the Jewish Passover. Scholars suggest that 250,000 sheep would be killed each year at Passover. But that great river of animal blood could never duplicate what Jesus accomplished when he died on the cross for us.
- It was a United Substitutionary Death - "the Just for the unjust"
John Stott rightly observes, “We must not, then, speak of God punishing Jesus or of Jesus persuading God, for to do so is to set them over against each other as if they acted independently of each other or were even in conflict with each other. We must never make Christ the object of God's punishment or God the object of Christ's persuasion, for both God and Christ were subjects not objects, taking the initiative together to save sinners. It was `God in our nature forsaken of God'. The Father did not lay on the Son an ordeal he was reluctant to bear, nor did the Son extract from the Father a salvation he was reluctant to bestow.”
His death was “the righteous for the unrighteous.” He took our place. He bore our shame. He paid the price for all our sin. He took the penalty for our sins and he placed it on himself. This explains why Christ had to die. He did not die as a good example, and he didn’t die to teach us how to live or how to die. He died because he took our punishment on himself.
- It was a Unifying Death -"bring us to God"
He died for our sins, in our place, that he might bring us to God. In the Old Testament, there was a thick veil that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. The veil was a visual reminder that only the High Priest could come into God’s presence, and he could only come once a year, and only on the Day of Atonement, and only with the blood of a bull or a goat. When Jesus died, the veil was ripped apart, signifying that his death opens the door for anyone who believes to come to God.
The Cross is truly the Cross-roads of human history, of true identity and final destiny. The cross is really Jesus’ crown. The cross forever shattered man’s false hopes and illusions about fixing whatever is wrong with us. The cross says, you are far worse than you ever dreamed, but loved more than you can ever imagine. At the ultimate Cross-roads of life – Calvary – a wonderful exchange is offered.
In everything, the Cross is central. As the vertical penetration of God into space-time, the Cross allows God to present Himself to man and man to present himself to God. At the head of the Cross, God’s love flows earthward from a thorn-gashed brow. At the foot of the Cross, man’s gaze moves heavenward to a pair of nail-pierced feet. In divine descent, the Son atones, the Father forgives, and the Spirit indwells. In response, man reaches up to receive and then, marvels at the wonder of the divine gift. In this divine-human interchange, the Cross brings together the earthly and the heavenly, uniting what was separate and imparting life to what was life-less.
Oh, the love that drew salvation’s plan!
Oh, the grace that brought it down to man!
Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span