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SIMPLIFIED JOURNEY (26a): Jesus – Death & Resurrection, Pt 2.


The drama of the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus is well known. Sandwiched by two gardens, Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ, powerfully presents the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of our Savior.

Unfortunately, many look only at His agony and do not understand His purpose. He came to His death purposefully. Our previous post in this series ended with an excerpt from the following:

I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for my sheep. I have other  sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that 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. This command I received from my Father. – John 10:14-18.

Later in John, He said:

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.

Any fair reading of the words of Jesus assures us that His death was voluntary.

Gethsemane

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all present a picture of Jesus in Gethsemane where He agonizingly prays, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me” (Matthew 26:39). Mark’s account may be even stronger: “Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me” (Mark 14:36). Luke stresses the agony of His cry: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me” (Luke 22:42). All include His addendum: “yet not my will, but yours be done.” Luke alone says that an angel came to strengthen Him, but also adds, “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:43-44).

How are we to understand this? Was Jesus getting “cold feet” as the actual hour of death approached? We can certainly understand this, if it be the case. In fact, this is how we most often interpret this event. Yet, the Hebrew writer, looking back, has this to say:

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of his reverent submission. – Hebrews 5:7

In what way was Jesus heard? Did the angel come to remind Him of His purpose for coming to earth as one who was born to die? Or is there something here we usually do not “get”? Edward Fudge, in his book Hebrews: Ancient Encouragement for Believers Today, presents an alternate understanding of this event:

In this hour of agony, Jesus prayed to the Father who alone was able to rescue him from death. He did not pray to avoid the experience of dying, as the Gethsemane prayer is often interpreted. He knew that was inevitable, and he had already committed himself to suffer it (John 12:23-33). Jesus prayed that God would save him “from death” as a final destiny – the Greek phrase is literally “out of death.” Jesus knew that God was able to save him from the croiss by twelve legions of angels, if necessary (Matthew 26:53). But he also knew that was not the Father’s will and that it was not what the Scriptures had stated was to occur (Matthew 26:54).

This gives meaning to Jesus’ request that the cup of God’s judgment “pass from” him (Matthew 26:39). The goblet of poisonous wine is an established Old Testament metaphor for a divine judgment (Psalm 75:8; Isaiah 51:17-20; Jeremiah 25:15-26). This picture may have either of two endings. Sometimes the cup results in permanent destruction. Those who drink it fall and never rise again (Obadiah 16; Jeremiah 25:27). At other times, the cup represents a passing judgment. Its recipient staggers and reels, then recovers to thrive again. In this second scenario, God takes back the cup which passes from the one who drank it (Isaiah 51:21-23).

Even in Gethsemane, Jesus expected to drink the cup. His prayer was that after he had drunk it, the cup would pass (Matthew 26:42). Our author [i.e., of Hebrews, JS] immediately underscores that God answered Jesus’ prayers (“he was heard”) because of his reverence or piety or godly life. Jesus entrusted his faithful life to the Father. The Father proved himself faithful by saving Jesus “out from” death. A human life entirely pleasing to the Father cannot remain long dead! (p. 94)

According to this view, Jesus was saved “out from” death by His resurrection. Death and Resurrection are a package. Without death, there can be no resurrection; without resurrection, death is final.

His Death

The death of Jesus was for the sins of the world. Scripture uses many metaphors to help us understand this event. No one of them alone is sufficient to describe what God was doing in Christ when He went to the cross. Fudge, in Hebrews (pp. 68-70), lists and briefly explains seven different theories of the atonement:

  • Ransom from the devil, who was then tricked by the resurrection.
  • Recapitulation by becoming a man and living perfectly, Jesus made it possible for man to share his divine nature.
  • Satisfaction maintains sin offends the honor of God and he must have satisfaction by death – which Jesus accepts on our behalf.
  • Moral Influence views the cross as an example of self-sacrificing love that unleashes a power that can transform the world.
  • Penal Substitution says that a holy & just God must punish sinners with death, and that Jesus accepts death for us.
  • Propitiation, Fudge explains, is that Jesus’ perfect life was offered to God at the cross to satisfy God’s design for man when He created us in His image and thus open the way for us to regain what God intended for us to have.

All of these together explain why He died; none of them alone explains everything. We can be certain of one thing, though. Jesus laid down His life for us because He loves us; the Father sent His Son because of His great love for the entire world. That is a love and a purpose we will doubtless still be exploring throughout eternity!

His Resurrection

The resurrection is important for many reasons – one of which is to show that Jesus really is the Son of God, is what He claimed to be, and is therefore qualified to be our sacrificial sin-offering.

Many today are seeing that there is much more than this to His resurrection.

He is the “first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20). That is, His resurrection assures us of our resurrection. He is “the firstborn from among the dead” (Colossians 1:18). In this, He paves the way for our new birth when we are dead in trespasses and sins.

This new birth is more than forgiveness of sins; it is birth to a new kind of life, a life in the Spirit and in the kingdom of God. In this new life, we are able to live with resurrection power because Jesus has paved the way for us and has given us of His Spirit. Paul speaks of this in two separate prayers in Ephesians:

I pray also that…you may know…His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of His mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms…. – Ephesians 1:18-20

I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. – Ephesians 3:16-19

Paul prays that we may possess – and use – the same power that God used when He raised Jesus and exalted Him. We have this power that is to be with us to live today for eternity. In Christ and through His Spirit, we receive newness of life by sharing in the resurrection of Jesus. “This is the first resurrection.” At the second resurrection, we will enter completely into fullness of fellowship with God as we come to share His glory. In this new life in the Spirit, we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh and are purifying ourselves as He is pure in anticipation of that day when we will see Him as He is and be like Him (Romans 8:13; 1 John 3:1-3).

His death and resurrection, joined together at the hip, are of equal importance in our salvation.

He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. – Romans 4:25

As we continue this “Simplified Journey” through the Scriptures, we will see how the early church proclaimed Christ crucified – and raised.

NEXT: SIMPLIFIED JOURNEY (27): The Early Church

PREVIOUS: SIMPLIFIED JOURNEY (26): Jesus – Death & Resurrection, Pt 1

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