Saturday, March 31, 2018

Sabbath Sanctuary: Holy Saturday Why did Jesus have to die?

It sits nicely tucked away in its box—the bronzed cross which hung on my wall for many years as a symbol of blessing for my home. I packed it away after redecorating the place it hung and came across it this morning.

Remembering that His hands were pierced instead of mine.

 Bronze the representation of judgment—Jesus took upon Him the wrath due me on the cross. A cross to bless my home came with a great price by God who sent His Son. 

Yesterday we remembered Christ and His crucifixion; His holy sacrifice for our filthiness and sin. Every sin I have committed, every idle word I have spoken was nailed to the cross yesterday. There seems to be a void after the horrific crucifixion scene the previous day, and the celebration of an empty grave on Sunday. Sabbath Saturday seemed quiet; the dust settling from the events and commotion of the traumatic events of the previous day, and a quiet hush seemed to hold the city captive. It looked like everything was dead. Everything the disciples hoped for is gone—their dreams died and were buried with Jesus. The perceived injustice broke their hearts and surely the question had to well in their spirit—why did He have to die?

Many have asked this question through the centuries since He laid down His life for the world. It was foretold through the Old Testament “they are striking the judge of Israel on the cheek with a rod. Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are small among the clans of Judah; One will come from you to be the ruler over Israel for Me. His origin is from antiquity, from eternity” {Micha 5:2 HCSB}. This speaks to His eternal nature—from the foundation of the world, the pre-existent Christ—the Lamb that was slain {Revelation 13:7-9}came in the flesh. Jesus told His disciples that everything written about Him in the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled {Lk. 24:44}.

Christ has sinlessly borne the sins of the world. In His innocence he has submitted first in the full waters of the Jordan and then in the bloody waters of the cross, to baptism for sin’s repentance becoming cursed for us in order to deliver us and save us from our sin.[1] 

Some may argue that this sacrifice is cruel and sadistic, but they are misguided. It was a price motivated by the love and compassion of the only wise God. A Just God who could have chosen differently. He could have chosen to leave us in our sin awaiting judgment, displaying His perfect justice. He could have chosen to save no one. But God, in His love chose to redeem instead of leaving us to wallow in our sin. As a consequence of His choice to redeem, Christ’s atonement was necessary. Jesus prayed in the garden to let the cup of His death pass from Him {Matt. 26:39}, if only there was another way…but He always prayed according to Father’s will and in fullness of faith. This is evidence for us that it was not possible for Jesus to avoid His death and the cup of His suffering if He was going to fulfill the Father’s purpose and redeem mankind.

Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him” {Isaiah 53:1-6 NASB}.

But this is not the end of the story. Friday happened, but Sunday is coming! The Suffering Servant has been rewarded—His suffering is over:

He will divide the spoils with the strong. This means that we share in Christ’s inheritance. We are co-heirs with Jesus, according to Paul, because we have been adopted into the family. We are God’s children. ‘Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if we indeed share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory’ {Rom. 8:15}.[2]

Why did Christ have to come to earth and die for our sins? The answer is found in His character—His love, and His justice. In His goodness, He chose to not leave us in sin but to redeem us.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life {John 3:16}. But His justice required a way for our sins to be paid for, for He is a holy God and cannot allow sin to go unanswered. Paul tells us that this was why God sent Christ to be the propitiation {Romans 3:25}, the only perfect sacrifice to pay for our sin. The love and justice of God were the ultimate cause of the atonement.

On this Sabbath Passover Easter weekend, reflect on God’s holiness and justice and rest in His love that chose to redeem you and make available His promises for your life. In His holiness He saw your sin, in His justice, He provided the sacrifice for you through Christ and because He loves you He redeemed you.

Saturday is almost over…Sunday is Resurrection!

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[1] Alan E. Lewis, Between Cross And Resurrection: A Theology Of Holy Saturday (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2001), 45.
[2] R.T. Kendall, Why Jesus Died: A Meditation Of Isaiah 53 (Oxford: Monarch Books, 2011), 185.

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