As we come to Good Friday, I thought it might be good to refresh our minds on what happened on the cross of Calvary 2,000 years ago. Although many died by crucifixion under Roman rule, there was one whose death was unique.
The death of Jesus of Nazareth was unlike any other death.
The Bible tells us that Jesus died in our place, not merely in a physical sense, but He died in our place in the greater spiritual sense. He died the death of a sinner under the wrath of God for the punishment of sin. The Scriptures teach that Christ died an atoning death, paying for the sin of the entire world. “The just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1Peter 3:18). This is truly a wonderful message but strangely offensive to many.
I’ve heard people say that it would be immoral for an innocent person to be punished for someone else’s sins. They refuse to believe that Christ died for the sins of the world. Actually, there’s a whole school of thought that attributes this aspect of Christian teaching to Paul rather than to Jesus. They say Jesus never taught that He would die for the sins of the world; this idea was all part of the mythology that was concocted by His followers, Paul being the main culprit.
Some years ago, when I was living in London, I met an Englishman who had converted to Islam under the influence of his Middle Eastern wife. As I spoke to him about Christ, he told me that my version of Christianity was not anything that Jesus originally taught. He was extremely offended by the idea of the blood of Christ making atonement for sin. He said that Paul had invented the idea, and one only needed to be a good person to be accepted by God. So I asked him, “Do you really think Paul invented the Christian faith?” “Yes,” he answered, “Before Paul, no one believed that Jesus died for the sins of the world.” I replied, “Interesting, because Isaiah (written 700 years before Christ’s birth) says, 'He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one, to his own way; and the LORD laid on Him the iniquity of us all.… For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken. And they made His grave with the wicked–but with the rich at His death …' (Isaiah 53:5-9). That’s the Old Testament saying that the Messiah was going to give His life as a sacrifice for sin. Paul didn’t invent the idea of Christ making atonement for sin, God did!” The man stood speechless.
The promise from the very beginning (Genesis 3:15) was that God would send a redeemer who would crush the head of the serpent (Satan), and in the process, have His heel bruised (a reference to Christ's death to save us from sin).
People often say in regard to the Old Testament sacrificial system, “Why were all those animals slain and sacrificed; it’s all so bloody and barbaric! What was God thinking?" God was seeking to communicate to us dull-minded, hard-hearted people that the price for sin was the shed blood of an innocent victim. It’s as though God was saying, “This is what it cost to restore your relationship with Me, and all of these sacrifices are just a picture that I’m painting for you of the one who will come and give Himself as the ultimate sacrifice–the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”
On the cross Jesus died to pay the ransom for sinners.
For my sins and your sins, for the sins of everyone who has ever or will ever live. That is mind-boggling. As the psalmist said, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it” (Psalm 139:6). Although this is true and we can never fully comprehend what happened that day on Calvary, let’s take some time today to reflect and give thanks to the one who showed the greatest love of all as He by the grace of God tasted death for everyone.