Last week, on Palm Sunday, we spent our time considering the question, “Why Did Jesus Have to Die?” from the perspective of various groups and individuals in Jerusalem that week. We looked at the “Pharisees’ Legalism,” the “Sanhedrin’s Materialism,” the “Crowd’s Hedonism,” “Pilate’s Cynicism,” and finally, the “Believers’ Pacifism.” This Easter Sunday, I want to ask the same question, “Why Did Jesus Have to Die?”, but answer it from God’s perspective.
In a very real sense, one has to read, and study, and meditate upon the whole of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, to grasp God’s perspective on why Jesus had to die. The whole of the Biblical narrative points to Christ, to His death on the cross as our substitute, accepting on our behalf the just wrath of God for our sins. It begins with God’s creation of a perfect, “very good” universe, the Fall in the Garden of Eden, and HIs promise in Genesis 3:15 that He would provide a Saviour, a “seed of the woman” Who would crush the head of the serpent, and carries through to Revelation where God shows us the final and perfect consummation of the plan and purpose that He had for creation from before the beginning of time. God is indeed bringing all things together in His Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. As Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:15-23:
15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you, what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His great might 20 that He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And He put all things under His feet and gave Him as Head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
And it’s all for His GLORY, for the praise and adoration of our GREAT GOD, for He alone is worthy!
Though we should, and we will, continue to study God’s WORD with joy and wonder, learning more and more about the amazing gift of LIFE in Christ Jesus until He comes again “in power and in great glory,” we will spend time this morning in only two texts which speak directly about God’s purpose in Christ’s death. We will be looking in the New Testament, at Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost, in Acts 2, verses 14-41¸and in the Old Testament, at God’s words through the prophet Isaiah, Isaiah 52:13-53:12.
In Peter’s sermon in Acts 2, filled as he was with the power of Holy Spirit, he boldly declared to the crowd (verses 22-24):
22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves know- 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised Him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it.
Peter says that it was “according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” that Jesus was handed over to death and then raised in glorious triumph over the grave. Here is proof positive that Jesus is the Christ, the very Son of God. He is the promised Davidic King, the “Holy One” of God. Jesus is BOTH the Davidic King, the Messiah Whom the Jews were expecting, AND the Suffering Servant promised through Isaiah.
When the crowd saw their sin, in particular their complicity in the death of the Messiah (“this Jesus … you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” – v.23), they cried out “to Peter and the rest of the apostles:
“Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the NAME of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:37-41).
The prophecy given through Isaiah, in an amazing passage in Chapters 52-53, gives us more details of Why Jesus Had to Die. Here God gives an amazingly detailed picture of Jesus’ death on the cross, His suffering for us, 700 years before the events would unfold. He tells us that His Servant would suffer, but in our place, as a substitute:
Isaiah 53:5-6 … He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
Isaiah 53: 10-12 10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush Him; He has put Him to grief; when His soul makes an offering for sin, He shall see his offspring; He shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. 11 Out of the anguish of His soul He shall see and be satisfied; by His knowledge shall the Righteous One, My Servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and He shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the many, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.
It was “for our transgressions,” “for our iniquities,” “for the iniquity of us all” that the Servant had to die. The “Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” It was God’s plan and purpose from before the beginning of time that Christ Jesus, His Son, would accept His just wrath for our sins, would suffer the punishment that we deserve, that God’s justice and mercy could both be fulfilled, that we might live through Christ Jesus our Saviour. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” It is to this amazing truth that the people on the Day of Pentecost had to have “the eyes of [their] hearts enlightened” (Acts 2:18).
This we know with certainty, as God tells us through His WORD time and time again:
Hebrews 10:10-14 … by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. … when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
Colossians 1:13-23 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of Hs beloved Son, 14 in Whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the Firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities- all things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the Firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent. 19 For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 He has now reconciled in His body of flesh by His death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before Him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.
Why Did Jesus Have to Die? He died that we might live. As Paul writes in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” And Peter writes in 1 Peter 3:18, “Christ also suffered once for sins, the Righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.” Do you see it now? Do you feel it in your heart? Are you amazed and humbled by God’s grace in Christ Jesus over and over again?
The amazing truth of salvation by faith in the completed work of Christ on cross is all though the Scripture – it is the story of the Bible!
But ultimately, the highest purpose for which God saved us in Christ Jesus is not for us, it is for HIS GLORY:
Ephesians 2:1-7 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience- 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved- 6 and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
To more easily download or print these notes, please click the link below for a PDF version.
Pastor’s Notes PDF April 16th, 2017