Sunday, June 28, 2009

Who Put Jesus on the Cross?

Greetings again. This was an old question posed in a book written by A. W. Tozer decades ago. It was the name of the book, and the motivating message that was threaded through its pages. I'm not looking at the technical aspects of the crucifixion; we know that the Romans nailed our Lord to the cross, and the Jewish people handed Him over to them, to have it done. Both of these are the historical answers to the question, but I don't want to peek into the historicity of the the cross. Rather, let's look deeper as to what happened, and why.

I'm not about to invent a conspiracy theory surrounding the death of our Lord. Peter, in a very early Christian sermon, plainly tells the Jews that what they did, they did largely in ignorance, Acts 3:17. There are two more astounding answers than this, however. In Matthew's gospel we find Jesus praying the Father to remove this cup (His forthcoming sacrificial death on the cross) from Him, to let it pass. Yet the Father and Son knew that it must be so, that Jesus must suffer the burden of our sins in His first Advent before He would come again in glory. He was the Redeemer, the Lamb of God when the Jews and Romans put Him on that cross. The second coming shall be in glory, and with great power.

Isaiah the prophet describes this event in detail: "We esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, and was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed...the Lord has laid on Him (Jesus) the iniquity of us all...Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He (the Father) has put Him (the Son) to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin," Isaiah 53:4-6,10. This prophecy was written 700 years before Jesus' birth. David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote about the same event in the Psalms as though standing there and watching first hand, though this Psalm was written almost 1,100 years prior: "All those who see Me ridicule Me; They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, "He trusted in the Lord, let Him rescue Him (Jesus); Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him! For dogs have surrounded Me; the congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots," Psalm 22:7-8,16-18.

Why was this in the plan of God from the first? Mankind needed redemption, but our sins had separated us from God. A bridge needed to be spanned to bring sinful man back to God, without violating God's holiness or justice. God is both just and holy, and cannot simply cast away such attributes for our sakes, or He would cease being God.

If one was brought into court and tried for a crime of grave import, (or minor import for that matter) trying to live uprightly would by no means absolve us of the guilt of a crime. Being good, so to speak, does not balance the scales. Justice must be satisfied before mercy can be granted; both were satisfied in Jesus' death on the cross. The Law of Moses was only given to Israel to reveal how sinful men truly were, and how incapable of living by God's perfect standard. Thus ruined by the fall into sin, the Father sent the Son into the world, to be our propitiation. John says, In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins, 1st John 4:9-10. How could God abundantly provide proof of His love toward us? By coming as a Man and dying for our sins on the cross. According to the Bible, this is the singularly unique and unprecedented revelation of the love of God for fallen man. What did God give for us? He gave Himself, and there is nothing else He could possibly give to show His love more abundantly toward us. To the sinner who knows what they are, and wishes to be saved from their sin, self, and Hell, this is truly great news.

So God put Jesus on the cross: He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him (Jesus), also freely give us all things? Romans 8:32. Ultimately, we (all mankind) also put Jesus on the cross. We all had a hand in putting our Savior there to suffer for the sins of the world; it can only be so, since every man, woman and child is a part of this world, and that is for whom Christ suffered. Peter tells us that Jesus Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sin, might live for righteousness, 1st Peter 2:24. A substitute had to be arranged so that God's justice might be satisfied, while simultaneously sparing the sinner the wrath of God's perfect law. The animal sacrifices in the Old Testament were all symbols and pictures of the great, sinless sacrifice to come: Jesus Christ. Our Lord's vicarious death was prearranged by God, even before Adam and Eve dwelt in the garden. Jesus is described as the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world in Revelation 13:8; the book of life, which holds the names of the saints, was written at the foundation of the world, Revelation 17:8: before mankind existed. God knows those who are His, 2nd Timothy 2:19.

Our Substitute had been arranged before Adam and Eve first transgressed, and why should this shock us? God knows the end from the beginning, and erected the cross in purpose long before it was material reality, giving the primeval promise to our first parents, after Satan had tempted them, Genesis 3:15. The Seed of the woman (looking ahead to the virgin birth) who would crush Satan's head while bruising His heel. The ancients knew what this apparently meant: that the Savior would be wounded unto death accomplishing His goal. The Father yet gave over the Son, despite how wickedly we would treat Him, reject Him, and kill Him; yet God again reveals through Peter that this was no surprise. We read, "Him (Jesus), being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain. Whom God hath raised up, having loosed from the pains of death: because it was not possible that He should be holden of it," Acts 2:23-24.

Our salvation was paramount in the mind of God before we even existed. We would be saved (those who placed their faith in Christ, and His redemptive act) and God would be glorified. Was there no other way? Of course not. Christ is the only way to the Father and Heaven. We were dead in sins, and he (the godly), died for us (the ungodly), so He might impart His life to us, and we might live for Him. Humanity placed Jesus there because of our constant rejection of God's revelation to us; we seem to have a loathing aversion to truth. The truth is stark, simple, and unapologetic. God put His Son on the cross to redeem us, to take our sins from us as far as the east is from the west, Psalm 103:12. In this God's love is revealed, and our deep need of a Savior; for if there had been another way, the Father would have permitted the Son to avoid the agony of the cross. Yet it stands still, as a testimony for all time of our need for Jesus. Though we tend to reject Him, yet He loves us so much that He laid down His life, and offers the gift of salvation and pardon on a just basis, having paid our penalty for us. "Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts, as in the rebellion," Hebrews 3:15, Psalm 95:7-8.

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