Death by Love
- Thursday, October 09, 2008
Speaking of this darkest moment in all of time, 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, "For our sake he [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin." The great Protestant Reformer Martin Luther rightly declares that at that moment Jesus became the most grotesque, ugly, and hideous thing in the history of all creation. In what Luther calls "the great exchange," the sinless Jesus so thoroughly took our place that he became the worst of what we are—rapists, thieves, perverts, addicts, liars, gluttons, gossips, murderers, adulterers, fornicators, homosexuals, and idolaters. Importantly, Jesus' work on the cross was not just a bookkeeping transaction in the divine economy. Jesus actually took to himself our sin with all its horror and shame (Heb. 12:2-3).
Also speaking of what transpired at the moment of Jesus' fifth word, Galatians 3:13 quotes Deuteronomy 21:23, saying, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.'" As our sin was laid upon Jesus and he became the most heinous of beings, Jesus Christ was literally cursed by God on the cross. He came under the judgment of God the Father and God the Spirit as nothing less than the ugliness of damnable evil. Again we see the substitutionary reality: it was our sin and our condemnation, but it was Jesus, the sinless one, who took our place and in so doing took our sin and condemnation so that we could live a new life with a new nature by a new power free from sin and condemnation.
Sixth, Jesus said in a loud voice of triumph, "It is finished" (John 19:30). At this moment, the atonement for sin was made, and the holiness, righteousness, justice, and wrath of God were satisfied in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Sadly, some have taught, based on a later revision in the Apostles' Creed, that Jesus did not fully secure our salvation on the cross but rather suffered in hell for three days prior to his resurrection as further atonement. As we have seen, however, Jesus said he was going to paradise on that day and that his work was finished, which negates three days in hell to conclude his work. The Scriptures merely say that Jesus went to the tomb but never declare that he went to hell (Matt. 27:59-60; Mark 15:46; Luke 23:52-55; John 19:41-42).
Seventh, Jesus said, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!" (Luke 23:46). Jesus reserved his final breath from the cross to shout his triumphant victory to the world by confirming that he had been restored to God the Father after atoning for human sin. Though we cannot prove it, we do wonder if he was smiling at the conclusion of his mission while gazing heavenward and longing for his rightful return to glory.
The Bible then simply records that Jesus breathed his last and died. Oddly, Islam officially teaches that Jesus did not die on the cross but merely swooned and passed out. If Jesus had not died, that would in and of itself be a miracle, especially in light of the fact that the soldiers were not yet finished ravaging his body.
Jesus hung on the cross for at least six hours—from the third hour to the ninth hour, when the darkness ended (Mark 15:25, 33). How long thereafter that he breathed his last and died is not clear in Scripture. What is clear is the fact that if a victim remained alive on the cross for too long so that it interfered with another event such as a major holiday, it was customary to break the victim's legs, thereby disabling him from pushing himself up on his cross to fill his lungs with air and thereby prolong his life. However, in accordance with the promise of Scripture, Jesus died quickly enough that his legs were not broken (Ps. 34:20; John 19:36). Furthermore, to ensure Jesus was dead, a professional executioner ran a spear through his side, which punctured his heart sac, and water and blood flowed from his side. Jesus died with both a literal and metaphorical broken heart.
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