The Unparalleled Passion of Jesus Christ
- Monday, March 05, 2007
Jesus foretold his own betrayal as if he knew the future as well as the past, and then explained what this meant with another breathtaking claim: "I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am" (John 13:19). Jesus was "I am"—the God of Israel, the Lord of the universe in human form. This is why his passion is unparalleled. Only the death of the divine Son of God could achieve what God intended to do by this death.
The passion of Christ was unique also because he was totally innocent. Not just innocent of the crimes of blasphemy and sedition, but of all sin. He once asked his enemies, "Which one of you convicts me of sin?" (John 8:46). Whatever they thought, he knew that no charge would stick. His disciple, Peter, who knew his own sin so well, said that Jesus' death was the death "of a lamb without blemish or spot" (1 Peter 1:19). Jesus' refusal to fight back as he was unjustly condemned and killed, cemented the conviction for his followers that he was sinless.
Peter expressed it for the rest: "He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly" (1 Peter 2:22-23). The reason Jesus' death brought all Jewish animal sacrifices to an end is that he became the final sacrifice himself and "offered himself without blemish to God" (Hebrews 9:14). His death was unparalleled because he was sinless.
Christ's passion was unparalleled in human history because it was planned and predestined by God for our salvation. Beneath all the controversy over who actually killed Jesus, the deepest truth is: It was God who planned it, and saw to it that it came to pass. As the terrifying events unfolded the night before he died, Jesus said, "All this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled" (Matthew 26:56). All the details, down to the fact that they rolled dice for his clothes (John 19:24), and pierced him with a spear, rather than breaking his legs (John 19:36)—all of it was planned by his Father and predicted in the Scriptures.
Unparalleled Authority in Death
The passion of Christ was unique also because Jesus not only submitted willingly to his Father's plan ("Not my will, but yours, be done" Luke 22:42); he also embraced it and pursued it with his own divine authority. One of the most stunning statements Jesus ever made was about his own death and resurrection: "I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father" (John 10:17-18). No one ever spoke about his own life and death this way. The overwhelming testimony of the New Testament is that the controversy about who killed Jesus is marginal. He chose to die. His Father ordained it. He embraced it. One ordered all things, the other obeyed. The authority was in God's hands. And it was in Jesus' hands. Because Jesus is God.
Unparalleled Meaning for the World
Finally, the passion of Christ was unparalleled because it was accompanied by unique events full of meaning for the world. First, there were the statements of incomparable love and authority from Jesus on the cross. No crucified man, dying in agony, ever spoke like this. One of the thieves who was crucified with Jesus finally repented and said, astonishingly, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." What a moment to see a kingdom being established! Jesus did not correct him. Instead he said, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in
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