Everything God Does Says
I Love You
Some portions of Scripture are very pleasant to read and very popular.
Who doesn’t like Psalm 23. Even nonreligious people enjoy reading this passage and many can repeat it from memory.
We love to talk about God’s grace and the song “Amazing Grace” is still one of the most popular songs in the world.
We love to talk about the nativity. Pictures have been painted, scenes have been constructed and theatrical productions have been organized all of which depict the beautiful story of Jesus’ birth.
But there are other portions of Scripture we don’t enjoy so much. The last few chapters of each Gospel tell us about the death of Jesus and the reports don’t make very pleasant reading.
When Jesus died it was visually very ugly. His accusers were unfair, unreasonable and manipulative. His executioners were aggressive, violent, abusive and cruel and the Gospel writers recorded all of it in great detail.
The amount of time covered from His arrest to His death was at least fifteen hours, possibly longer, and the humiliation Jesus endured during that time was unspeakable. He was lied about, spit on, whipped, mocked with a crown of thorns and beaten so badly He couldn’t be recognized (Isaiah 52:14). Even His disciples forsook Him.
And because He knew what was coming, just before His arrest He agonized in prayer.
Most people, preferring romance or mystery to gore, shy away from this type of reading. But when it comes to the death of Jesus we should take another look.
The ugly things Jesus experienced and the pain He endured were the measure of His love for us. It was a thing of beauty and God’s intent in recording this ugliness was no different than His intent in recording Psalm 23 or John 3:16 and we love those passages.
Walking away from these stories feeling guilty is not appropriate. He didn’t give us this information to make us feel badly about ourselves.
God didn’t plan on blessing us with some passages and bashing us with others. The content may differ from one passage to another but the outcome should always be the same: encouragement, relief, liberation.
Once we understand the meaning of Psalm 23 properly, we can better appreciate the love Jesus expressed in the trials He endured. The essence is the same in every passage for any believer.
The only books to record these ugly details were Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and they are the only ones referred to as “Gospels.” That word is significant.
Do you know what the word “Gospel” means? It literally means “good news” or “good tidings” or “glad tidings.”
And more specifically Paul said the Gospel was made up of three particular things: the death the Jesus, the burial of Jesus and the resurrection of Jesus.
Moreover I declare unto you the gospel…Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, He was buried and He rose again the third day according to the scriptures. I Corinthians 15:1-4
That the Gospel is first of all the Death, Burial and Resurrection of Jesus…
And the Death, Burial and Resurrection of Jesus is, therefore, the Good News!
As unbearable as the death of Jesus was, it as much as anything is the beginning of the greatest news ever!!
The part of the story we love best, the birth of Jesus, was incidental to the Gospel not the heart of it. Jesus was born only so He could die. The Gospel does not end with the manger.
I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t celebrate Christmas. I love the decorating, gift giving and family time. If anything we should do more of the same. The only question I have is why don’t we celebrate Easter to the same degree?
The death of Jesus was a serious event but it shouldn’t be observed with gloom. The biblical understanding is that this event was intended to thrill us not depress us. Jesus died to free us from our sin not put us on a guilt trip.
Those who really get it are not consumed with self accusation or flagellation.
Yes, I understand that we don’t usually celebrate the executions of people we love and in the case of Jesus we are at first assaulted by the raw brutality of the way He was treated.
But God gave us this information to make a very specific point.
He was not accusing us. He wasn’t attempting to drive us away. He wasn’t throwing this information in our face to make us feel guilty or lay a heavy burden on us.
Everything in the Bible, including the details of Jesus’ death, is God’s way of saying “I love you” to all of humanity.
The Bible even says that at the very moment Jesus died, God was making Jesus, who knew no sin, to be sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21). You have to be warped to get anything but joy out of that.
Jesus’ death was God’s way of bridging the divide that separated us from God and was a significant first step in reconciling us to God. Doom and gloom are not appropriate responses.
For the following reasons we should put His death in a different light.
Jesus Death Was Necessary, Unavoidable And The Ultimate Victory
Unlike soldiers who go to war knowing they risk the possibility of dieing or being injured but can still be victorious should they survive, Jesus knew He had to die.
Jesus won when He died, not before, and couldn’t have won without dieing.
The object in human warfare is killing the other guy. You don’t have to die or be injured to win.
It was different for Jesus. Facing death was the battle, dieing was the victory. When Jesus took His last breath the fight was over! Just before His last breath Jesus exclaimed, “it is finished!” and those words were cry of victory not defeat.
Do you know why it is so hard for us to appreciate the death of Jesus? Because from a human perspective it seems like He was losing something when in actually fact He was giving something. He gave up His legal rights willingly, intentionally and on purpose, for the benefit of others.
And we never think like that.
- We invoke legal statutes to protect ourselves. Jesus did just the opposite.
- We quote the law in an effort to demand our rights. Jesus did none of that. Pilate tried to provoke a defense from Jesus and marveled when He had nothing to say.
- We look for loop holes to get out of what is legally required and Jesus took no short cuts.
- We misunderstand because we see Jesus as loosing or getting caught or becoming collateral damage. It is very difficult for us to accept the fact that He was headed for this end from the start.
- We misunderstand because what Jesus did is the opposite of what we do, in the extreme.
When Jesus took His last breath, He was loving us, liberating us and winning for us all at the same time. He was showing us that there was no injury or offense He could not endure or forgive and there was no obstacle He could not overcome in the effort to save our souls.
Acting guilty or ashamed is almost an insult. Cringing is not appropriate.
It Was A Legal Transaction
There was nothing personal about the death of Jesus.
He wasn’t getting even. He wasn’t responding in kind. He wasn’t getting back at us, trying to even out the score, getting in the last blow or using self injury to manipulate us.
His death was the most significant legal transaction in the history of the world and He submitted Himself to it intentionally. He was not a defenseless soul being overcome by an angry mob.
His death was officially authorized and was preceded by due process, at least as it was done in that day. And it was carried out by agents of the state not feuding vigilantes.
It was ugly but it was official. The execution of Jesus was not an act of revenge.
It also was not a suicide, an accident, a mistake or a travesty of justice. The one time in history when justice prevailed was the moment when Jesus actually died on the cross.
Peter referred to His death as the Just One dying for the unjust ones so the sin of the unjust could be legally forgiven.
Paul said Christ:
“Cancelled the written code (the law) with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:14
Jesus did more than just pay the price for our offenses. He abolished the law. When Jesus died, the law no longer influenced our eternal destinies.
The Book of Romans says we are:
…Justified by his blood, and…saved from wrath (judgment) through him. (Rom. 5:9)
By modern standards the cross may seem a bit barbaric but in Jesus’ day it was an instrument of law and a symbol of enforcement. When Jesus died it became the means of final, once for all, justice.
Jesus wasn’t murdered. His execution was sanctioned by a recognized court of law.
The crowd that wanted Jesus dead was accustomed to murdering anyone they thought should be killed at any time, anywhere. They publicly stoned Stephen without consulting local courts. Later, they would have stoned Paul if Roman soldiers (who were the legally recognized agents of law enforcement) had not intervened.
In the case of Jesus, however:
- The religious leaders sought the sanction of local courts to see Him dead. They were afraid of public opinion which sided with Jesus.
- He was executed by officials, whose job it was to carry out capital judgments.
- And He was executed in the manner that was sanctioned by the state.
This was not a spontaneous stoning by a crowd of blood crazed people. He was crucified by agents of a recognized government.
You could say His accusers were following procedure. Jesus was framed but not easily. His accusers manipulated the system but they couldn’t circumvent it. The religious mob wanted Jesus dead but they had no part in killing Him.
It wasn’t necessary for Him to be beaten but it wasn’t unusual either. Most of the victims of crucifixion were abused before they were crucified.
His death didn’t happen in secret or on the sly. It was very much a part of the official record.
The Law Is Love’s Vocabulary In Action
We gain a new perspective on the law from Jesus’ experience.
Jesus used the law to turn neighbors into brothers. And that is God’s intent.
We miss that point entirely. We use the law to turn neighbors into enemies. We sue each other and demand our rights.
God intended the law to be a means by which we could express love to our neighbor and Jesus showed us how to do that. Jesus gave up His personal legal rights, so we could gain what we had no right to.
The insight is: we can use the law to protect our relationships or we can invoke the law to protect our personal rights. But we can’t do both.
Obviously, the love Jesus has for us was much greater than the pain He had to endure to show it and that teaches an interesting lesson about love.
We usually associate love only with pleasurable sensations but personal experience, and Jesus example, teach us that the more we love a person the more it hurts. What Jesus accomplished when He died was, therefore, beautiful.
Jesus’ death not only says “I love you” in a non-verbal way – the most meaningful way – but it also gives us life and provides hope for all of humanity.
Life and Hope are inaccessible to us without Jesus. He paid everything. We pay nothing.
The life of Jesus was not wasted or lost it was multiplied. The blessings His death made possible are still being offered and spread today. Because He died you and I, and any other person who will, can live not just a little while but for all eternity.
The death of Jesus therefore represents not only the greatest legal transaction but also the greatest love story in human history. It was a victory not a tragedy.
But we’re not done yet. There are few more observations that help us understand Jesus’ death better.
Jesus Didn’t Die For Truth
Truth doesn’t need a Savior. Truth was no different after Jesus died than it was before He died.
Truth can be misrepresented but it can never be changed. Neither Jesus nor anyone else could do anything against the truth. Paul even said as much:
For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth. 2 Corinthians 13:8
You can serve the truth or spread the truth but you cannot protect it, save it, change it or damage it. Telling a lie can hurt those who believe it but it doesn’t change the truth.
Jesus did not die to protect truth from us or save truth from error.
Jesus Didn’t Die For The Universe
The universe is not eternal. It has a beginning and an ending. The sun will one day burn out.
The Psalmist, speaking to God said:
In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. Psalm 102:25-26
The universe can be abused or well preserved but its basic nature cannot be changed. It is temporal.
Even Jesus made the same point:
Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. Matthew 24:35
Truth is infinite and the universe is not. The Truth needs to be upheld but it needs no protection. The universe is a resource that needs careful management but it cannot be sustained forever.
We should do everything we can to take care of this universe but please believe me Jesus did not die for the universe.
Jesus Died For You
Jesus didn’t die for everyone collectively. He died for each person individually. That is, He died for you, and His death requires a separate response from each one.
The penalty for sin was satisfied when Jesus died but the demands of honest admission were not.
Jesus made it possible for us to be reconciled. Only we can make reconciliation happen.
Jesus paid for our sins but He cannot admit to them for us.
Jesus didn’t die for a cause.
He didn’t die to be recognized as a hero.
He didn’t die to make us feel badly.
He died to reunite us to Him.