On Sunday, April 1, we celebrated the bedrock conviction of the Christian faith—Jesus is risen! Yet celebrating Jesus’ resurrection from the dead doesn’t excuse us from reflecting on the significance of Jesus’ death. Indeed, resurrection presupposes death. Consequently, over the last several Wednesday nights we’ve been studying the question of why Jesus had to die in the first place. For those unable to attend the study, I want to provide the key points we covered in hopes of strengthening your faith in our Risen Lord.
1. Jesus died to demonstrate the depth of God’s love. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8, NIV). The desire to be loved is common to the human condition. Among people, however, love is rarely—if ever—unconditional. We might be willing to die for a family member or a loved one, but an evil person? No way! Christ Jesus came to die for sinners, for the least deserving—for you and for me. That’s a quality of love we cannot find in any other source on earth.
2. Jesus died to satisfy the requirements of God’s righteousness. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21, NIV). Our predicament as sinners estranges us from a holy and righteous God. Compared to other people we might think we’re pretty good. But other people are not the ultimate standard of judgment; God, and God alone, is. In order for sinners to be reconciled to a holy God, therefore, a substitute must stand in our place. As our church’s statement of faith puts it, “We believe in salvation by faith in Jesus Christ alone who assumed the judgment due sinners by dying in our place.” Because Jesus, the Righteous One, died in our place, we can be reconciled to a holy and righteous God. The guilt and condemnation of sin no longer has the final word over the believer’s life.
3. Jesus died to defeat death itself. Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15, NIV). Jesus carried out his incarnational mission to its inevitable end, namely, death. He experienced the just penalty for our sin. As the Lord of Life, however, death couldn’t hold him in the grave. The Son of God triumphed over the power of sin, and he has made a way for the believer to experience abundant and everlasting life.
Death has been swallowed up in victory.
Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?
(1 Corinthians 15:54b-55, NIV)