Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit.
1 Peter 3:18 NLT
Sometimes, death can be the greatest thing that could possibly happen.
Death isn’t a subject most people enjoy thinking or talking about. We obviously don’t like the word because we’ve invented other terms to lessen the negative connotations of the word itself: deceased, passed, gone, departed, lost, released, and asleep. No one enjoys losing parents, grandparents, spouses, siblings, or friends—but it happens. The grim reaper comes, and there is nothing we can do to stop him.
Perhaps death is easier to accept when a person’s life has had purpose and made an impact. Inventors whose concoctions benefit humanity for years into the future, evangelists whose spiritual contributions outlast them by millenniums, composers whose music is listened to well into the future, or writers who pen words that affect the lives of millions for thousands of years to come.
The cross—and Jesus’ death on it, is the centerpiece of history. Old Testament believers looked forward to it, and Christians reflect on it. Jesus’ death on this cruel instrument had purpose and affects all who respond to his sacrifice with faith.
Jesus’ death paid for humanity’s sins, but the results of his sacrifice only flow to those who accept his payment. As Jesus shared the last supper with his disciples, he explained how the bread represented his body which was soon to be broken and how the cup of juice symbolized his blood which would soon be shed for the forgiveness of sins.
The death of any other person would not have sufficed to fix humanity’s dilemma. Many had died for their faith before Christ’s death on the cross, and many have died for their faith since. The Father sent Jesus for a purpose, but Jesus had to consent to the mission. The Father didn’t force him, and Jesus wasn’t a robot. He willingly did the Father’s will, knowing it would consummate at the cross. Since humanity’s sin created a disconnect between them and God, Jesus’ death was our solitary hope. Only as we trust him for forgiveness is the payment applied individually.
Although Jesus claimed to be God—and was, he took on human flesh and bones when he made his earth trip. In his humanness, he struggled to obey God’s plan, as seen in his prayer for deliverance in the Garden of Gethsemane prior to his arrest. Crucifixion wasn’t a pleasant way to die, and he knew it. Add to this that he was paying for the world’s sins, and we can only imagine his agony.
Obeying God’s plan isn’t always easy, but God supplies the strength to accomplish what he asks of us. And faithfulness results in spiritual blessings now and rewards in eternity.
In some strange way, Jesus’ death revealed he was God’s Son. The Roman centurion, and those with him, observed how Jesus died. By the way Jesus died, they concluded he wasn’t just an ordinary man. He was God’s Son. The temple curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place was also torn in two—and from top to bottom. This miraculous act symbolized how Jesus’ death provided open access to God. No more need for priests, or any other intercessors.
Individual acknowledgment of and consent to Jesus’ death on the cross aren’t sufficient by themselves. They must be coupled with repentance of sin and belief in Jesus’ ability to forgive our sins and make us new creations. His was the greatest death.