During his three years of public ministry, Jesus taught us how to live and performed many miracles, even raising the dead. But he stated that his primary mission was to save us from our sins.
Jesus proclaimed that he was the promised Messiah who would take our iniquity upon himself. The prophet Isaiah had written about the Messiah 700 years earlier, giving us several clues regarding his identity. But the clue most difficult to grasp is that the Messiah would be both man and God!
"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given. And his name shall be called…Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (Is. 9:6) Author Ray Stedman writes of God's promised Messiah: "From the very beginning of the Old Testament, there is a sense of hope and expectation, like the sound of approaching footsteps: Someone is coming! ...That hope increases throughout the prophetic record as prophet after prophet declares yet another tantalizing hint: Someone is coming!" 9
The ancient prophets had foretold that the Messiah would become God's perfect sin offering, satisfying his justice. This perfect man would qualify to die for us. (Is. 53:6) According to the New Testament authors, the only reason Jesus was qualified to die for the rest of us is because, as God, he lived a morally perfect life and wasn't subject to sin's judgment.
It's difficult to understand how Jesus' death paid for our sins. Perhaps a judicial analogy might clarify how Jesus solves the dilemma of God's perfect love and justice. Imagine entering a courtroom, guilty of murder (you have some serious issues). As you approach the bench, you realize that the judge is your father. Knowing that he loves you, you immediately begin to plead, "Dad, just let me go!"
To which he responds, "I love you, son, but I'm a judge. I can't simply let you go." He is torn. Eventually he bangs the gavel down and declares you guilty. Justice cannot be compromised, at least not by a judge. But because he loves you, he steps down from the bench, takes off the robe, and offers to pay the penalty for you. And in fact, he takes your place in the electric chair.
This is the picture painted by the New Testament. God stepped down into human history, in the person of Jesus Christ, and went to the electric chair (read: cross) instead of us, for us. Jesus is not a third-party whipping boy, taking our sins, but rather he is God himself. Put more bluntly, God had two choices: to judge sin in us or to assume the punishment himself. In Christ, He chose the latter.
Although U2's Bono doesn't pretend to be a theologian, he accurately states the reason for Jesus' death:
"The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That's the point. It should keep us humbled. It's not our own good works that get us through the gates of Heaven." 9
And Jesus made it clear that he is the only one who can bring us to God, stating, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me." (John 14:6) But many argue that Jesus' claim that he is the only way to God is too narrow, saying that there are many ways to God. Those who believe all religions are the same deny we have a sin problem. They refuse to take Christ's words seriously. They say God's love will accept all of us, regardless what we have done.
Perhaps Hitler is deserving of judgment, they reason, but not them or others who live "decent lives". It's like saying that God grades on the curve, and everybody who gets a Dor better will get in. But this presents a dilemma.
As we have seen, sin is the absolute opposite of God's holy character. Thus we have offended the one who created us, and loved us enough to sacrifice His very Son for us. In a sense our rebellion is like spitting in His face. Neither good deeds, religion, meditation, or Karma can pay the debt our sins have incurred.
According to theologian R. C. Sproul, Jesus alone is the one who can pay that debt. He writes:
"Moses could mediate on the law; Muhammad could brandish a sword; Buddha could give personal counsel; Confucius could offer wise sayings; but none of these men was qualified to offer an atonement for the sins of the world. Christ alone is worthy of unlimited devotion and service." 10
Next: Chapter 5: A Gift Undeserved | Previous: Chapter 3 | Table of Contents | References
© 2010 JesusOnline Ministries. This article is a supplement to Y-Jesus magazine by Bright Media Foundation & B&L Publications: Larry Chapman, Chief Editor.
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