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19. Good News for the Sick
B. The Meaning of Jesus the Messiah’s Death on the Cross and Resurrection

c) The Cross of Jesus the Messiah: God’s Supreme Revelation of His Love

The Holy Bible holds both God’s righteousness and love as the motivation for the cross of the Messiah. The following passages from Scripture illustrate God’s love for humanity, which culminates in the Messiah’s cross:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
“… God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.”''' (2 Corinthians 5:19)
“… you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body.”''' (1 Corinthians 6:20)

According to the Scriptures Jesus Himself foretold to His disciples that He had to suffer, die and then rise: “ ‘We are going up to Jerusalem,’ he said, ‘and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.’ ” (Mark 10:33,34)

Shortly after this prophecy he explained why He had to undergo such suffering: “ ‘For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’ ” (Mark 10:45)

It is also vital for us to understand that Jesus Himself did not arbitrarily prophesy and decide what was to happen. In fact, He was continually aware that the prophets of old had provided the pattern for His ministry, not least the great prophet Isaiah who had written:

“Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all … . For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:4-6, 12c; see Appendix 3)

Yet, we may persist, why the need for such suffering and costly love? To capture even the tiniest glimpse of this critical need, imagine a drowning child pleading to his mother for help, despite the mother’s past and persistent warnings that the child be careful around deep water and the child’s equally persistent rejections of her warnings. Does not the child’s arrogance and rebellious behavior create strong tensions within the mother’s heart? Why not simply abandon the ungrateful and disobedient wretch, disown him, let him drown as the victim of his own folly! Or does her motherliness simply drive her to rescue her child and thereby, hopefully, to change her child’s heart – even if it means that she drowns while saving her child? Then will not the child, experiencing his mother’s sacrificial love, begin to understand? Will not his hardened heart begin to soften, his rebellion give way to obedience, his life change?

So the Biblical account of God’s salvation is essentially a rescue account: God’s rescue of arrogant, disobedient and rebellious humanity, including you and me. Such is the immensity and complexity of the task that He alone can save us, forgive us, heal us, change us. He alone can bear the burden of each and everyone, that burden which no one is able to bear for another or even for oneself. Only He can pay the debt we have incurred. Only He can bear the punishment we have deserved for our sin. Only He can destroy the enmity which we created between Him and ourselves through our sin.

Yes, only God could rescue humanity. And God alone has rescued humanity from the forces of sin, death, the devil and hell. “God was in the Messiah reconciling the world to Himself. (2 Corinthians 5:19). In Jesus the Messiah, God not only sent a prophet into this world; He Himself came in Jesus, God’s eternal Word become a human. Jesus the Messiah, alone without sin, is alone the perfect reflection of God’s righteousness and God’s love as God’s eternal Word. He alone possesses the character and strength to do the job, to pay the price. As the Bible says, He who was rich became poor so that we through His poverty might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9) – in understanding God, His love and His righteousness and in experiencing His forgiveness and new life. He paid the price, as the Bible says, not with gold or silver but with His holy precious blood so that we might be no longer His disobedient slaves but His adopted children and serve Him with love as only children can best serve. He ransomed us! (1 Peter 1:18,19; Galatians 4:4-7). The sinless Messiah died so that we sinners might live.

Yes, only God can save. And only God has saved and still saves. But, again, how does He save and why does He save? He saves not by simple physical power (as if God had the biggest muscles). He saves not because we earn or are worthy of our salvation (since, by God’s standard, we are sinners in need of His grace). He saves us (despite ourselves) because He loves us (“God so loved the world. …”) and by His holy love, the greatest of all powers. God has the biggest heart! God is greater – greater in love!

The Messiah, as the Good Shepherd, became the sacrificial lamb, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), in order to save His sheep. He taught others to love unto death and He practised what He preached. It was, indeed, upon the cross that Jesus the Messiah enacted God’s love most powerfully and eloquently.

Do you recall the religious leaders mocking Jesus on the cross? “ ‘He saved others … but he can’t save himself! Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.’ ” (Mark 15:31,32)

True, the leaders were correct when they said that Jesus could not save Himself, but surely not because He did not have the power to come down from the cross. In fact, He had the power to break the strength of ropes and nails, and to come down. Nails, ropes, or any other force did not hold Him on that cross. It was solely God’s love and righteousness that kept Him there until He died – for you and for me also.

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