Vol. 4, No. 7
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We should begin by pointing out that it was a violent death. The probability is great that those of us living in America some twenty centuries after the death of Christ have a great deal of difficulty understanding the violent treatment that Jesus endured at the hands of his enemies. Imagine, if you can, just what it would be like to be laid on a cross made of rough timber, and have long hard nails driven through your hands and your feet. Imagine the type of hot searing pain that would flash through your body as all of a sudden that cross is dropped into a hole in the ground and your bruised and bloody hands and feet must begin to bear the whole weight of your body. Jesus suffered in that way. So violent was his death that it is difficult for us to even describe it for others. There is no more violent way to die than by crucifixion!
But this violent death, which was suffered by the Son of God to make salvation possible for the masses of this earth, was a voluntary death. It was a part of the plan for the redemption of the world that God the Father, and the Son worked out before the foundation of the world. While the humanity of Jesus did not want to die, yet his divine nature knew that he must, and that he must give himself upon the cross for us. In John 10:17-18, Jesus speaking of the fact that his death was voluntary said,
"Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father."
Jesus came to the sin-cursed earth upon which we live and voluntarily gave himself as a ransom for our sins. His death upon the cross came about as a result of God's plan for the redemption of man, and not because Jesus could not stop his death from occurring. When the mob came to the gate of the garden of Gethsemane to take him away and put him to death, Jesus said, "Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?" Back in John Chapter Ten, and in verse eleven, Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. "Though man was guilty of putting Jesus to death, yet his death was voluntary because he laid it down.
The death of Christ was also vicarious. The word vicarious means to take the place of another, to substitute. We do not use the word a great deal in the churches of Christ, but Jesus died on our behalf, because we needed to be cleansed from our sins by his blood. Jesus did not die for his own sins because he did not have any (Hebrews 4:15). Rather he died upon the cross to bring salvation from sin to the wretched souls of the people of this planet. He committed himself to death upon the cross, not because we were his friends, for Paul declared in Romans 5:8, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."A sinner is one who is an enemy of God whether he realizes it or not. "... Friendship with the world," James said, "is enmity with God." The sinful person may not feel like the enemy of God, and may not think of himself as an enemy of God, but that is what he is, and the only thing that can change that situation is the vicarious death of Jesus upon the cross, and the sinner accepting the benefits of that death by faith and obedience.
Finally, we would point out that the death of Christ upon the cross was victorious. As one looks upon the history of what happened to Christ at his crucifixion, one is tempted to believe that Christ was defeated by the powers of Satan. But there is more to the story of the crucifixion than just the death of Jesus on the cross. Satan merely bruised the heel of Jesus when our Lord was hanged on Calvary. On the third day after his death, which was Sunday, the first day of the week, Jesus came out of the new tomb of Joseph of Arimathea triumphantly. When he resurrected from the dead because it was not possible for death to hold him, he bruised the head, landed a deathblow, to the head of Satan. In this resurrection, he showed us the unlimited power of God, and that he would reign victoriously in his kingdom, upon the throne of his Father David.
I thank God that Jesus died violently, voluntarily, vicariously and victoriously upon that "old rugged cross" so that so many thousands of his people can sing, "It is well with my soul!"