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Reflecting on the death of Jesus (2)

In John 10:17-18 Jesus says:


“The reason My Father loves Me is that I lay down My life – only to take it up again.  No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of my own accord.  I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.  This command I received from My Father.’”


Jesus claims in this passage to have control over both His life and His death.  No one, He says, can take His life.  A cursory look at John’s gospel reveals numerous occasions when the opponents of Jesus seek to take His life (5:18,7:1,19,25,8:37,40,11:47-53).  Their attempts are all unsuccessful.  Why?  The answer is simple:  Jesus is unwilling to give His life up on any of these occasions and since He alone has the power to lay His life down, His death isn’t going to happen apart from His choosing.    


At Golgotha, in accordance with His Father’s will, Christ chooses to give His life where He makes atonement for our sins (Jn. 19:30).  Yet even at the cross, He is in total control down to the moment of His death.  This is what impresses the centurion who has undoubtedly witnessed many deaths from crucifixion.  Anyone suffering the torturous death of crucifixion would wish for such power but only Jesus possesses it.  This is why the centurion says, “Surely, this man was the Son of God,” (Mark 15:39). 


Jesus’ ability to choose the moment of His departure from this world is a fulfillment of His claim and a clear sign of His deity.  We need to treat it as such.  The portrait of a barely conscious Jesus bleeding out on the cross undermines this claim.  Similarly, it is misguided to look for the suffering of Jesus primarily in the physical aspects of the crucifixion.  Not only do the writers of the gospels not emphasize this but a careful sifting of their testimony will cultivate a recognition and appreciation that the ultimate suffering of the cross was not physical, but the loneliness, isolation, and forsakeness He experienced there (Matt. 27:46). The land is shrouded in darkness as He tastes death for us (Hebrews 2:9).


In conclusion, while the physical aspects of the cross should never be ignored or minimized, neither should they be embellished or presented as the most significant aspect of the crucifixion. History is full of people who gave their physical lives for others but knows only One perfect man who bore the sins of mankind through His death. That is what makes the cross the nexus of history. May we always treat it that way.

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