Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"I Don't Want Him to Die"

We celebrated Thanksgiving last Saturday with special friends and shared communion together. As the plate of bread was passed around the living room, our friend quietly explained to her three year old daughter that we eat the bread to remember Jesus’ broken body when He died. Rosa responded with sincere concern and innocent understanding, “I don’t want Him to die!”

It was one of the sweetest things I have ever heard. And I imagined Jesus’ death through her eyes.

From all that her three year old mind and heart knew about the blessed goodness of Jesus, and from what she understood about suffering and death, she wished that Jesus didn’t have to die.

But 2000 years ago Jesus did die. His body was broken. His blood was voluntarily poured out as the new covenant for the forgiveness of our sins (Matthew 26:28) And He passed through death to resurrected life. So that we could live the life that He offers us because He died. When He breathed His last breath on the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished.” (John 19:30). Our choice now is how we will respond to what Jesus has done.

“Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—Jesus also became flesh and blood by being born in human form. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the Devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he deliver those who have lived all their lives to the fear of dying.” (Hebrews 2:14-15)

There was no other way but through death. Jesus endured horrendous physical and emotional suffering in addition to the even more terrible and inconceivable separation of His Spirit from His Heavenly Father. The weight of the sin of the world met with God’s full wrath upon Jesus the Sinless One. As He hung on the cross, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) The communion of Father and Son was broken to enable us to experience communion with them.

The apostle Peter resisted the idea of Jesus’ death, just as Rosa did. After Peter identified Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of the Living God (Matthew ), Jesus “began to tell his disciples plainly that he had to go to Jerusalem, and he told them what would happen to him there. He would suffer at the hands of the leaders and the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, and he would be raised on the third day. But Peter took him aside and corrected him, ‘Heaven forbid, Lord,’ he said. ‘This will never happen to you!’ Jesus turned to Peter and said, ‘Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, and not from God’s.’” (Matthew 16:21-23)

As His time drew near, the choice not to pass through suffering and death became a real struggle for Jesus Himself.  He earnestly prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, and “his sweat was like drops of blood on the ground.” (Luke 22:44). In anguish and deep distress, He sought His Father, "Might this cup be taken from me?" But there was no other way to completely fulfill the requirement of God's perfect justice. And so Jesus resolutely responded, “Yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)

This is our beloved Jesus:
“who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God
something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.”
(Philippians 2:6-11)

And so we have hope both in this life and in the life to come. For “we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet…For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed…When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’…But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:51-57)

Victory through death. May Your will be done.

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