Friday, April 2, 2010

Why the Cross? (Part 4)

Since we are in Holy Week for Christians, we hear about Jesus’ Last Supper, his arrest, and his execution as a criminal on a Roman cross. Since Jesus’ death on the cross is central to Christianity, we should understand why such a thing happened. I’ve tried to explain this in a series of posts.

With the prior posts in mind, let’s see how what I wrote ties in with Isaiah 53, which was written over 500 years before Jesus. I think you’ll agree that Isaiah 53 is prophetic of what Jesus did in his passion and death.

III. Isaiah 53

Verse 4 says that Jesus took up and bore our sins, suffering the penalty of those sins on our behalf, thus satisfying God’s justice:

Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. NIV

This is also explained in 2 Corinthians 5:21 in the New Testament:

For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. NRSV

Verse5 explains the substitutionary nature of what Jesus did – he died in our place so that we can get right with God (“brought us peace”):

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 (or stripes) we are healed. NIV

He paid our penalty, and by that we are made whole with God (by his stripes we are healed). Verse 7 tells how Jesus did not resist his tormentors:

He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. NIV

Verses 9-10 again tell that although Jesus was sinless, he was punished because he took on our sins:

He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. NIV

Verse 11b reiterates what was written earlier in Isaiah 53:

By knowledge of him my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.

Note the use of the theological term “justify”, which according to Easton’s Bible Dictionary means:

The judicial act of God, by which he pardons all the sins of those who believe in Christ, and accounts, accepts, and treats them as righteous in the eye of the law, that is, as conformed to all its demands.

The Hebrew word translated as “justify” denotes being cleansed or being pardoned.

More on this in a concluding post.

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