I have been seized by the power of a great affection.
For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; (1 Timothy 2:5 KJVA).
The question confronting us in this hour is the question Why? Why did Jesus Christ die? Why was it necessary? Why did it have to happen? With this question others follow. What happened in Jesus' death? How do we understand the sufferings of Jesus? How do we understand what happened in this, the darkest hour in the history of the cosmos?
There is a part of me that says it is best not to venture forth here. Standing before such a profound event as the death of Jesus Christ, we should simply cover our mouths in absolute silence. For who are we to speak about such a matter? But there is another part of me that asks how we can possibly be silent, when ignorance of such glorious truth leaves us in bondage. How can we be silent when such errors abound about our blessed Lord's death, and when these errors leave a trail of human wreckage behind them? We are forced, as St. Hilary said, "to deal with unlawful matters, to scale perilous heights, to speak unutterable words, and to trespass forbidden ground," and to "strain the poor resources of our language to express thoughts too great for words.
Why did Jesus Christ die? What happened in his death?
There is no more stunning news in the universe than the news that a human being now exists in heaven. It was not an angel or a ghost that Stephen saw standing at the right hand of God in heaven. It was Jesus. It was the incarnate Son. Of all the things that we read about in the Bible, the most astonishing, the most shocking, the most mind-boggling is the ascension of the man Jesus, the incarnate Son.
Now let me ask another question. Is the fact that now and forever a human being, Jesus Christ, seated in the heavens as our mediator an afterthought? Is the existence of the incarnate Son of God an afterword, plan "B," which God thought up and put into action after the failure of plan "A" in Adam? Is Jesus Christ a mere footnote to the Fall of Adam, a footnote that would have never been needed or written if Adam had not taken his plunge into ruin? Or is Jesus the plan from all eternity? Is He the mystery of the gospel (Eph 5:19). Is Jesus Christ, seated at the Father's right hand the eternal Word of God in and through and by and for whom all things were created? I tell you, the ascension of the incarnate Son was on the books in heaven before Adam, and Adam's fall, were even ideas in God's mind.
As Paul says, the Father predestined us to adoption as sons and daughters through Jesus Christ (Eph 1:5). Verse four states this happened before the foundation of the world. How can you predestine the human race to adoption through Jesus Christ if the Word will not become flesh unless Adam falls into sin? We have grossly underestimated the place of Jesus Christ in the whole scheme of things.
Shame on us, He is the alpha and the omega, not a footnote. Jesus Christ does not fit into Adam's world. Adam fits into Jesus Christ's world.
Therefore, do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, or of me His prisoner; but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity (2TIM 1:8-9).
And only within this context comes the creation of the universe, which sets the stage upon which the drama of our adoption in Jesus Christ will be played out. And within this context comes Adam, a mere man, who is given a place in the history of Jesus Christ, a place in preparation for the incarnation and the ascension of the incarnate Son. The Word of God was already on the road to incarnation and to ascension before the universe was called into being (John 1:14). Before creation, our adoption–and its accomplishment in the ascension of the incarnate Son–was raised as the banner of all banners in highest heaven.
Most of the older Protestant theologies begin their discussions of the death of Jesus with the holiness of God and the law, and with human failure and the problem of sin. They superimpose a legal structure over the heart of God and expound the death of Jesus under the heading of law and justice, guilt and punishment, but such an approach eclipses the eternal purpose of God for us, and thus utterly betrays the fact that there is something much more ancient about God's relationship with human beings than the law.
Before there was ever any law, there was the irrepressible life and fellowship and joy of God.There was the decision to give human beings a place in the life of God through Jesus Christ. The eternal purpose of God is not to place us under law and turn us into religious legalists; it is to include us in relationship, and give us a place in shared life and fellowship and joy.
The first thing to be said about the death of Jesus Christ, therefore, is that his death figures into the larger and stunning plan of God to include us in His life. He was predestined to be the mediator between God and humanity, the one in whom nothing less than the life of God would be united with human existence. Jesus' coming and his death are the living expression of the unwavering and single-minded devotion of the Father to His dreams for our adoption. The reality that drives the coming of Jesus Christ, and pushes him even to the cross, is the relentless and determined passion of the Father to have us as His beloved children. He will not abandon us. It has never crossed the Father's mind to forsake His plans for us. Jesus is the proof.
Adam and Eve were created as the apex of all God's works and stood before God as the objects of His personal affection and great delight. They were created to walk with God, to participate in God's work, and they were given a real place within God's unfolding drama. But they listened to and believed the lie of the serpent, and in believing the lie, they distrusted God, and in that act of distrust and wrongheaded belief, they opened the door for evil to enter into God's good creation and find a foothold.
Through the unbelief of Adam and Eve, darkness infiltrated the scene of human history. And with that darkness, loneliness and fear, isolation and loss, guilt and sadness and sorrow set up shop inside the human soul.
What was God's response? What was the reaction of God to such a disaster? The response of the Father to Adam's plunge into ruin can be put into one word: No! In that No! echoes the eternal Yes! of God to us. Creation flows out of the fellowship of God, and out of the decision, the determined decision, to share His life with us. That will of God for our blessing in Christ, that determined Yes! to us, translates into an intolerable No! in the teeth of the Fall. God is for us and therefore opposed–utterly, eternally and passionately opposed–to our destruction. Paul said all the promises of God in Jesus are yes and in Him amen 2 Cor 1:20.
That opposition, that fiery and passionate and determined No! to the disaster of the Fall, is the proper understanding of the wrath of God. Wrath is not the opposite of love. Wrath is the love of God in action, in opposing action. It is precisely because God has spoken an eternal Yes! to the human race, a Yes! to life and fullness and joy for us, that the Fall and its disaster is met with a stout and intolerable No! "This is not acceptable. I did not create you to perish in the darkness, not you." Therein the dream of the ascension and of our adoption in Christ becomes riddled with pain and tears and death.
There are those who want us to believe that on the day Adam fell, God the Father was filled with a bloodthirsty anger that demanded punishment before He would even consider forgiveness. And they want us to believe that when Jesus Christ hung on the cross, the Father's anger and wrath were poured out upon him, instead of us. But that is to assume that the Father was changed by Adam's sin, and that His heart is now divided toward His creatures. I say to you, God does not change. Adam's plunge was met by the same God, and the by same determination to bless, and by the same passionate love that birthed creation in the first place. The Fall of Adam was met by the eternal Word of God. The love of God is as tireless and unflinching as it is determined and unyielding.
How is the one plan of God for our adoption in Jesus Christ to be accomplished now, in the context of Adam's Fall and the sheer disaster it sent rippling through the ocean of humanity? Jesus Christ stepped into human history with the ascension in his sights, but the road to ascension and to our adoption is now paved with pain and suffering and death. For how do you get from the Fall of Adam to the right hand of God the Father almighty? The only way is through death. The Fall must be undone. Adam must be thoroughly converted to God. Human existence, broken and estranged and perverted, must be radically circumcised and systematically recreated, utterly and thoroughly transformed, and bent back into right relationship with the Father.
Why did Jesus Christ die? What happened in his death? Jesus Christ died because the Father would not forsake us, because the Father had a dream for us that He would not abandon, because the love of the Father for us is endless and unflinching. And Jesus died because the only way to get from the Fall of Adam to the right hand of the Father was through the crucifixion of Adamic existence.
Jesus Christ did not go to the cross to change God; he went to the cross to change us. He did not die to appease the Father's anger or to heal the Father's divided heart. Jesus Christ went to the cross to call a halt to the Fall and undo it, to convert fallen Adamic existence to his Father, to systematically eliminate our estrangement, so that he could accomplish his Father's dream for our adoption in his ascension.
The price tag on his mission was 33 years of fire and trial, 33 years of temptation, with loud crying and tears. In the incarnation, the fellowship and life of God established a bridgehead inside human alienation. In the life of Jesus Christ, the love of God for man began beating its way through the whole course of human sin and estrangement and alienation. The eternal Word entered into Adam's fallen world,mankind beheld him as the only begotten of the Father. Grace and truth has come. For 33 years he fought, moment by moment, blow by blow, hammering fallen Adamic existence back into real relationship with His Father.
What we see in Gethsemane, when Jesus falls on his face, the gut wrench of it all, the pain and overwhelming weight, the struggle, the passion, the agony, all of this is a window into the whole life of Christ. His whole life was a cross, as Calvin said. From the moment of his birth, he began paying the price of our liberation. His whole life was a harrowing ordeal of struggle, of suffering, of trial and tribulation and pain, as he penetrated deeper and deeper into human estrangement.
On the cross, Jesus Christ made contact with the Garden of Eden, contact with Adam and Eve hiding in fear, contact with the original sin, with the original lie and its darkness. There the Son of the Father plunged himself into the deepest abyss of human alienation, into the quagmire of darkness and human brokenness and estrangement. He baptized himself in the waters of Adam's fall.
There on the cross, he penetrated the last stronghold of darkness. There he walked into the utter depths of our alienation. There the intolerable No!, shouted by God the Father at the Fall of Adam, found its true fulfillment in Jesus' Yes! "Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit," as he took his final step into Adam's disaster. Jesus died–and the Fall of Adam died with him.
Brothers and sisters, that was the darkest of all moments in the history of the cosmos. But, then again, how could it be? For the darkness that infiltrated the scene of human history and wreaked such havoc upon the human race, on this day and in this moment, met the light of Genesis 1:3, Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. How could the darkness win? As surely as the flip of a light switch dispels the darkness in our homes, so surely the light and life of God conquered darkness, and death itself, in this moment, in the very person of our blessed Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God.
-Pastor Bill Annis, President, FCF Canada