Most of us, on a very basic level, are trying to stay alive. We are trying to not be dead, and this motivates just about everything we do. Not Jesus. He comes to die. That’s what He doing on a donkey riding into Jerusalem. “Ride on, ride on in majesty. In lowly pomp ride on to die.”
Jesus comes, not to accomplish great things with His life, but to accomplish great things with His death. It is good for us to consider this, especially during this last week of Lent, holy week, but this should be our constant meditation throughout our entire lives: the cross of Jesus.
Philippians 2:5-8 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
He who is greatest of all, the very Son of God, He comes in lowliness and humility, He comes despised and forsaken, He comes rejected and crucified, and He comes this way for you.
Because Jesus knows, dear saints, that the only way for you and me to have life is that He would die.
Someone has to die for sin. Someone has to suffer the consequences for their actions. The wrath of God over our sin and unbelief will go somewhere. It should go on us. We are the sinners. We are the ones that have broken God’s commandments. If you ever wonder what your sins deserve, then look at Jesus writhing on the cross, crying out in darkness and abandonment from God. That’s what we have deserved.
But Jesus says, “No, I’ll suffer instead. I’ll have the wrath, the rejection, the anger, the punishment, the agony. I’ll have it so that they will not.”
That’s what the cross is:
- Jesus suffers God’s wrath so that God delights in you.
- Jesus is punished for your sin so that you could be rewarded with His righteousness.
- Jesus is forsaken by God so that the Father would never leave or forsake us.
- Jesus is stricken by God so that we would be blessed by Him.
- Jesus is accounted a sinner so that the Father would account you as righteous and perfect and holy, blameless in His sight.
This is a great mystery indeed, the mystery of the cross, the mystery of the death of our Lord Jesus, a beautiful and wonderful and comforting mystery. Jesus dies for us. Jesus died for you.
And this, remember, was not pleasant for our Lord. He was a man; He knew fully the agony involved, the flesh being torn off His back by the Roman whip, the thorns pressing into His scalp, the nails driven through His hands and feet, the spit dripping off His face, the mockery of the unbelievers, the flight of His disciples, and most of all, the torturous abandonment of God. “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” The eternal and unbroken love between the Father and the Son, a love that knew no beginning and no limit, this love is broken. Jesus is stricken by God, and afflicted, and not because of His sin, because of yours.
And if this mystery is profound, consider this: this is exactly what Jesus wanted. No, not the suffering. We know He didn’t want to suffer. He prayed three times in the garden, “If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me.” He didn’t want the suffering, nor did He want the shame. Hebrews 12(:2) says, “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame…” Jesus didn’t want the agony, the being forsaken by God, the utter depths of humiliation, but He did want you, and if this is what it takes to win you life and forgiveness and salvation, then so be it. He will mount the donkey. He will ride into Jerusalem. He will give His back to those who strike, His cheeks to those who will pull out His beard, His face to those who spit on it (Isaiah 50:6), He will give it all for you.
Alas! and did my Savior bleed? … yes
And did my Sovereign die? … yes
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I? (TLH 154) … yes.
The peace of God which passes all understanding guard your heart and mind through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller
Hope Lutheran Church | Aurora, CO