By Benjamin H. Liles
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. ~ Isaiah 7:14, 9:6
What would you do to show others the depth of love you have for them? Over the course of years Israel had disobeyed their God. At first it wasn't even like that. God appeared to Abraham and told him flat out, "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete" (Genesis 15:13, 16, New American Standard).
Jesus told the people, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, he saw it and was overjoyed” (John 8:56). And He fulfilled all of God's promises that was given through the Law and the prophets. His mother, Mary, was untouched by a man. An Angel appeared to Joseph, her betrothed, telling him, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:20-21, New King James).
Of all the ways a man can die, Jesus was put on a cross. He was no criminal. Look at what was shown to Isaiah, "and the government will be on his shoulders" (italics mine). Rome had this punishment for crimes committed in their arsenal: crucifixion. One beam vertical, and another beam horizontal, but yet placed closer to the head, right at the shoulder blades. All that weight you have to bear through the muscles down to the feet. So for Jesus to get air he would have to push up on his feet, hold his arms steady and breathe in. As he would breathe out, his body would sag. How many times do you think he'd be able to do this until He died?
In the gospel accounts we're given a total of seven statements. Wow. God created Heaven and Earth in six days and on the seventh, the sabbath, He rested. Let's look at this briefly:
Day 1) God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light (Genesis 1:3, New King James).
Jesus' 1st statement: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34, Berean Bible).
God creates the light with the word of His mouth. And as Jesus is dying He tells the Father to forgive them. The God of the known universe on a cross, taking our punishment, yet interceding on our behalf with the Father, God.
Day 2) God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters" (Genesis 1:6, New King James).
Jesus' 2nd statement) And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43, New King James).
A criminal hanging next to Jesus was being executed for his crimes asked Jesus for forgiveness. Jesus tells the man he will be with the Messiah in paradise. Recall at the beginning of Jesus' ministry he was baptized with the washing of the water? Jesus had the criminal covered by the cleansing water of His words. This man was now clean of His sins.
Day 3) God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so (Genesis 1:9, New King James).
Jesus' 3rd statement) When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home (John 19:26-27, New King James).
God creates dry land so that it is separated from the waters. Jesus does an amazing thing here: He commissions John, the beloved disciple, to care for his earthly mother. He gives a charge for John to care for her while she remains alive. What a way to fulfill God's word to tend to the garden, and Jesus is telling one of His disciples to tend to His mother.
Day 4) God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth”; and it was so (Genesis 1:11, New King James).
Jesus' 4th statement) And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46, New King James).
This is a little different than the first three, and a bit harder to explain, so bear with me. Jesus tells the disciples what needs to happen for a rich and fruitful harvest to come about: "Truly, truly, I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a seed; but if it dies, it bears much fruit" (John 12:24, Berean Study). Jesus on the cross is crying out, experiencing pain on our behalf, feeling completely cut off from the Father. This is why He cries out. It fulfills scripture which can be found in Psalm 22, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, and from the words of My groaning?" (v. 1). Jesus is about to be placed in a tomb. Just like a seed, before it sends up a shoot, it is buried.
Day 5) God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so (Genesis 1:14-15, New King James).
Jesus' 5th statement) After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” (John 19:28, New King James).
After three years worth of ministry Jesus is half way done in being crucified fulfilling God, the Father's, plan in the redemption of mankind. God created light to be a source to man, noting times for "signs and seasons, days and years, to give light on the earth." And here's Jesus, the light of the world, whose light is slowly being extinguished. Don't worry, He'll blaze forth from the tomb in a couple of days. But at the moment, Jesus' mouth is parched, like the land in a blazing heat.
Day 6) God said, “Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens. Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind. Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth" (Genesis 1:20, 24, 26, New King James).
Jesus' 6th statement) And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit" (Luke 23:46, New King James).
God creates all the different animals after their own kind; cat will come from cat, dog from dog, hippos from hippos, birds from birds. And then Gos creates His crowning masterpiece: man. Jesus knew from where He came from. John, the disciple, records Jesus as being "the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men" (John 1:1-4, New King James).
God didn't make the Son. Look back at the Genesis account where man is being created; God says, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness" (Genesis 1:26). John is saying the word being spoken is Jesus, and it is through the word along with God the Father who created everything. Who better else to go back to but to the God of the known universe? Jesus is God, the Son of God. It is why He told the disciples, "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father" (John 14:12, New King James). He is now poised in returning to the Father.
Day 7) "Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made" (Genesis 2:1-3, New King James).
Jesus' 7th and final words) "When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, 'It is finished!' And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit" (John 19:30, New King James).
In His final moments as He took our punishment on the cross, He utters the last statement before being entombed: "It is finished." Just as God rested on the seventh day after working for six days, Jesus is now finished from His work. He can lie in state under Roman protection with an immovable rock in place (see Matthew 27:66). His body couldn't be stolen. It was under Roman protection.
To steal a body under the law of Rome would have meant sudden death. To say that Jesus didn;'t even die, that He only "swooned" is saying God's word is a lie. How can you say you love God while you make a claim that shows you despise your own neighbor? "If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother he has seen cannot love the God he has not seen" (1 John 4:20, Holman Christian Standard).
Likewise, from John's statement there I can also say that hating God, but saying you love others the truth isn't within you. John also says this: "If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes. No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us" (1 John 1:6, 8; 2:11; 4:12, New American Standard).
What I can tell you is this, God loved you so much He couldn't bring Himself to do what was contrary to Himself. All of us, and this includes myself, deserve His wrath for sins we committed. But He loved us so much that his plan included having His Son, Jesus, the Word Incarnate, die the death we should have. It shows how much grace and mercy God has towards us. Why else would Peter refer back to scripture?
"The Lord isn't really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent" (2 Peter 3:9, New Living Tanslation). Peter uses the verse and the promise that "Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him" (Isaiah 30:18).
Isaiah himself looked backward at Hebrew scripture, declaring, "Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth" (Psalm 46:10). Maybe even the psalmist remembered the snake in the wilderness being high and lifted up to heal the sins of the people: "So Moses made a bronze snake and mounted it on a pole. Whenever someone was bitten, and he looked at the bronze snake, he recovered" (Numbers 21:9, Holman Christian Standard).
What we do know is John, in his gospel alludes back to this serpent been lifted up: "Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son" (John 3:14-18, Berean Study).
For what happened to those who did not look on the bronze serpent lifted high? Many died. "So the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died" (Numbers 21:6).
We have an amazing opportunity here. God alone saves. We are the ones who sinned. Not God, and certainly not the Son. We have. We are accursed as we broke His laws. We are under the curse of the law, which we still have to this day. It's amazing that Jesus, who was born under the latter days of the Mosaic Law, died in our place once and for all. He is the final and acceptable sacrifice! No more animal sacrifice has to be made.
He atoned for us at Calvary, where He was crucified. He told the religious Jews, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up" (John 2:19, New American Standard). He didn't just say it once either: "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 charge I have received from My Father" (John 10:18, Berean Study).
And what happened? Are we not told through scripture that He was indeed raised from the dead? "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas (who is called Peter), then by the twelve" (bold mine, 1 Corinthians 15:3-5, New King James).
Father, You are so holy and just that You could punish me for the sins I committed in my life. But in Your loving patience, You sent Your Son, Jesus, to die on my behalf. I cannot begin to repay what He did on my part. He fulfilled and obeyed all that You gave to Him. The result is that I am now Yours, and You add daily to Yourself those You know will make their choice for You. As David once declared, "He delivers me from my enemies; Surely You lift me above those who rise up against me; You rescue me from the violent man" (Psalm 18:48, New American Standard). The violent man has once been sin and death who have oppressed me. Through Your Son, Jesus, who died in my place, You delivered and rescued me. I thank and praise You for this! Hallelujah! In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.