We are about a week into the season of lent. This means that we are thirty seven days away from Good Friday and forty days away from Resurrection Sunday. This year more than ever before, I want to immerse myself in the meaning of Jesus’ cross. I still cannot wrap my mind around why Jesus would go to such a length for a sinner like me. There was absolutely nothing good in me that He would need to die for me. And yet He did.
Specifically, what did this pivotal event in history accomplish in my life personally? This is what I want to study deeper and see clearer. I want to trace the path Jesus took that ultimately led him to that old rugged cross. To guide this process, I have been reading this book. I want to share with you today from it. Here are three reasons why Jesus knew he had to die:
1. First, he knew he would die because of the hostility of the Jewish national leaders. It appears that this was aroused quite early during the public ministry. His attitude to the law in general, and to the sabbath in particular, incensed them. When he insisted on healing a man with a shriveled hand in a synagogue on a sabbath day, Mark tells us that “the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus” (Mk 3:6). Jesus must have been aware of this. He was also very familiar with the Old Testament record of the persecution of the faithful prophets. Although he knew himself to be more than a prophet, he also knew he was not less and that therefore he could expect similar treatment. He was a threat to the leaders’ position and prejudices. According to Luke, after his reading and exposition of Isaiah 61 in the Nazareth synagogue, in which he seemed to be teaching a divine preference for the Gentiles, “all the people in the synagogue were furious. . . . They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff.”
Luke adds that “he walked right through the crowd and went on his way” (Lk. 4:16-30). But it was a narrow escape. Jesus knew that sooner or later they would get him.
2. Second, he knew he would die because that is what was written of the Messiah in the Scriptures:“The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him” (Mk 14:21). Indeed, when referring to the Old Testament prophetic witness, he tended to couple the death and resurrection, the sufferings and glory, of the Messiah. For the Scriptures taught both. And the Lord was still insisting on this after he had risen. He said to the disciples on the road to Emmaus: “‘Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Lk 24:25-27; cf. Lk 24:44-47).
3. The third and most important reason why he knew he would die was because of his own deliberate choice. He was determined to fulﬁll what was written of the Messiah, however painful it would be. This was neither fatalism nor a martyr complex. It was quite simply that he believed Old Testament Scripture to be his Father’s revelation and that he was totally resolved to do his Father’s will and ﬁnish his Father’s work. Besides, his suffering and death would not be purposeless. He had come “to seek and to save what was lost” (Lk 19:10). It was for the salvation of sinners that he would die, giving his life as a ransom to set them free (Mk 10:45). So he set his face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem. Nothing would deter or deﬂect him. Hence the reiterated “must” when he spoke of his death. The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected. Everything that was written about him must be fulﬁlled. He refused to appeal for angels to rescue him because then the Scriptures would not be fulﬁlled which said that it must happen in this way. Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer before entering his glory? He felt under constraint, even under compulsion: “I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am [RSV “constrained,”literally “hemmed in”] until it is completed!” (Lk 12:50). So then, although he knew he must die, it was not because he was the helpless victim either of evil forces arrayed against him or of any inﬂexible fate decreed for him, but because he freely embraced the purpose of his Father for the salvation of sinners, as it had been revealed in Scripture.
What dominated the central mission of Jesus was not his living but rather his dying. He was born to die, in my place — for my sin. The gravity of this truth inevitably humbles me.
Question: What about the above, regarding Jesus knowledge of his impending death has intrigued you the most? Please share with the rest of the community in the comments below.