(By David Giarrizzo)
Good Friday is upon us. This weekend Christians all around the world will celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in a very special and public way. But while so many people celebrate “Easter,” few, I think, really grasp the meaning of the death of Christ and the Gospel implications for mankind. Consider these two points regarding Christ’s important sacrifice: first, Christ did not come to earth to simply set an example for men to follow; but secondly, Christ’s death delivers men from sin and eternal death.
1. He did not come to merely set us an example.
In his book, Manly Dominion, author and pastor Mark Chanski shows his readers how Christ was a good example for men to imitate and follow:
- He lived his life serving and helping others, while simultaneously, He was the greatest leader to ever live!
- He was obedient to God in all circumstances.
- He was patient in suffering and affliction.
- He was humble.
- He was loving.
- He set the standard for love by His own sacrifice.
- Et cetera.
Throughout history there have always been those who refuse to see Christ as anything more than a good man and a wise Jewish teacher. They’ll say he was a role model, a good example, an icon of morality, but they will refuse to accept Him for who he really is.
In his gospel account, John gets to the point right off the top: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” I was teaching this verse to a 3rd and 4th grade Sunday School class not too long ago, and they came to understand that the “Word” that John speaks of here is the second Person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, God’s only Son. And we need to accept that Jesus is not only the Son of God, but is God Himself, otherwise, His atonement was useless and empty.
In the final hours leading up to Jesus’ death, he faced what Chanski calls, “wholesale desertion.” First, one of his own 12 closest friends betrayed him for a meager 30 pieces of silver. Then, in the Garden, in the moments of extreme mental and emotional agony, his disciples slept while he prayed, and once they woke, they fled. Then one of his dearest disciples, Simon Peter, denied—not once, not twice, but three times—that he even knew this man named Jesus!
The ultimate desertion, however, came at Christ’s darkest hour—as he hung upon the cross under the unbearable weight of the sins of you and me and of the whole world as the sole object of His Father’s wrath.
But it was at the moment of Christ’s death that mankind’s liberation from the bondage of sin was procured by a merciful Lord! As Spurgeon wrote, “The last word but one, ‘It is finished.’ There is the complete justification of the believer, since the work by which he is accepted is fully accomplished.”
Jesus hung there on that cross until His Father’s will was accomplished; until his errand was completed; until his chore was done; until His people had been redeemed; until He said resolutely, “IT IS FINISHED!”
Philip Graham Ryken wrote, “When Christ said, ‘It is finished,’ he was not merely uttering a sigh of relief or a moan of resignation…He was announcing a victorious proclamation! ‘IT IS FINISHED!’” Thus, Christ didn’t come to merely be an example of a good living, but secondly…
2. He came to deliver us from the wrath of God and to take away our sins.
When Jesus’ earthly cousin, John the Baptist, proclaimed in John 1:29, “Behold, the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world,” he was giving Christ more than a name or title. He was supplying us with a wonderful description of Jesus the Messiah.
In the Old Testament, the priests would shed the blood of animals which symbolized a covering of one’s sins. But Christ’s death and the shedding of his blood did much more than cover the sins of sinners; it took their sins away entirely! Furthermore, Matthew Henry commentated that with Christ’s statement, “It is finished,” there came an end to transgression and the bringing in of an everlasting righteousness to those who call upon His name.
There are some who have criticized Christianity for holding the cross in such high esteem. They see the cross as a symbol of death and suffering; but as Christians we look at the cross and see life! “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.” (John 3:14&15)
Hebrews 9.27-28 reads, “Just as it is appointed for man to die once and then to face judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him!”
He came and died once to bear our sins on himself, and after that…It Is Finished!
So away with the notion of works-oriented salvation; away with the idea that man partakes in his own redemption. As Scripture clearly teaches, Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners from their sin and God’s wrath. And the day that Jesus hung bleeding his blood on the cross for us was the day that God satisfied God. Without His perfect atonement to take away all our unrighteousness, we would be without hope. There is a reason that Christ—even in the hour of His death—was able to say victoriously, “It is finished.” And it is for this reason, because of this Savior, that we glory in the death of Jesus Christ. Without Him, we are nothing.
Oh, to see my name
Written in the wounds,
For through Your suffering I am free.
Death is crushed to death;
Life is mine to live,
Won through Your selfless love.
This, the pow’r of the cross:
Son of God—slain for us.
What a love! What a cost!
We stand forgiven at the cross.