But My God Did!
By Ryan Lian
They are heralded as gods by the locals, who have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of two divines to fulfill an ancient prophecy.
However, things begin to unravel when the high priest notices blood dripping from the eyebrows of one of the men. The high priest pronounces the men phoneys. His evidence for this? Gods don’t bleed! Gods don’t bleed. Gods are not gods if they bleed.
But I am a Christian. That means that I believe that God did bleed. And the blood that flowed from His side was not like that of the Greek gods; it was real blood.
I propose three (hardly comprehensive) reasons why we need to affirm that Jesus died. I also hope to show why his death is not cause for dismay over his lack of divinity, but is, cause for celebration over his complete victory.
1) Jesus’ main mission was to die
Jesus’ main mission was not only to heal the sick (who eventually got sick again and died), or raise the dead (who eventually died again), or free those oppressed by evil spirits (who were ultimately enslaved by the Devil himself). No! Jesus came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). He came to call sinners to repentance (Matthew 9:13). He came to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). He came to give his people life, and life to the full (John 10:10). Jesus’ main mission was to make sure that death would not be the end. Instead, life with God, for eternity would be theirs! He came to give us life beyond the grave! If this was Jesus’ main mission, his purpose on earth, then we must be quick to affirm this. We must not be distracted by the miracles (great and marvelous as they are) and be focused on what Jesus himself focused on: the cross.
From the outset, we see that Jesus is not like any other god you’ve ever encountered or conceived of; he is a God that is determined to die. We read in Luke 9:51 that Jesus resolutely sets out for Jerusalem. This seemingly innocuous detail becomes incredibly significant when we learn that certain death awaits him there. And he knows it! Yet he still resolutely sets out for the place where he will die! Nothing could stop him from reaching the cross.
Again and again, Jesus warns the disciples of his imminent death. Yet they would not listen to him, the apostle Peter even took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him (Mark 8:32). Jesus’ response is incredibly stern and almost disproportionately harsh. “…He rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” (Mark 8:33) Why is Jesus’ counter-rebuke so blunt and jarring?
Peter missed the point
Peter desperately wants Jesus to fit the stereotype of the all-conquering, militant Jewish Messiah. Yet this is not who Jesus is. He is the all-conquering king, but not in the way Peter and much of Israel expected. We have to remember that a great deal was at stake for Peter and the disciples. Imagine if you were one of Jesus’ most committed followers, who had left everything to follow him, would you want your leader, the man who claimed to be God and Messiah, to die? Wouldn’t that be proof that he isn’t God? Surely God cannot die!
Yet if we believe this, we do not have God’s interests in mind, but man’s. We entirely miss the point of Jesus’ death. We, like Peter, misunderstand Jesus’ mission. Peter believes that Jesus will be proved Messiah through his military might, or his healing of the sick. Instead, Jesus’ claim to his Messiahship rests chiefly on his death. We must affirm what Jesus affirms; that his mission was to die. This begs the question, why did Jesus have to die?
2) Jesus won the victory by his death
Jesus’ death is entirely different to any other martyr there ever has been. He was not overpowered by his enemies. Instead, he freely gave up his life. (John 10:17-18). Jesus laid down his own life, no one took it from him, he laid it down of his own accord. The Son of God bled voluntarily. Though he could have spoken out against the false charges against him that were brought before Pilate, he refused to speak. Though he could have called on his Father for a legion of angels to defeat his enemies (Matthew 26:53), he did not. Though it was possible for the cup of wrath to pass from him, he submitted to the will of his Father and drank from it (Luke 22:42).
But why was Jesus determined to die? Crucial to our understanding of this, is our understanding of the problem of sin. We read in Genesis 6:5 that “the wickedness of man was great on the earth and that the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually”. We have all rebelled against our creator and sustainer; we have rejected his commandments and chosen to make ourselves lord of our lives. And because of that, God cursed us with death. For the wages of rebellion, rejection and living life our own way is death (Romans 6:23a). But the gift of God is eternal life! How is this possible? It is only possible through Jesus Christ. (Roman 6:23b).
English theologian John Stott uses four images to illustrate what Jesus accomplished through his death on the cross. Firstly, there is the image of the court. Here, sinners stand accused by the Law and by Satan of cosmic treason. Yet, by his Son’s death on the cross, God pronounces Jesus guilty and sinners “justified” or “righteous” in his eyes (2 Corinthians 5:21). Secondly, there is the image of the temple. In the temple, the priest would offer animal sacrifices to atone for the sins of the people. Jesus is the atoning sacrifice (1 John 2:2). By dying on the cross, Jesus offered himself up as a sacrifice to God, to atone for the sins of the people (Ephesians 5:2). The third image is that of a slave market. Though we were slaves to sin (Romans 6:20), Jesus freed us from captivity, by giving himself as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). Many sinners go free, in exchange for the one righteous man. Finally, there is the image of a relationship. Though we were enemies of God, Jesus’ death reconciled us to God, and God to us (Romans 5:10). Not only were we reconciled, we were adopted into sonship. That is, we may now call God (our former enemy) Abba Father! (Galatians 4:6)
God’s amazing love
By his death we have justification, an atoning sacrifice for our sins. We are freed from slavery and adopted as God’s children! Yet why would Jesus suffer to give us these blessings? As Stuart Townend says: “Why should I gain from His reward?” The answer is that God loves us. God loves us; sinners and worms of the dust. He loves the unlovely. He does not love us because there is anything lovely in us. Instead He loves us because of His character; because of who He is. His love for us actually turns us into something that is lovely.
Because Jesus defeated all his enemies by his death on the cross, we must affirm this! We must proclaim the victory that he has won! Not only that, God has given us definitive proof of his love; the death of Christ for forgiveness of sins (1 John 4:10).
3) Jesus isn’t dead anymore
As amazing as Jesus’ death on the cross is, it is all for naught if He remained dead. As Paul says: “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15;17). For if Christ did not rise again, then he is just like any other phoney and false prophet. Yet Christ rose again. He is no longer dead, but is seated at the right hand of the Father (Colossians 3:1, Luke 22:69, Ephesians 1:20, Hebrews 12:2).
Evidence of Jesus’ Resurrection
The evidence is numerous and weighty. The empty tomb, the reports of eye witnesses, the reaction of the disciples (who transformed from despondent cowards to fearless martyrs in three days), the conversion of Saul of Tarsus (who transformed from a zealous persecutor of the church to a courageous apostle) and the spread of the gospel to the ends of the earth are all evidences for the resurrection. I’m not here to debate the resurrection, because unless you genuinely and thoroughly investigate it for yourself, you will never be convinced.
However, to those who are convinced of the resurrection of Christ, I say: take heart! Though He was as dead as dead can be, he is now risen and reigning. God was pleased to raise his perfectly obedient Son from the grave. Death no longer has any hold on the ones for whom Christ has died. On the last day, God will raise those who are in Christ to “everlasting life”, while condemning those who are not to “shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2). The Lord himself proclaims the defeat of death in Hosea 13:14 “I will deliver this people from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction?”.
The resurrection is a key reason for affirming Jesus’ death. We do not have to fear when we proclaim his death, because we know that his resurrection followed. We can proclaim it because we know that he was not defeated by his enemies. Instead, he triumphed over the power of sin and death. He triumphed over the rulers and authorities through the cross and made a public spectacle of them (Colossians 2:15). Jesus’ victory over sin and death gives us assurance that one day, we too will be raised (1 Corinthians 6:14). For those who believe in Christ and have repented of their sins, bodily death will not be the end. Our bodies will be raised imperishable, in glory and power (1 Corinthians 15:42). We will see God as He is (1 John 3:2) and will never be separated from Him (Romans 8:38-39).
That God himself should bleed is unique to any other religion or belief. Yet, what appears like folly to us, is actually the wisdom of God. By the death of his Son, God has turned evil into good. Though we intended evil towards Jesus in crucifying him, God meant it for good; by using his death to save many sinners. The words of Joseph in Genesis 50:20 are actually the words of the risen and reigning Christ: “As for you, you mean evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today”
So what does this mean for us? Firstly we must realise that the Son of God bled; indeed, the Son of God died. And while we should mourn over our sin that cost Jesus his life, it is also cause for rejoicing! God himself has stepped into human history. He has not left us in our miserable estate. He has not left us dead in our sins. Instead, he has sent his beloved Son to die in our place. And because of his Son’s death, we have received forgiveness; if we believe in the Son and repent of our sins.
Secondly, we must remind ourselves of Jesus’ sacrifice. Practically we can do that through prayer. Every time you pray, thank God for sending his Son to save sinners. Thank Him for crushing his Son so that you may gain eternal life. Let us also remind ourselves of Christ’s crucifixion by our reading of the Scriptures. Every time you read the Scriptures, ask yourself; “How does what I’m reading relate to Jesus and his death and resurrection?” Read Scripture in light of Jesus’ sacrifice. Finally, we are reminded of the death of the Saviour in the sacraments. We proclaim the Christ’s death in the Lord’s Supper and in Baptism. Let us remind ourselves of the Lamb whose body was broken and blood was spilled for our forgiveness. Let us remind ourselves that we died with Christ and rose to God.
Thirdly, we must retell. We must tell other what we already know. That over two thousand years ago, the Son of God bled and died on a cross; to purchase sinners across the world (Revelation 5:9). If we truly understand the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection we will have no choice but to tell others about it! We must be as Paul when he says: “For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16). We have heard the most amazing news there has ever been. How can we not share it with others?
The blood of the Son of God was so unlike that of the Greek gods. It was not gold in colour, but bright red, mixed with water. It was not toxic to mortals, but efficacious in washing away the sins of mortals. “The blood of Christ speaks of better things than Abel” (Hebrews 12:24). As Matthew Henry puts it: “This blood of Christ speaks in behalf of sinners; it pleads not for vengeance, but for mercy”. If you ever watch “The Road to El Dorado” and come across the scene to which I referred earlier; you can now refute the high priest when he says “Gods don’t bleed.”
Your response should be: God did bleed, and he bled for me. END
Ryan Lian is 19 years old, a second year physiotherapy student in Curtin University. He attends St. Lawrence Anglican Church in Perth.