“It is finished,” Jesus cried, having completed the work for which he came. As the Son of God exhaled for the last time, the earth itself shuddered, and the sun lowered its eyes. Seeing the earth itself in mourning, one Roman bystander shouted, “Surely he was innocent!” Jesus was not the first to suffer the penalty for a crime he did not commit; however, he was the first to suffer having committed no infractions at all. The centurion asks, in essence, “What have we done?” He likely did not realize Jesus’ narrative was yet unfolding.
As the crowd of faithful followers and newly convinced converts pulled Jesus’ lifeless body from the tree, they likely did not know the temple curtain used to separate God and man had been torn in half. It does not seem from the written records that they expected any surprises when they laid his body in the borrowed tomb. However, Jesus didn’t die to remain dead. There was a mystery to solve, and even in death he was wrapping up the details necessary to answer history’s greatest question, how will God save us?
Jesus was not the first to suffer the penalty for a crime he did not commit; however, he was the first to suffer having committed no infractions at all.
The mystery begins in the Beginning, when God’s perfect creation experienced gut-wrenching turmoil at the introduction of death by sin. However, even when the ax seemed destined for Adam, instead death’s blow fell on an animal which God used to cover the nakedness and shame of the first two humans. The serpent, representing his constituents, sin and death, was promised his reign would end. A man would come and crush his head, though the man’s heel would be bruised. This is the light that shines in the darkness of the Fall, but the light was shrouded in mystery. History wondered how God the Just could stay his wrath against man’s sin. How could his debt be paid? Though a hint was given in the death of the animal whose skin covered Adam’s shame, it was by no means clear who would take the ultimate fall for the fallen.
A sacrificial system was set up for the people; however, the blood of bulls and goats could not remove sin’s stain from the people. Messianic types rose up from among them like Noah, Moses, and David. Noah saved his family from the flood, but he later became drunk and defiled his name. Moses saved his people from slavery in Egypt, but he struck the Rock and was not allowed to lead them into the Promised Land. David saved his people from the Goliath, but he used his kingly authority as a vehicle from adultery and murder. The mystery only grew as Israel’s greatest leaders failed to defeat sin and death. When their heels were struck by the serpent, its venom proved fatal to the might men of old. Their deaths were recorded, and their graves are full.
The mystery only grew as Israel’s greatest leaders failed to defeat sin and death.
In the Scriptures God left clues concerning the Christ. It was said that he would be a prophet like Moses, and lifted high like his staff. He would be born in the line of David, and come from Bethlehem. He would be a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. The man of mystery came and fulfilled the prophecy, but he died nevertheless. If the Christ dies then we are still in our sin, but three days after he was buried he completed the sign of Jonah, bursting forth from the belly of the earth in newness of life. He chatted it up with the Mary and Mary, walked 7 miles to Emmaus with two disciples while he explained how he fulfilled the Scriptures to them (Luke 27), and ate a full breakfast with Peter. The great mystery novel of humanity was solved:
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.
All of Scripture’s mysteries find their solution in Christ. How will sin and death be conquered? How will Abraham’s descendant be a blessing to all nations (Gen 12:1-13)? How could God stay his wrath against sin? The mystery has been made clear for the saints, those who believe the testimony of Scripture, the gospel that, “Christ has died and, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again.” (Charlie Hall ‘Mystery’) Jesus did not die to remain dead, like some martyr for a cause, but he gave up his own life willingly for the joy of glorifying his Father by bringing to the great heavenly table all who believe in this gospel.
Life’s short. Treasure the risen Christ.