When Jesus Died

Have you ever experienced a life-threatening moment when you almost died or nearly faced serious injury or loss? Sometime around 2005, I was driving my 1995 Ford Escort station wagon home from a morning of seminary lectures, from northwest Milwaukee to West Bend, WI. Cruising at a speed of 55 or 60 mph, I discovered that my tires had no traction. I was driving on a thin sheet of ice!

Thoughts rushed through my head all at once. What did I learn in drivers education? Pray! Were any other vehicles around? Should I push my breaks down? Should I steer? Pray!

The car spun in a circle, 360 degrees, multiple times. I held the wheel still and firm and pumped my steadily. After several moments of this, the car came to a complete stop in the middle of four lanes. Only then did traffic emerge on the rear horizon. I was safe, no one had been hurt and my car was unharmed. Wow. That was close.

As remarkable as moments like this can be, we should remember that when Jesus died on the cross, He delivered us from the greatest life-threatening terror of all time. Death and separation from God for eternity. That’s what we discover in Galatians 3:13.

When Christ died on the cross, he performed the most incredible rescue from death and danger ever. He rescued you and me from certain eternal death and separation from God. And He did this by taking my place, by taking the full force of my death and separation from God for me.

Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree. (Gal. 3:13)

What does this verse teach us about the significance of Christ’s death on the cross?

  1. First, he redeemed us. This means that he purchased us out from the slave market of sin in which we were enslaved, without hope of release. He did this at the price of His own blood, relinquishing His own life, exchanging the record and testimony of His sinless life for our sinful record and identity.
  2. Then, notice the curse of the law. What is this? Well, the law of God shows us the character of God. It does not provide us with a list of good things to do in order to counteract our bad behavior or to somehow earn favor with God. Instead, it reveals to us the perfect, holy, righteous, pure and innocent character of God. Without sharing this character, we cannot escape death and hell. This ominous fact is a curse for us. We cannot escape the impending doom.
  3. Imagine that you are standing on a concrete pavement, chained to the ground and unable to move. Above you is a massive weight, being lowered rapidly on a chain. In moments, it will fall on you and crush you. Then, at the last possible moment, another person rushes in underneath that weight and pushes you out from under it. Looking back from your new position of safety, you realize that weight fell upon the other person instead of you. Wow. What an amazing moment. This imaginary illustration helps us to understand the little word from in Gal. 3:13. This word means “out from.” You were in a position of judgment for your sin, but Jesus Christ snatched you out from under that judgment, fully and completely.
  4. Then also notice another small word, the word forWhy is this significant? It means “in behalf of” or “instead of” or “in the place of.” The same word appears on various non-biblical, ancient documents discovered by archaeologists. On these documents, we learn that people used this word to explain the work of a secretary who wrote letters for another person. For instance, if a person wanted to send a letter to a friend, but this person was uneducated and unable to write letters, words and sentences by himself, he would find an educated person to write the letter for him. He would dictate the words he needed to say, and the literate person would write them. It was his letter, but the secretary wrote it in his place.

That’s what Jesus did for you when He died on the cross. You would never be able to solve the problem of your sin, no matter how you died or how long you suffered in eternity. So Jesus Christ paid the ultimate price, stepped in under the curse of the law, pushed you out from under it and took the full blow of God judgment on you upon Himself, in your place. It was your death, but He died in your place.

Amazing, right?

It is worth noting that when Christ rescued me from the curse of death, He did not rescue me from something that that I stumbled into by accident, or encountered by some tragic bad circumstance. No, death is not that way. It is something that I deserve, that we all deserve. And that is one thing that makes this rescue so remarkable. I deserved to die. But Jesus took my place and died instead of me anyway. I was not an innocent, helpless victim. I was a guilty, renegade criminal who had committed sins against the God who made me and loved me. I deserved to die, but He died in my place.

So as you reflect on the death of Jesus Christ this week, don’t settle for a simple, casual reflection. Let the reality of what He did for you truly sink in. Understand how close you were to an eternity separated from God in judgment for ever. And realize that Jesus Christ took the full force of that death upon Himself in your place. That is truly amazing.

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