Two questions from a truth-seeking Muslim on the death of Jesus on the cross:

DID He die on the cross, and, if so, WHY did He die on the cross?
Part 4: How did Jesus' Companions the Apostles understand what happened at the Cross?


[Draft: Sep 10/2010]



“I am looking at the Christians are preparing for this Easter. I have known from friends that it was the real Christ on the Cross. But my Muslim friends and our [Muslim] teachings say that He was another man. I trust if the bible says then it is CHRIST

 

“Actually in Muslim faith there are some different stories about crucifixion of Christ. But need to know the reality. Perhaps I need to re read it for better understanding...but it is very important for me to learn about why Christ was crucified. He was able to save himself from the enemies...why did he allow them to beat him and take him to the cross?

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In the first part of the discussion (Part One), we concluded that the Qur’an does not deny the historical crucifixion of Jesus, but only denies that his Jewish enemies were correct in their boasts to have thwarted God by executing/extinguishing His Messenger with finality. And that the Qur’an does point to a historical death of the historical Jesus—and that it was special in the eyes of God.

The Qur’an does not explicitly discuss the meaning of that death—other than as a martyr before God, as with other prophets—and so to understand the meaning of that death we have to look at the pre-Qur’anic revelation/messages of God (i.e. the Hebrew Bible and the Injil).

 

In the second part (Part Two) we studied the question of why Jesus/Isa allowed himself to be mistreated/killed, since he did not actually have to.

So, the answer to the second part of the question was straight-forward:

Jesus allowed His enemies to do these acts of evil to Him, because He was fully committed, submitted, and obedient to the will of God, as revealed in the prophetic Hebrew Scriptures/Old Testament..

 

In one of His post-resurrection appearances, Jesus pointed out that the Messiah/Christ must have experienced the suffering, in order to then experience His glory:

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.  (Lk 24:13-27).

 

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In Part Three in this article in this series, we looked at the prediction of the coming of Israel's Messiah. The Qur'an (and Muslim tradition) identifies the Jewish Messiah with Jesus, and if Israel's Messiah was supposed to suffer (like Jesus did), then we must look at the pre-Quranic Hebrew Bible/Old Testament for WHY the Messiah was supposed to suffer. Then (in the final article in this series) we considered the explanations of the result of the Cross, as given by Jesus and His disciples in the Injil/New Testament.

We looked at two teachings of Jesus in depth:

The Ransom sayings:

"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10.45)

"You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Gospel of Matthew 20.25-28)

 

The New Covenant forgiveness sayings:

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” [The Holy Bible : Today's New International Version. 2005 (Mt 26:26-29). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.]

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it. “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. [The Holy Bible : Today's New International Version. 2005 (Mk 14:22-24). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.]

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. [The Holy Bible : Today's New International Version. 2005 (Lk 22:19-20). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.]

 

We saw that Jesus himself indicated that His death--as the Messiah--was foretold in the Hebrew Bible / Old Testament as both a ransom (for 'buying us' out of slavery to judgment, resulting in the forgiveness of sins) and as an inaugural sacrifice for the New Covenant (which included forgiveness of sins, and the power to submit to God in our very hearts). His death was not an accident, nor was it a failure, nor was it 'only' a human death--it was God's powerful love in action, providing a complete basis for forgiveness to us all. We need only to be honest with God about His work in and through Christ on the Cross, to be able to receive this free gift of forgiveness and a restored relationship with the Living, Loving, and Holy God.

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In this Part Four, we will present a quick overview of the powerful results of God's work through the Cross of Christ. We will see what God taught Jesus' companions and apostles about the results of the Cross. We will see that the disciples taught the same thing as did their teacher Jesus. They wrote these things down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, and these are wonderful blessings of God for us to consider.

 

First, we will look at the statements by the closest Companions of Jesus, Peter son of Jonah/John, and John son of Zebedee. [James son of Zebedee was martyred early, and we have no writings from him. The New Testament book called "the book of James" was written by another James, a physical brother of Jesus.] Jesus followers were called 'disciples' (which basically means 'learners'), and some of them were selected to be sent out under Jesus' authority to complete missions of teaching and healing. The term 'apostle' means 'sent out from', in the sense of being commissioned to perform a task on behalf of the sending authority.

 

Jesus himself is called "The Apostle and High Priest of our faith" in the New Testament Book of Hebrews (3.1), but Jesus called His own twelve followers 'apostles' because they were 'set out' from him (Luke 6.13: And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles).

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Peter (son of Jonah/John) was the most visible of the early leaders, and is famous for the passage in which he tries to tell Jesus to not talk about His upcoming death:

 

From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s. (Mt 16:21–23)

 

But on the night before He gave himself up to death--to die as a ransom for sins according to Jesus--Jesus promised that He would send the Holy Spirit of God after He had died on the Cross, risen from the dead, and ascended to the right hand of God the Father:

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.  (Jn 14:16–17).

“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. (John 15.26)

But now I am going to Him who sent Me; and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ “But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.  I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.  “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.  He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. “All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you. (Jn 16:5–15).

If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.  (Jn 7:37–39).

So, after the Holy Spirit arrived a few weeks later, and opened their hearts and minds to the truth of God, the Apostles understood Jesus' teachings about His death (which we looked at in Part Three). They gave great witness to the selfless act of love and sacrifice by Jesus on the Cross.

 

Here are the passages from Peter's first letter (1st Epistle of  Peter, in the New Testament). Notice how clear these are that sinless Jesus died in our place, took our sins upon Himself as a substitute sacrifice, and redeemed / ransomed us for God's glory:

"For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. 19 It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. 20 God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but he has now revealed him to you in these last days. Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory. You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth" (1 Pe 1:18–22; New Living Translation; Notice that Peter connects both the Passover Lamb and the ransom teachings of Jesus in this passage: "Redemption by the blood of a lamb recalls the annual Passover celebration, by which Jewish people commemorated their redemption (freedom from slavery) in Egypt, through the blood of the Passover lamb"  [Keener, C. S., & InterVarsity Press. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary : New Testament (1 Pe 1:19). Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.).])

"He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly. He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls." (1 Pe 2:22–25; Notice that this uses language from the Suffering Servant passage in Isaiah 53 that we looked at in Part Three).

"Christ himself suffered for sins once. He was not guilty, but he suffered for those who are guilty to bring you to God. His body was killed, but he was made alive in the spirit.” (1 Pe 3:18; New Century Version).

"God wanted you to obey him and to be made clean by the blood of the death of Jesus Christ. (1 Pe 1:2; New Century Version).

Peter was, therefore, finally obedient to his Teacher, and was faithful in handing down the same teachings as Jesus about the purpose of the death of Jesus on the cross.

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Next we have John (son of Zebedee) who is known as the "Beloved Disciple" because this is the term he uses for himself in the Gospel of John.


John is very famous for his early 'thunderous' nature, being more oriented toward 'fiery judgment' than to God's 'warm love' before his life was changed by the Holy Spirit:

"As the time drew near for him to ascend to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. He sent messengers ahead to a Samaritan village to prepare for his arrival. But the people of the village did not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to Jerusalem. When James and John saw this, they said to Jesus, “Lord, should we call down fire from heaven to burn them up?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them. (Lk 9:51–55; NLT).

"The Synoptics then show us John as a zealous and loyal follower of Jesus. He is not depicted as gentle and considerate. At this time he knew little of the love that should characterize the follower of Jesus. But he had faith and a passionate conviction that God would prosper Jesus and those who served him." [Baker encyclopedia of the Bible, s.v. "John the Apostle" (1190). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House.]

This apostle later wrote the letters of John (in the New Testament), the first one of which contains some of the strongest statements on God's love.

 

Here are John's statements about the purpose of Jesus' death--in conformity with his Teacher's teachings:

"My dear children, I write this letter to you so you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have a helper in the presence of the Father—Jesus Christ, the One who does what is right. He died in our place to take away our sins, and not only our sins but the sins of all people. (1 Jn 2:1–2).

"Dear friends, we should love each other, because love comes from God. Everyone who loves has become God’s child and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love to us: He sent his one and only Son into the world so that we could have life through him. This is what real love is: It is not our love for God; it is God’s love for us. He sent his Son to die in our place to take away our sins. (1 Jn 4:7–10).

"The real meaning of love and the real source of life are discerned only in the cross. It is not that we loved God. We will never find what this love is if we start from the human end. We find it in that God loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice (better as the NIV margin: ‘the one who would turn aside his wrath’). To see what love means we must see ourselves as sinners, and thus as the objects of God’s wrath, and yet as those for whom Christ died. ... It is one of the NT’s resounding paradoxes that it is God’s love that averts God’s wrath from us, and indeed that it is precisely in this averting of wrath that we see what real love is." [Carson, D. A. (1994). New Bible commentary : 21st century edition (4th ed.) (1 Jn 4:7–12). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press.]

The Apostle John was thus also faithful in proclaiming Jesus' teachings about His death on the cross, as our substitute and to free us from the punishment we deserve. Jesus did this--as sent from God the Father--out of love for us.

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Next, we will look at the Apostle Paul, who was an unwilling convert to Christianity.

 

The person we know as Apostle Paul (his Roman name) was known as Saul (his Hebrew name), and was a devout Jew around the time of Jesus' sojourn on earth. Saul was a persecutor of the Christians until Jesus appeared to him from heaven and commissioned him to become an apostle of God to the non-Jews.

Of all the early followers of Jesus, Paul was probably the one with the best training in the Hebrew Scriptures. He was educated in Jerusalem as a Pharisee--the strictest sect of Judaism at the time--and constantly quotes the Hebrew bible as authoritative in his New Testament letters.

Paul traveled extensively under the direction of the Risen Jesus, and wrote letters of divine instruction to the groups who became followers of Jesus in all the countries he visited and witnessed to.

In his letters, Paul consistently reminds them that following laws and rules--even those given by God in the Hebrew bible--are not able to make one right with God. In fact, these divine laws clear show us that we cannot obey them perfectly, and that we are guilty and in need of God’s forgiveness.

He points out that the message of Jesus was that God was the One who provided a special way for humans to receive forgiveness of sins, and further teaches that only by accepting God's message of the Good News ('gospel') of forgiveness by faith, can one even begin to submit to God's laws of love. Our bodies--as we know in every religious tradition--somehow betray us, and seem to weaken and subvert our ability (and even our willingness, in many cases) to obey and please God.

Paul calls this part of us the 'natural man'--the part containing what Islam calls the 'evil seed or touch' and Judaism calls the 'yetzer ha-ra''—and Islamic tradition agrees with the Christian tradition that every human (including Muhammad, Moses, and the Prophets) had this evil taint—with the exception of Jesus. Only Jesus—according to Christianity and Islam—lived without its influence and lived without sin (and without, obviously, the need for forgiveness of sin).

Paul learned and understood that the Messiah of God came to earth specifically to ‘become guilty as our substitute before God’; so that we could be freed from the penalty we deserve and could gain spiritual power to begin to love and obey God. As we saw in the part about Jesus’ own teachings, Jesus came to carry the sins of all of us upon Himself, to absorb the punishment and wrath of God (on the Cross) that we all deserve.

Paul consistently repeated the message that the Lord Jesus gave us during his last night on earth—that Jesus would be a ransom-substitute for believers, and that Jesus would be a perfect sacrifice to bridge us to God the Father for forgiveness of sins.

The concept of ransom/redemption is common in most cultures, and as a legal and military practice is mentioned in the Quran at numerous places, such as the ransoming of captives of war (e.g. 47.4; 2.85) or divorce (2.229). Even the notion of a 'religious redemption' is present in the Quran (even though it is not God who does the redeeming), with the concept of being 'redeemed' or 'released' [Arabic fidyah] from one religious obligation by the 'payment' of performance of some other religious good deed (e.g. 2.184, 2.196).

Although it is not a central or common theme, the idea of ransom by God can be found also in Islamic theology, with the concept illustrated in the Quran with the ransom of Abraham’s son in 37:100-111:

"'Lord, grant me a righteous son,' so We gave him the good news that he would have a patient son. When the boy was old enough to work with his father, Abraham said, 'My son, I have seen myself sacrificing you in a dream. What do you thing?' He said, 'Father, do as you are commanded and, God willing, you will find me steadfast.' When they had both submitted to God, and he had laid his son down on his face, We called out to him, 'Abraham, you have fulfilled the dream.' This is how We reward those who do good--it was a test to prove [their true characters]--We ransomed his son with a momentous sacrifice, and We let him be praised by succeeding generations: 'Peace be upon Abraham!' This is how We reward those who do good: truly he was one of Our faithful servants." [Abdel Haleem, trans.]

The ransom aspect of the story is explained in more detail in the Hebrew Bible, where it is clear that it is God who provided the substitute--only God can provide a ransom:

After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. 7 And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here am I, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together. When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.” And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” [Ge 22:1-18; ESV]

 

But both the Quran (5.35) and the Hebrew bible (Psalm 49.7-8) are quite clear that no mere human has the ability and authority to ransom himself or another from death—only God can provide and authorize a way to escape the penalty of death, whether by sacrifice or ransom or other means.

Jesus and His companions and followers taught that God had provided Jesus Himself as a ransom, as a substitute, as a sacrifice---and that God would ONLY accept this means for forgiveness of sins and a new relationship between us and God.

Here are some of the passages from Paul’s writings, teaching the things that Jesus taught about Himself.


First, Jesus as a God-given, God-appointed, and God-accepted ransom-substitute for us, taking the penalty and curse for disobedience of God’s law for us—so we would not have to bear that curse ourselves:

There is one God and one mediator so that human beings can reach God. That way is through Christ Jesus, who is himself human. 6 He gave himself as a payment (ransom) to free all people. [1 Timothy 2.6; The Everyday Bible : New Century Version]

He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom (ransomed us) with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. [Ephesians 1.7; NLT]

Christ took away the curse the law put on us. He changed places with us and put himself under that curse. It is written in the Scriptures, “Anyone whose body is displayed on a tree  is cursed.” [Gal 3.13; The Everyday Bible : New Century Version. ]

That is the way we should live, because God’s grace that can save everyone has come. 12 It teaches us not to live against God nor to do the evil things the world wants to do. Instead, that grace teaches us to live in the present age in a wise and right way and in a way that shows we serve God. 13 We should live like that while we wait for our great hope and the coming of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. 14 He gave himself for us so he might pay the price to free us(ransomed us) from all evil and to make us pure people who belong only to him—people who are always wanting to do good deeds. [Titus 2.11-14; The Everyday Bible : New Century Version]

 

Second, the passages which speak more about Jesus as a sacrifice for us, with His shed blood being accepted by God for our forgiveness and for a new relationship with God.

For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.  [2 Co 5:21; NLT]

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. [Eph 5.1-2; TNIV]

God makes people right with himself through their faith in Jesus Christ. This is true for all who believe in Christ, because all people are the same: 23 Everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s glorious standard, 24 and all need to be made right with God by his grace, which is a free gift. They need to be made free from sin through Jesus Christ. 25 God sent him to die in our place to take away our sins. We receive forgiveness through faith in the blood of Jesus’ death. This showed that God always does what is right and fair, as in the past when he was patient and did not punish people for their sins. [Rom 3.22-25; The Everyday Bible : New Century Version]

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So, the three main apostles of Jesus in the early church--Peter, John, and Paul--confirm the words of Jesus, as they taught about what the death of Christ on the cross accomplished for us.

Jesus’ followers and disciples were uniform and faithful to the teaching of their Messiah and Lord. They learned from Him that people need more than just guidance and instruction in how to please God—they need rescuing, ransoming, and saving from the penalty of our moral failures, sin, and lack of godliness.


As such, they join the voices of the Angels and prophets that Jesus was more than just a teacher and apostle of God (though He was that), more than the Light of the World (though He was that), and more than a prophet (though He was that)—He was also a Savior, a Redeemer, and a Rescuer. He did all these things through His powerful, foretold, and deliberate death on the cross, as our substitute. And He did all these things so we could receive both forgiveness of sins and the power to live in obedience to the law of God and the commandments of love from Him.

Angels proclaimed this at the time of His birth:

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. His mother Mary was engaged  to marry Joseph, but before they married, she learned she was pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Mary’s husband, Joseph, was a good man, he did not want to disgrace her in public, so he planned to divorce her secretly. 20 While Joseph thought about these things, an angel of the Lord came to him in a dream. The angel said, “Joseph, descendant of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the baby in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. [Mat 1.18-21; The Everyday Bible : New Century Version]

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! [Luke 2.8-11; NLT]

 

And prophecies announced this about him during His earthly ministry

Then his (John the Baptist) father, Zechariah, was filled with the Holy Spirit and gave this prophecy: “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and redeemed his people.  He has sent us a mighty Savior from the royal line of his servant David, just as he promised through his holy prophets long ago. [Luke 1.67-70; NLT]

The next day John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!  [John 1.39; NLT]

 

We can see now that the role of the Messiah was one of both teaching about God the Father, and about fulfilling the Father's will to reach us with His love and forgiveness. The Messiah Jesus was the means to our ransom from captivity to the penalty of sin. We had been captured by sin and death (by our disobedience), and as such were legitimate targets for the just punishment of our God. But Jesus--in keeping with the prophecies which went before Him, and in obedience to the will of God--offered Himself up as a substitute, a sacrifice, a ransom (like the ram in the story of Abraham) for us. His love for the Father and for us led Him to the death on the cross, and the Father exalted Him by raising Him from the dead. Forgiveness and salvation are the work of God, not of us imperfect and often-disobedient humans. God deserves all the credit for our redemption, since He is the One who took action.

Jesus taught that He provided for our salvation by taking our punishment on the Cross, and His apostles spread that good news throughout the world.

In the next and final part of this series, we will look at how we should respond to Jesus' teachings about the purpose of His death. How do we submit to God's instructions about trusting His provision for our sin?



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