Jesus knew His mission. 1st Peter 1:20 says, "For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared [a]in these last times for the sake of you". God knew before the foundation of the world what His mission was going to be. Before He said, "let their be light" the God-head said, "let us send Jesus to die for their sins". Why?!?! Because God loves lost people. Before their was this universe, when God was dwelling with Himself in eternity, Jesus agreed to come to the world to seek and save that which was lost (Luke 19:10). The Holy Spirit agreed to dwell with Christians after the resurrection to lead & guide them. The Father agreed to rule providentially from heaven to shape world history so that the mission could be accomplished.
Jesus protected His mission. I could write a series of blogs on this but I just want to give you two in this post.
- Jesus had to die in a certain way (John 12:27-33). He could not be stabbed, thrown off a cliff (Lk 4:29), or stoned (Jn 10:31). If that happened God's mission would have failed. Jesus had to die by crucifixion. The Law said that anyone who hangs on a tree is cursed by God (Deut 21:23). The whole mission was for Jesus to come and take the curse of the Law in our place. Therefore, Jesus made sure that he died by crucifixion.
- Jesus had to die on a certain day (Mt 26:18). We get this little nuanced word in the Gospels (time, hour). It refers to the appointed time when Jesus has to die. He couldn't just die on a Tuesday or at the Feast of Booths. He had to die at Passover, on the day they were killing the lambs (14th of Nisan). God loves a good picture. He has set up a lot of physical things in the Old Testament to represent spiritual realities in the New Testament. Jesus was fulfilling the Passover Feast by becoming our Passover Lamb (1st Cor 5:7). So Jesus expertly managed the last phase of his ministry so that he wasn't crucified on the wrong day. He made sure, by many ways I don't have time to share today, that He was killed on what we call "Good Friday"; the day the Passover Lambs were being sacrificed.
Jesus paid the ultimate price to fulfill God's mission. Let's take a look at the 7 statements of the Cross and see how they can apply to our mission.
- "Father forgive them" (Lk 23:34). It's 9 am (Mk 15:25) and they are nailing Him to the Cross. The soldiers are gambling for his clothes and our Lord asked the Father to forgive them. As a Christian are we willing to forgive people even when they are gaining from our loss?
- "Today you will be with me in Paradise" (Lk 23:43). He has a criminal on his right and left. Both are insulting Him (Mk 15:29-32). Yet something happens and one of the criminals decides to repent. He realizes he is rightly condemned but Jesus is an innocent man. Our Lord allows this man to receive salvation in the 11th hour. Will we continue to preach Christ even after people mischaracterize our mission? Surely our country is wading through propaganda up to their eyeballs. Most of this is directed at Christianity. Will we continue to offer them the Gospel even after they mischaracterize us?
- "Woman behold your son" (John 19:26-27). This had to be an emotional shot at His heart. Jesus is fully God but also fully man. He has to look at His mother, whose husband is most likely dead by now, knowing that He, as the eldest son, is not going to be able to be there for her as she gets older. But he had to fulfill the mission of God. Are we willing to do what is harder in order to fulfill God's mission? We cannot take the easy road out. Especially not in this culture anymore. Christians must do the dirty work to fulfill God's mission.
- "My God My God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mt 27:46). Don't miss the details. The first three statements happened between 9am-12pm. At Noon darkness engulfed the country (Mt 27:45). Jesus is silent for at least three hours until the very end. Around 3pm he utters his last 4 statements. At this point he is, for the first time in his eternal existence, feeling what it is like to be separated from God. No words can compare what that was like for we are not God. But the iniquity of us all was being laid on Him (Isa 53:6). He was being reckoned the penalty of our sin, on our behalf, so that we could be declared the righteousness of God (2nd Cor 5:21).
- "I thirst" (Jn 19:28). This may seem like a minor detail or just a note that Jesus was thirsty. But don't miss that He is still fulfilling the Scriptures. The last statement was a quote from Psalm 22 & so is this one. Jesus is letting us know He has in mind the whole Psalm. The beauty of the Psalm is that even though the Psalmist, at first, feels forsake, He rests in the Lord that he has been heard (Psalm 22:24).
- "It is finished" (Jn 19:30). Mission accomplished! This is actually a business term. It means to pay off a debt fully. We can imagine that the Jews were only paying on the interest by their animal sacrifices. But Jesus paid the full principle when He died on the Cross. This is why he came. To pay our sin debt so that God could love sinners by offering them a way to escape His wrath. We need to let the world know they don't have to be good enough to get to Heaven for God has paid their debt for them. We can teach the Catholics why purgatory is a made up doctrine from Hell. Jesus paid it all. When I die I don't have to go to a waiting place to be purged of evil. Jesus has paid my debt fully.
- "Father into your hands I commit my spirit" (Lk 23:46). Notice the bookends. His first statement begins with father and His last statement begins with father. The intimacy is restored. He is resting in the fact that His God has heard him (Psalm 22:24). Will we commit our life plans to the Lord? Will we commit the Church's plans to the Lord? This is the only way we can accomplish a life worth living