Why He Died

Tuesday, March 26, 2015, 9:30 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Above All.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read John 11 (quoting vv. 45-53 ESV).

In Context

There was a man named Lazarus who had two sisters, who were named Mary and Martha. Lazarus was ill, so the sisters sent for Jesus. Yet, Jesus, knowing what the outcome of this illness would be, spent two more days in the place where he was. Then, Jesus told his disciples that they were going to go to Judea again. The disciples were concerned over the threats against Jesus’ life which had previously taken place there, but Jesus responded to them with words of encouragement. And, then he told them that Lazarus had died.

When Jesus arrived at Lazarus’ home, he found that he had been in the tomb four days. Jesus comforted Mary and Martha. He told Martha that Lazarus would rise again. When Jesus came to the tomb where Lazarus lay, he gave instructions for the stone to be removed from the opening to the cave. Jesus prayed to the Father and then he said, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out. Jesus had raised him from the dead.

They Were Threatened (vv. 45-48)

Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”

Time and time again Jesus performed miracle after miracle, and yet so many of the Jews refused to believe in him, and, in fact, wanted him dead. Why did they hate him so much? Why were they so anxious to see him put to death? He healed the afflicted, cast out demons, comforted the sorrowful, spoke words of hope and healing, and raised the dead. What could be so wrong with that? Their hatred of him doesn’t seem logical. And yet I find several reasons that so many Jews and their leaders hated Jesus and wanted him dead.

Reason #1: They were jealous of him and his popularity (See: Matt. 27:18; Jn. 11:48).

Reason #2: He served as a threat to their own positions of power (See: Jn. 11:48).

Reason #3: They didn’t like him because he told them the truth about their sins.

Reason #4: They didn’t like him because he didn’t follow all their rules.

Reason #5: They didn’t like him because he claimed to be God (See: Jn. 10:33).

Better For You (vv. 49-53)

But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.

These Jews were oblivious to what they were really doing or to what they were truly saying, for their eyes were blinded to the truth due to their hardened, sinful and unbelieving hearts. It sounds as though they took this prophecy as an encouragement to put Jesus to death in order to save their own skins, and to preserve the political power of their own nation, only they didn’t get what Caiaphas was really saying. They were thinking in terms of removing their competition so that he no longer stood as a threat to their positions of power and to the continuance of their nation. Yet the prophecy was speaking in spiritual terms of Jesus Christ as their Savior from sin and their hope of salvation and restoration with their God.

Jesus Christ was and is their promised Messiah, but so many of the Jews and the Jewish leaders refused to believe in him. He was and is the one spoken about in the Prophets. He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. He was crucified on a cross, not because he was a criminal, but because this was God’s plan of salvation for his people and for the people of the world. When Jesus died, our sins died with him, and when he rose from the grave, he rose triumphant over sin, death, hell and Satan. He did so that we might be set free of the curse of sin, which is eternal damnation, be set free of the control of sin over our lives, and so we could now walk in the power of the Spirit and no longer according to the sinful cravings of our flesh. Amen!

Our Salvation

So, how can we be saved? Jesus said that if anyone would come after him, he must deny his self-life, die daily to sin and self, and follow (obey) him (See: Lu. 9:23-25). Paul repeated similar words when he said that the way we come to know Christ is we need to put off our old self, be renewed in the spirit of our minds, and we need to put on the new self, “created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (See: Eph. 4:17-24).

Now some people like to call this works-based salvation, but how can it be if it is what Christ and the apostles taught? So, let’s look further.

Paul also expressed similar thoughts in Romans 6 when he said, “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin” (See: Ro. 6:6-7). And, “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness… For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness” (vv. 17-18, 20).

This is why Jesus died, to free us from slavery to sin so we could walk in his righteousness. He died for us so we would no longer live for ourselves but for him who gave his life up for us (See: 2 Co. 5:15).

In Ro. 8:3b-8 we read, “By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”

What it Means to Believe

This is not about some one-time decision made at an altar and then you die and go to heaven one day. The righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in us “who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” This goes along with what we learned in John 3 and in John 6 -7 about the word “believe.” In many cases, with regard to our salvation, the literal translation of the Greek word, which in English we translate as “believe,” should read “is believing.” In other words, the kind of belief in Jesus that gives us the promise of eternal life with God is a continuous action belief, not a one-time belief.

Yet, we don’t do this in our own flesh, for this is not a work of the flesh. We cannot even come to faith in Jesus Christ unless the Father first draws us to Christ. And, even the faith to believe is a gift from God (see: Eph. 2:8-10). Yet, true faith in Jesus Christ involves death to sin, and it involves no longer walking according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. It is continuous, ongoing and enduring faith which lasts until the end, yet we don’t even endure in our own strength or power. Jesus Christ gives us all that we need to live godly and holy lives, and he empowers and strengthens us through his Spirit who now dwells within us to persevere in our faith and to remain faithful to the end. Some people will call this legalism, but this is what scripture teaches with regard to our salvation.

Jesus Christ gave his life for us, not just so we could go to heaven when we die, but so we would live for him and not for ourselves while we still live on the face of this earth. His grace which brings us salvation teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for his return. He died “to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (See: Tit. 2:11-14; cf. 1 Pet. 2:24-25).

He wasn’t thinking about himself or how he might save his own skin when he died that cruel death on the cross for you and for me. He was thinking about us, and he put our salvation above his own life. So, let’s remember why he died, and let us not take what he did for us for granted. Let us now walk no longer according to our sinful passions and desires, but let us walk in the Spirit, in his power and strength within us, in Christ’s righteousness and holiness, as we yield the control of our lives over to God. Amen!

Above All /Artist: Michael W. Smith

Crucified laid behind the stone
You lived to die rejected and alone
Like a Rose trampled on the ground
You took the fall and thought of me
Above all