In the 6th Century a monk by the name of Dionysius Exiguus suggested that the calendar be reworked from the existing Roman model to a model based around the birth of Jesus Christ.
1500 years on and still the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus comprise the pivotal period of history upon which everything else hangs.
Because the Jesus’ death and resurrection took place in time and space, and is recorded in history, we can look at it and enquire of it.
It’s one thing to agree that the Resurrection happened; it’s another to believe in the risen Jesus as Lord and Saviour. To understand the implications of the historical events of the Cross, we need to understand what the mission was.
And this indeed was a mission. The cross, far from being an unexpected catastrophic event – what the disciples mistook for what was happening – was foreknown. Indeed, the origins of the Cross go back before the origins of the world.
Jesus’ Mission Was Pre-Set
The Biblical account of the creation of the world (Genesis 1) is quickly followed by the first humans getting things wrong (Genesis 3), introducing sin and decay to the world and everyone and everything in it.
Put simply, God created a perfect world and we messed things up.
Sin affects everything. It is no small problem; it is the underlying affliction that is the root of all that is wrong in the world today. It robs everything of its beauty because it sets the human heart as “hostile toward God” (Romans 8:7). It is a divorce of monumental proportions.
Where Adam and Eve first deviated, every human heart has since followed suit: we’ve chosen ourselves before God. We’ve made something other than God to be God. We’ve “missed the mark” and introduced aberration, which has poisoned everything.
We might think that at this point God reverts to Plan B: enter Jesus. But the Bible tells us a different story. It says that Jesus was “foreknown before the foundations of the world” (1 Peter 1:17-21). This is remarkable. Before God created the world he knew that things would go wrong, and he knew that he himself would put things right, at unimaginable cost.
And the intrigue builds as we are told that not only was Jesus’ plan foreknown, but we too were known before the beginning of time. The Bible does not tell us that we are simply a random collection of molecules, the product of blind chance. It says that God “chose us” before the beginning of the world (Ephesians 1:3-10).
You and me, we were known by God, chosen by God, and before we had taken our first breath God had already enacted an outrageous plan in love to rescue us. This was the way that God planned it from the very beginning! In love he created us, and in love he came to rescue us.
The story of the age is that we are basically good people that get things wrong from time to time.
The story of the Bible is that we are more depraved than we can possibly fathom, yet we are more loved and more valuable than we can possibly imagine.
Jesus Knew His Mission
The Good News continues when we learn that as a man Jesus knew of his mission on earth. In John 2:19 Jesus prophesies his own death and resurrection when he tells the Jews, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
Whilst the Jews were thinking he meant the temple building at the time, they later understood he meant physical resurrection of himself as Matthew records in his gospel:
“The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.”
God from the foundations of the world knew of the cross. Jesus from the beginning of his ministry knew of his mission on earth.
Jesus Died For Us
The ultimate problem with sin is that it comes with a cost. It separates us from God, it incurs a debt, and it results in death.
The ultimate problem for humanity is that it has no way of dealing with this cost. What power do we have over death? How can a now imperfect person return him or herself to perfection, paying off their debt? How can we find our way back to God?
The pattern of the religions of the world goes something like this: live a good life, doing the right things, and you will have eternal bliss.
The message of the Bible is: only perfect people go to Heaven. That leaves us with a problem. There are two types of people on this earth: the imperfect, and those who claim to be perfect (thus displaying for all their imperfection!).
Jesus Christ was God, come to earth, in all of his perfection. The Bible says that he was the only one to live a perfect life.
When the Romans were nailing Jesus to the cross they were unaware of what they were doing. They thought they were executing just another man. What they were doing was killing the only perfect man to ever have lived. The only man who could have ever escaped death on his own.
Jesus’ voluntarily died on the cross and in doing so gave to us his righteousness. Not that we asked him to; he chose to do this in love for us. As the Bible says,
“but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
On that cross Jesus absorbed all of our sin. Martin Luther called this the ‘Great Exchange’ – his righteousness for our sinfulness.
At once, the separation between humanity and God was removed. At this point in history, the Bible records that the heavy curtain used to separate the Holy of Holies (where the presence of God resided) in the temple was torn in two, signifying that access to God had now been restored (Matthew 27:41).
God came to earth to restore and redeem his own. We, who were known before the foundation of the world, were rescued by God by the greatest act of love the Universe has ever witnessed or ever will witness.
Once, For All
“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,” (1 Peter 3:18, ESV)
Flogged. Mocked. Abused and hung upon a tree to die. Jesus, God himself, made good the world. He bought us back at tremendous price.
Death could not contain the creator of the world! In dying on the cross Jesus took away the sin of the world; in rising again Jesus broke the power of death.
For the Christian death is not the end of this world. Our lives have been secured by Jesus’ sacrifice and as this world and our physical bodies are passing away, we know that our souls are secure.
Having faith in Jesus Christ means accepting all that he said about himself, all that he said about us, and all that he did for us. It is realising that our individual stories are caught up in his ultimate story. When we come to see all that he’s done for us, the only proper response is to make him Lord and Saviour of our lives.