Death of Jesus, The
The Apostles’ interpretation of the death of Jesus forms the basis of today’s Christianity. The washing away of our sins by the Blood of Jesus is one of the cornerstones of the Christian faith. What is the attitude however, of the Saviour to His death? To find this out, we can do nothing more than examine His Words to discover what He really thought and what His reactions were. It is not enough just to accept popular opinions which is nothing but indolence, and it is this indolence which has been the bane of humanity for so long, especially when it comes to spiritual matters. If we are Christians, an expression which signifies the follower of Jesus, then we need do nothing more than to examine His Words with an open heart and without fear.
In order for us to be able to understand these matters, we must take the Perfection of God into consideration, this must be continually stressed and must be the basis for our examination. There must be a yardstick with which we can measure and base our investigations. This yardstick are the attributes of Justice, Perfection and Love which are inseparable Qualities of the Most High. These Qualities of God must be used at all times in all our investigations, otherwise we will never be able to make an end of them. We will go around in circles without being able to draw any conclusions because we fail to take into consideration the most important facts of life and existence.
The Perfection and Justice of God can be observed around us everyday if we want to see, and these happenings testify to His Greatness. If we acknowledge that the Creator has these Qualities, then it is clear that under no circumstances would these Qualities of His change, not even in the minutest degree. Perfection bears within it the quality of immutability. It cannot be changed or improved upon or perhaps shifted. It is a Quality which already embraces and takes into consideration all happenings in the world from the beginning to the end of all time; and as such every new manifestation of Perfection can only bear within it this quality of comprehensiveness and just because of this, everything right from the beginning of Creation is already taken into consideration and fulfilled.
Everything is provided for and no new laws need be introduced in order to accommodate a particular happening. A difference indeed can be seen in relation to our own earthly laws when suddenly we are confronted with a new situation which we had never bargained for and we then have to seek to introduce new laws to deal with this new situation. In this, we show our imperfection because from the very beginning we fail to take everything into consideration and thus providing for these situations with our laws beforehand. This ability God possesses, and there is nothing in Creation, no happening in Creation, that is not already taken care of, that is, taken consideration of in His Laws. There is nothing new that is not already understood and contained by His Laws.
Having said this it is clear that the Coming of the Messiah can only take place in the natural order of things, can only occur within the frameworks of the Laws, which from the beginning of Creation He has placed to be the guardians of the order. With the impending Coming of Jesus, there would be no need for Him to change any of the Laws. Jesus Himself confirmed this when He said that He had not come to overthrow the Laws but to fulfil them. His growth, His conduct in life and everything that He did testified to this naturalness of the Laws. He said He had come to fulfil the Laws, not perhaps the laws of the scribes or perhaps the prophecies concerning His death, as many would like to interpret this, but He meant that He had come to live in accordance with the Will of God which manifest themselves in the natural Laws of Creation. The facts that He thirsted, hungered and tired all testify to these facts. He who has a physical body must feel all these needs of the physical body and Jesus was no exception. That is the Law that God has placed in His Creation. He was nailed to the Cross; He did not come down from the Cross. This shows the impossibility of such a happening. Such a happening would have been contrary to the Laws of God and to what He said about coming to fulfil but not overthrow the Laws. The Devil tempted Him, ‘turn stones into bread, jump down from the heights, worship me’. One must realise that the Adversary meant only harm to the Mission of Jesus, wanted Him to fail in His Mission and as such was trying to goad Him on to doing things which must prove impossible for Jesus, and which consequently would deal a heavy blow to His Mission at the very start.
If Jesus had jumped from the height, of course He would have been killed or gravely injured and consequently would not have accomplished anything and that would have been a victory for the darkness and if He had tried and failed to convert stones to bread, an event impossible in any case, people would have refused to take Him seriously right from the very start, thereby dealing a very serious blow to our redemption in Jesus’ Message. Of course if these things were possible for Jesus and He did them, He would have become more popular among the people and would have more easily gained adherents to His teachings, and the Adversary would have been a tool to the success of Jesus. Of course this cannot be the case as the Adversary never wanted Jesus to succeed and knowing the Laws himself, wanted to tempt Jesus into doing things that would prove impossible for Him, thereby severely discrediting Him in the eyes of the people. This is why this event was called a temptation. The Adversary was tempting Jesus to do things, which were bound to fail, and which in the end would make the Mission of Jesus very difficult indeed.
Having these manifestations of the Perfection of God in mind which always follows straight lines, it is clear that His Birth, His Growth and Development, even His Death could only have followed the most natural course. That these followed the natural course, indeed testifies to the immutability of the Laws of God.
It is often asserted in some places that God solely sent His Son to this earth to suffer death on the cross and through this death our sins have been washed away. Now this teaching goes against every single Attribute of God. It goes against Love, Justice, Perfection and Naturalness. This teaching could not have come from God because it goes against His Qualities and Attributes. If God is Mercy and Love, how could He have sent anybody, be it even a Part of Himself to come to earth just to suffer and die and in the process carry on His shoulders, sins, which He had not committed. Every single Word of Jesus speaks against this. Jesus said in Matthew 7. 9-12 that ‘What man of you, if his son asks him for bread would give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father Who is in Heaven give good things to those who ask Him.’ If we who have been adjudged evil can give good things to our children, how much more God. This testifies to His Goodness, His Benevolence and Mercy. These are Qualities which would never allow Him to do the things that we attribute to Him in terms of being capable of sending someone who had not sinned just to come and die without further ado. This goes against Love, Mercy and Goodness, which are inherent, inseparable Qualities of the Creator. The fact that it goes against every sense of Justice, which is another Quality of God can be seen when Jesus said ‘whatever a man sows that shall he reap.’ How then could Jesus, Who had already said this now suddenly be carrying our burden of guilt on His shoulders, when He had already declared that we were the ones to reap whatever it is that we have sown in the way of our deeds. Why did Jesus spend so much time teaching and preaching? Why did He always stress the importance of good deeds and changing our ways; and that the only way to Salvation is an acceptance of His Teaching. In so many places in the Bible, He stressed that only an acceptance and adjustment to His Teaching hold the possibility of Salvation for anyone.
Where then did these teachings of a sacrificial death that would take away the sins of men come from? Whereas, in clear words Jesus had pointed out the way in His Words. ‘Not all those who say ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but those who do the will of my Father…’ (Matthew 7:21) or ‘everyone who hears these words and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock…'(Matthew 7:24). Nowhere will we find references being made to the sacrificial washing away of our sins with His Blood. ‘For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 5:20). Or ‘You therefore must be perfect like your heavenly Father is Perfect’ (Matthew 5:48). Where is the room for a sacrificial death washing away of sins. ‘For I tell you on the day of Judgement men will render account for every careless word they utter’ (Matthew 12:36). Nowhere will we find it being mentioned by Jesus that His Blood would automatically wash away sins without further ado just by believing in the Saviour but not living His Word.
His death was nothing but a consequence of the hatred and envy of the religious authorities, which used the earthly powers in their hands to kill Him. The majority of the people also supported the priests in this; otherwise it would have been very difficult to do so. He could not be arrested initially because of the support He had among the people. Clear proof of all these can be seen in the Bible. Despite the threat of death against Him, He courageously faced it for the sake of the Teaching He brought. If He had fled, His Teaching would gradually have faded away and nothing of it would have been left to posterity. This is where the Sacrifice lies. He died so that we would continue to have His Teachings and as such continue to live accordingly.
The teaching of a sacrificial death could only have come from the Apostles and the early fathers of the Church, who through their lack of understanding for so many things passed this idea on to posterity. ‘…Woe to that man by whom the son of man is betrayed? It would have been better for that man if he had not been born’ (Matthew 26. 24.). A very terrible judgement but why did He say that if He was supposed to offer Himself as a sacrifice for an automatic washing away of sins? Why did He make such a statement? Why did He call it a betrayal? If this death had been willed by God, Jesus would have embraced it joyfully, considering the love He had for mankind; that He did not do so, and that He uttered this statement showed that His death was not in the Will of God. Judas should have been congratulated, not condemned for being an instrument in the Will of God. It would not have been termed a betrayal but a fulfilment. The fact that it was not a fulfilment of the Will of God but a betrayal was attested to by the Words of Jesus Himself in Matthew 26. 21 ‘….truly I say to you, one of you will betray me.’ A betrayal is a betrayal no matter how we look at it and want to interpret it. Jesus prayed that the cup pass from Him because He saw that this suffering awaiting Him was not willed by God, but a result of hatred and envy, which the enemies had against Him. He could never had said such a thing if His death had the approval of God. He would have welcomed it with joy knowing that He was fulfilling His Mission and the purpose of His Coming in such a way. This death, which He faced courageously, guaranteed the continuation of His Message and if we continued to adhere to it would lead to forgiveness of our sins because we would have done the Will of His Father. He said in Matthew 26. 28 ‘Drink of it all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured for many for the forgiveness of sins.’ He was prepared to shed His Blood so that we could continue to have His Teachings and through adherence to them lead to the forgiveness of our sins.
In the Revelation of John, it is said in chapter 7. 13-14, we read ‘….who are these clothed in white robes and whence have they come? These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’ The Word of Jesus had been stained by His Blood. It is so because this Word could only be passed on to posterity through this shedding of His Blood, because as was mentioned earlier if He had fled, His Teachings would have gradually been forgotten and nothing of it would have remained. But the mere fact that He had to shed His Blood was nothing but the consequence of the threats made against Him by His enemies. If He had been given a free hand to teach and if He had been accepted, His Word of course, would have stood the test of time; but it must be seen to be a last trump card played by the darkness. It was another temptation by the Adversary to see whether Jesus, at the threat of physical death would waver and refuse to stand by His claims to be the Son of God. One of the principal evidences used against Him and the excuse used to murder Him was the fact that He claimed to be the Son of God. In Matthew 26. 63-66 we read ‘And the high priest said to Him, ‘I adjure you by the Living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.’ Jesus said to Him, ‘you have said so…..’ The high priest tore his robes and said ‘He has uttered blasphemy, why do you still need witnesses. You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgement.’ They answered ‘He deserves death….’
If Jesus at this very important moment had denied the fact that He was the Son of God, He would not have been killed, but at the same time news would have gone round and all His Works would have been discredited and the tempter would have gained a victory thereby dealing a serious blow to the Work of Redemption. None of us would have had anything to cling to in his beliefs and no matter what Jesus said in future; He would not have been taken seriously because everything hung on this very fact of Him being the Son of God. All our convictions too, laid on this very fact, this recognition that He was the Son of God. Everything depended on it. To deny it would have been to remove the very basis of our Salvation through belief in the Words of Him Who has come directly from God. This, the Adversary knew and tried to use against Him. The Work of Redemption laid on this ultimate recognition of the Origin of the Bringer of Truth. All the Works He did, His Words, pointed to the fact that He was descended directly from God and then to have denied this when He was threatened with earthly death would completely have destroyed all that He had already accomplished in the souls of men. This, the Adversary used against Him to see whether He would waver and deny His Origin and His Words in order to save Himself from physical suffering and death. If He had denied His Origin, His Teaching would soon have been discarded because His reputation would have been irretrievably damaged and there would have been no way He could have continued to work among the people. With His standing firm on His Word however, He vanquished and overcame the strongest temptation from the darkness, because to have done otherwise would have labelled Him as someone unreliably in His Word, Who would say one thing to the people and another to the high priests whenever He was questioned by these.
Jesus’ Words on the Cross also reflected what His opinion was about the Crucifixion. ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’ is a clear statement asking the Creator to forgive this our sin, this murder. If it was not a sin, He would never have asked God to forgive us. It was a prayer of intercession on our behalf. This is one of the most important statements by Jesus which pointed to the fact that His death on the Cross was not willed by God, but simply a wicked act committed by those who allowed themselves to be used as executioners by the Adversary. If this death had been willed by God, then it would not have been a sin requiring a prayer of intercession by Jesus. Why the darkness over Golgotha? Why the upheavals in Nature? The earthquakes, and so on, which were nothing more than expressions of anger by the nature beings at this heinous crime committed by mankind against the Innocent One.
The attitude of Jesus to the fate of the various prophets of Israel can be read in Matthew 23. 29-34 “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monument of the righteous, saying: ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in the shedding of the blood of the prophets.’ Thus, you witness against yourselves that you are the sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up them, the measures of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how can you escape being sentenced to hell?” A round condemnation indeed of this ever recurring process of persecution of the prophets with Jesus Himself not faring better. The consequences of such deeds are already implicit in the statement when He asked ‘…how can you escape being sentenced to hell? And in verse 37-38 He said ‘O Jerusalem, O Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you!….Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate.’ So from His Words, the conclusion can be drawn that Jesus suffered the same fate as the long chain of human prophets before Him, which indeed was the risk He ran when He came to bring the Word to mankind. In spite of this however, He still came to give the urgently needed Message.