We've seen the facts, now we need to understand the implications behind them. We need to comprehend the significance of Christ's crucifixion.
If Jesus is exactly who He said He was, then everything He said is truth. Our entire future depends on whether we believe that. And whether we are going to believe what He taught, whether we are going to obey Him and follow in His steps in every respect, will depend on whether we are convicted on this issue.
"We speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began" (1 Corinthians 2:7, NIV).
The real story of Christ's life, death, resurrection and future return is too momentous for us to dismiss.
Of course, it was planned this way so that we would sit up and take notice! No matter how long after the event, it was meant to have an impact on every one of us.
We face an issue here that should affect us all on the deepest level. In the story of Jesus Christ we have something unheard of in all the history of man and religion: The very Creator God comes to earth as a human being. He relinquishes the privileges and power He had in His past self-existence, puts His life and His entire future existence into the hands of the Father, is born into a family within an occupied nation to live a life that totally reveals God, and then dies for us.
Jesus, the revelation of God
Jesus said, "All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him" (Matthew 11:27, NRSV). Jesus is claiming to be the sole Revealer of God. Jesus declared, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). Paul writes that "He is the image of the invisible God" (Colossians 1:15).
Hebrews 1:1-3 says that "God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son...[who] is the reflection of God's glory and the exact imprint of God's very being" (Hebrews 1:1-3, NRSV).
This tells us that long ago God revealed His will through men whom He used to speak for Him, but now He is revealing Himself and His will through Jesus, whom He sent from His very throne in heaven.
"All things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you," said Jesus (John 15:15). But not only did He speak God's will, He came to earth and lived it under the most trying circumstances in witness to all humanity.
The glory of God, the truth of God and God Himself were revealed to every human being in the person of Jesus Christ. For as Jesus said, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father..." (John 14:9).
Jesus represented the Father perfectly. When you saw Jesus, you saw reflected in Him the love and perfect, righteous character of God. Throughout Christ's ministry in the flesh, the total and enduring love of God for mankind came shining through.
God's revelation versus other religions
Ravi Zacharias, in his book Jesus Among Other Gods, gives insight into the differences between Jesus and founders of other world religions: "At the heart of every major religion is a leading exponent. As the exposition is studied, something very significant emerges. There comes a bifurcation, or a distinction, between the person and the teaching—Mohammed, to the Koran. Buddha, to the Noble Path. Krishna, to his philosophizing. Zoroaster, to his ethics.
"Whatever we may make of their claims, one reality is inescapable. They are teachers who point to their teaching or show some particular way. In all of these, there emerges an instruction, a way of living...it is Zoroaster to whom you listen. It is not Buddha who delivers you; it is his Noble Truths that instruct you. It is not Mohammed who transforms you; it is the beauty of the Koran that woos you.
"By contrast, Jesus did not only teach or expound His message. He was identical with His message...He did not just proclaim the truth. He said, 'I am the truth.' He did not just show a way. He said, 'I am the way.' He did not just open up vistas. He said, 'I am the door.' 'I am the Good Shepherd.' 'I am the resurrection and the life.' 'I am the I AM'" (2000, p. 89).
Jesus did not offer bread to nourish the soul, He said He is the Bread. Jesus wasn't just a teacher of a superior ethic, He was the Way. Jesus didn't just promise eternal life, He said, "I am the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25).
What becomes clear is that only Jesus is the true Revealer of the true God. There could be no escaping what people saw. God revealed Himself in such a manner that there is no easy way out for any of us. We have to face it squarely—that Jesus was who He said He was and had been sent here by His Father.
There is no such thing as "many roads that lead to God." Jesus declared: "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6). That is why Peter could courageously proclaim: "There is no salvation through anyone else; in all the world no other name has been granted to mankind by which we can be saved" (Acts 4:12, REB).
God's purpose from the beginning
God's plan for "bringing many sons to glory" (Hebrews 2:10) includes the reconciling of humanity to Himself through Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). Why do we need that reconciliation? Isaiah 59:1-2 tells us: "Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear" (NIV).
Our sins have cut us off from God. Paul speaks of us as enemies in need of reconciliation with Him—a reconciliation that comes through Jesus Christ's sacrifice. "While we were enemies, we were reconciled
to God through the death of his Son" (Romans 5:10, NRSV).
Peter says this death "was foreordained before the foundation of the world" (1 Peter 1:20), and John speaks of Jesus as "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8). The coming of a Messiah to be a saving sacrifice was in the planning from before the beginning of this present world.
Our first human parents Adam and Eve sinned. And all humanity has followed suit. Yet God would erase the enmity in the minds of human beings toward Himself by demonstrating His love toward them all through the only convincing way possible—the very Creator Himself would come to earth and sacrifice His life for them (John 3:16-17).
The dynamic of Christ's sacrifice
God had to ensure that human beings, whom God intended to become children in His divine family (2 Corinthians 6:18), would never turn against Him at any point in the future. (To learn more about this incredible future, request or download a free copy of the booklet What Is Your Destiny?)
Since the first man and woman disobeyed God and chose to follow Satan, how would God ensure this would never happen again? How could God bring them to the point that they would never turn against Him? How would He win their complete trust?
The plan for the Word to become a human being and surrender His life for all humanity would establish God's love without question.
The sacrifice of Christ was not only for the payment of sins, but would forever be a witness to God's love (John 3:16-17). God would have a relationship with His children who would be in the relationship because they wanted to be there. It would be a relationship of complete trust.
It is obvious that the first human beings did not really know their God and their Creator. Just before Jesus was arrested and killed, He emphatically declared to His disciples, "From now on you know Him and have seen Him" (John 14:7).
The statement Jesus made in His final prayer now comes into its own: "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent" (John 17:3). His sacrifice would be the final witness, the ultimate statement, of the love God the Father and Jesus Christ had for mankind. The disciples would soon know God in the most profound way and come to the most profound of realizations. "God is love," is the way the apostle John expressed it (1 John 4:8-16).
A lesson in the greatest love
When you come to know, as the disciples did, the real Jesus and the real story, it makes all the difference in the world.
This demonstration of love was so powerful. Do we grasp it? "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved" (John 3:16-17).
Those who have not experienced love from those who should have given it, namely parents or other family members, often have a difficult time loving others. Without the example of love from others, we would not know love. Love is something that cannot be explained to us; we simply have to experience it firsthand. We don't know how to love until it is shown to us first.
Without experiencing the goodness of others, we have no compelling reason to do what is right. Without experiencing the love of God expressed in the death of Christ, we would have no compelling reason to love others. Without coming to the realization that God died for each of us personally and individually, we could not be convicted of our personal sins to the point we would never want to sin again.
God the Father and Jesus Christ knew just how to go about accomplishing Their plan to bring children into Their divine family—children who would always want to remain in this sacred and loving family relationship. For Jesus—who was the Creator of everything and who had lived for all eternity—to live as a mortal and among mortals and then die for them so that they might have eternal life also, can be nothing less than godlike.
The same is true for the Father, who gave up His eternal companion, closer to Him than any human relationship can approach, and allowed Jesus to go through the suffering He did for the sake of all humanity. For both, the sacrifice is unimaginable.
It is unheard of in human experience. Human goodness does not come close. As Paul wrote in Romans 5:7-8: "Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us" (NRSV).
Paul concludes that Christ is "the wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1:24) and that the idea of "Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2) is "the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages" (1 Corinthians 2:7). God's plan provides a way for our sins to be forgiven, but is also designed so we would not choose the way of sin ever again.
God knew how to solve the problem of sin and predetermined His purpose before the first man ever drew breath.