“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” 2 Peter 3:18, ESV.
In this single verse, the apostle Peter tells us everything we need to know about the good news of Jesus Christ.
Jesus suffered only once.
He suffered and died for sinners, for persons who did not and do not deserve His sacrifice.
Jesus suffered and died to bring sinners to God ( not God to sinners, by the way ).
And how did Jesus accomplish this miracle?
Jesus brought sinners to God by “being put to death” — in other words, by execution which implies a courtroom, a judge and a sentence of death for guilt. Whose guilt? Not His own for He was and is without sin. The guilt that Jesus was sentenced to death for is mine and yours.
In a world promoting the ‘get what you want and get it now’ attitude, Christ’s attitude is mind-numbing and shocking. Christ “took the nature of a slave” despite being “in the rank of Godhead.” He dispossessed Himself of His rightful station and fashioned Himself as a human being. He allowed Himself to die. Paul calls upon Christians to do the same:
Yours is to be the same mind which Christ Jesus shewed. His nature is, from the first, divine, and yet he did not see, in the rank of Godhead, a prize to be coveted; he dispossessed himself, and took the nature of a slave, fashioned in the likeness of men, and presenting himself to us in human form; and then he lowered his own dignity, accepted an obedience which brought him to death, death on a cross.
Who does this to Jesus? Is it the Romans? Is it Herod? Is it Pilate? Is it the Jews? (we hear this one, don’t we?) Is it me? Or you? Is it Satan? Is it God the Father?
“and all the while it was for our sins he was wounded, it was guilt of ours crushed him down; on him the punishment fell that brought us peace, by his bruises we were healed. Strayed sheep all of us, each following his own path; and God laid on his shoulders our guilt, the guilt of us all.”
Our sins put Jesus on the cross; that’s certain. But God the Father puts the guilt of our sins on His Son. Otherwise, we carry our guilt to the grave and beyond. Jesus’ bruises – the punishment He bears – free us from the same. Rather than anxiety, we gain peace.
Who does this? God the Father.
Do you suppose the Great Physician then decides to let us fall back into guilt? Wallow around it in like pigs? Shame on us if we even attempt to return to our squalor. For we are washed in His Son’s very blood.
Jesus receives a lot of human attention while He heals in valleys and preaches from hilltops; but when He is carried away and nailed to the cross, only a few remain at His feet – most of these are women and of little account themselves.
“Nay, here is one despised, left out of all human reckoning; bowed with misery, and no stranger to weakness; how should we recognize that face? How should we take any account of him, a man so despised? Our weakness, and it was he who carried the weight of it, our miseries, and it was he who bore them. A leper, so we thought of him, a man God had smitten and brought low;”
At this point, Jesus is completely despised and feared by most. He has disappointed many who expected Him to take over the world, literally. Instead, He hangs on a cross and dies a criminal’s death – a death of immense cruelty.
He must be “a leper;” “a man God has smitten and brought low.” He must be of no account, after all. Oh, too bad. How awful. I guess I was a fool to follow him. I’ve got to find a good place to hide. I don’t want to wind up hanging next to him!
“When Jesus, therefore, receives the vinegar, He says, ‘It is finished;’ and He bows His head, and gives up the spirit.”
Jesus dies on the cross, accomplishing payment for the sins of the world. He is buried, visiting hell to remind our adversary he has no power over us.
“Peter, therefore, goes forth, and that other disciple, and comes to the sepulcher. So they run together; and the other disciple does outrun Peter, and comes first to the sepulcher. And he, stooping down and looking in, sees the linen clothes lying; yet goes he not in. Then comes Simon Peter following him, and goes into the sepulcher, and sees the linen clothes lying there, and the cloth, that was about His head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. Then goes in also that other disciple, who came first to the sepulcher, and he sees, and believes. For as yet they know not the scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.” (John 20:3-9, KJV)
He is risen! to achieve glory for Himself and for His children, the sons of God.
Jesus teaches some truths privately. He takes aside His twelve disciples — including Judas the betrayer — to tell them about their trip to Jerusalem. We’re going up there to the city of God so that I can be condemned to death. I’m going to be ‘scorned, and scourged, and crucified.’ But I’m also going to ‘rise again to life’ on the third day. He may even speak an aside in Judas’ direction, This will thwart the plans of Satan, those plans in which you are to be deeply involved very soon.
Imagine the twelve looking at each other. What did Jesus say? What are we doing? Why are we going to Jerusalem? Did Jesus really mean He is going to die? And what else did He say? He’s going to rise again to life?
“And Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and took his twelve disciples in private, and said to them, [And Jesus, ascending up to Jerusalem, took his twelve disciples in private, and said to them,] Lo! we go up to Jerusalem, and man’s Son shall be betaken to princes of priests, and to scribes; and they shall condemn him to death. And they shall betake him to heathen men, for to be scorned, and scourged, and crucified; and the third day he shall rise again to life. [And they shall betake him to heathen men, to be scorned, and scourged, and crucified; and the third day he shall rise again.]”
Then, upon entering the city, the crowds greet them with waving palm branches and shouts of “Hosanna! to the Son of David! Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21: 9, KJV) You can almost hear the disciples, What are we to make of this? These people don’t seem to want Jesus to die? What’s going on?Is our Master mistaken?
These men walk about in a daze, not fully knowing. The next thing Jesus does is clear the temple of money-changers, saying to them, “My house shall be called the house of prayer,but ye have made it a den of thieves.” (Matthew 21:13, KJV) Next He heals the blind and the lame. Then, He tells the chief priests and scribes that God has “perfected praise” in the mouths of infants. (Matthew 21:16, KJV) He laments over Jerusalem, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them who are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matthew 23:37, KJV)
From the moment Jesus enters Jerusalem, He challenges the chief priests, scribes, Pharisees and Sadduces as well as the Herodians. Eventually, the plot to kill Him is fully developed and His statement to His disciples comes to pass. Soon they know.
God is an avenging and jealous Lord; taking vengeance — “fierce in wrath.” Though He “is slow to anger;” He is “great in power” and “never leaves the guilty unpunished.” (Nahum 1:3)
The Lord proclaims, “I kill them with the Words of My mouth. My judgment strikes like lightning. For I desire loyalty and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. But they, like Adam, violate My covenant; there they betray Me.” (Hosea 6:5-7)
“I depart,” says God, “and return to My place until they recognize their guilt and seek My face; they search for Me in their distress.” (Hosea 5:15)
The Lord says, “Seek Me and live!” (Amos 5:4) “Seek good and not evil so that you may live, and the Lord, the God of Hosts, will be with you, as you claim. Hate evil and love good; establish justice.” (Amos 5:14-15)
Then, we repent. “Come,” we say to each other, “let us return to the Lord. For He tears us, and He heals us; He wounds us, and He binds up our wounds. He revives us after two days, and on the third day He raises us up so we live in His presence. Let us strive to know the Lord. His appearance is sure as the dawn. He comes to us like the rain, like the spring showers that water the land.” (Hosea 6:1-3)
His Name is Jesus, and He is “the One who comforts.” (Isaiah 51:12) He is the One who “is pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities, punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds.” (Isaiah 53:5)
By His sacrifice, God’s fierce wrath is satisfied.
“The sin of Judah is recorded with an iron tool, engraved on the tablet of their heart with a point of adamant and carved on the horns of their altars to bear witness against them.” The witness is: “the heart is the most deceitful of all things, desperately sick; who can fathom it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
“In enmity [God] strung His bow; He took His stand like an adversary and with His strong arm He slew all those who had been His delight; He poured His fury out like fire on the tent of the daughter of Zion. The Lord played the enemy’s part and overwhelmed Israel.” (Lamentations 2:4-5)
“Arise and cry aloud in the night; at the beginning of every watch pour out your heart like water in the Lord’s very presence. Lift up your hands to Him for the lives of your children. Look, Lord, and see: who is it that You have thus tormented?” (Lamentations 2:19-20)
Jesus says: “I Am the man who has known affliction, I have felt the rod of His wrath. It was I whom He led away and left to walk in darkness, where no light is. Against Me alone He has turned His hand, and so it is all day long.” (Lamentations 3:1-3) “I have become a laughing-stock to all nations; the target of their mocking songs all day.” (Lamentations 3:14) “Remember, O remember, and stoop down to Me. All this I take to heart and therefore I will wait patiently: the Lord’s true love is surely not spent, nor has His compassion failed; they are new every morning, so great is His constancy. The Lord, I say, is all that I have; therefore I will wait for Him patiently. The Lord is good to those who look for Him, to all who seek Him; it is good to wait in patience and sigh for deliverance by the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:20-26)
God’s people cry: “O Lord, turn us back to Yourself, and we will come back; renew our days as in times long past. For if You have utterly rejected us, then great indeed has been Your anger against us.” (Lamentations 5:21-22)
“Although they broke My covenant, I was patient with them, says the Lord. But this is the covenant I will make with Israel after those days, says the Lord; I will set My law within them and write it on their hearts; I will become their God and they shall become My people.” (Jeremiah 31:32-33) “For I will forgive their wrongdoing and remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34)
“The Lord is a jealous and avenging God… He is furious with His enemies. The Lord is slow to anger but great in power; the Lord will never leave the guilty unpunished.”
And this truth about our God is the reason Jesus is crucified on a cross. God is unwilling to leave the guilty unpunished. He desires to quench His thirst for retribution and justice against the evildoer.
And who is the evildoer? You, me, your neighbor, my neighbor, my child, your child, my parents, your parents, my brother, your brother, my coworkers, your coworkers. And how is it that seemingly good people are called evildoers? Because we fall so short of God, so far from the perfection He expects. In short, we are sinners. Paul reminds us, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
Yet, God provides the way out of darkness. John tells us: “For God so loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world but that the world might be saved through Him. Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is ALREADY condemned, because he has not believed in the Name of the One and Only Son of God.” (John 3: 16-18)
“While we were still enemies, we were reconciled to God.” (Romans 5:10)
God — who leaves no one unpunished — nevertheless, saves us through His One and Only Son. When Jesus is crucified, He receives the severe punishment for our sin. At the point of Jesus’ death, God’s wrath is satisfied. Jesus says, “It is accomplished.”
Not often do we think that the humble folk in the world are the ones who have the victory in life. Usually, we look to those who have wealth, intelligence, power, influence to see victory.
Jesus’ victory comes in His humiliation. As He dies on the cross, He wins. He overcomes the world in that last moment of His human life, gaining the victory for us.
“Christ buys us freedom from the curse of the law by becoming for our sake an accursed thing; for Scripture says, ‘A curse is on everyone who is hanged on a gibbet.’ And the purpose of it all is that the blessing of Abraham should in Jesus Christ be extended to the Gentiles, so that we may receive the promised Spirit through Him.” (Galatians 3: 13 – 14)
Jesus’ willingness to be an accursed thing shows He is the ultimate humble person. Because of His humility God raises Him up to be “the effulgence of God’s splendor and the stamp of God’s very being.” (Hebrews 1: 2)
Jesus is crowned with victory. “He takes His seat at the right hand of Majesty on high, raised as far above the angels, as the title He has inherited is superior to theirs.” (Hebrews 1: 4)