At this season of Holy Week and Good Friday especially, we tell the story that we know so well, and find so difficult in the telling. But how well do we tell the story of what happened spiritually, behind the events recorded for us? We hear phrases like ‘divine exchange’ and the Saviour ‘dying in our place’, but do we understand it? We may have prayed the prayer asking Jesus into our life – and repeated it probably – but are we living in the fullness of it? Here is an attempt to explain the seven key blessings for us that come from a cursed and horrible execution. These have become the main strands of our new life, the eternal life secured for us by Jesus which starts now.
1. Our sins and due punishment were taken by Jesus on Himself
Jesus “carried our sins up to the Cross” – the literal meaning of “bore our sin” which Peter quotes from Isaiah:
“He himself BORE OUR SINS” in his body on the Cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by His wounds you HAVE BEEN healed.” 1 Peter 2:24. From Isaiah: “The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all… He poured out His life unto death and was numbered with the transgressors. For He BORE the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” Isaiah 53:6, 12.
In a way which is hard for us to grasp, the moral weight of our sin was laid on Jesus, who carried it – our personal sin included – to the Cross
2. The reasons for accusation cancelled
The devil’s name is ‘accuser’ and he never loses an opportunity of mounting an opportunity to accuse, whether he has a legal right to do so or not. But that legal right was taken away the moment Jesus gave up His life. The sacrifice to end all sacrifices was made. The price for us to be forgiven and brought back into relationship with God, had been paid. The sense of guilt, not being good enough, not accepted, under condemnation was broken, because the charges against us were cancelled:
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the Cross. Colossians 2:13-14
Why do we still feel accused, feel condemned? We need to do two things. First, we make sure we have made Jesus our Lord and our lives are hidden in His – in effect, we went to the Cross with Him, died and then found new life in Him, as He did on the third day in the resurrection. Second, we tell the accuser he has no legal right to say those things! Speak out loud and remind him of all that happened on the Cross, and who he is trying to accuse now.
3. Our healing enabled, our reconciliation with God secured
By His wounds we HAVE BEEN healed, 1 Peter 2:24b. This is a healing of spirit, soul and body.
When Adam and Eve went their own way in the garden, following the incitement of the devil, Genesis 3, it caused a fracture, a wound, in the relationship with God. By Jesus’ action on the Cross, this fracture is mended and healed. As a consequence – the separation of spirit, soul and body is more of a human logical perspective than a heavenly one, and Hebrew thought sees much more integration – we can pray for and expect healing from every kind of affliction which impacts God’s perfect design.
4. Jesus pronounced His mission completed
When He had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, He bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:30.
He had come to be “God with us”, the full representation of God in human form. “If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father…” John 14:9-10. He had also come to defeat the devil: And having DISARMED the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the Cross. Colossians 2:15.
The final battle is yet to come. Meanwhile, we have an active and vindictive enemy, who has power, and especially the power to cause fear. However, having power, and having power over us, are two different things. In Jesus’ last words: “It is finished!” we can tell him about the blood (below). We can tell him he is a defeated enemy
5. Jesus gave up His life – the blood
And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, He gave up his spirit. Matthew 27:50. Jesus has become, Himself, the perfect blood sacrifice for us.
How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! Hebrews 9:14, read in the context of Hebrews 9:7-15.
The price of our being redeemed, set free from our sin obligation, is more than any amount of silver or gold can purchase. It has been paid for by Christ’s blood: For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 1 Peter 1:18-19. The following verse tells us it was always planned that way.
6. The original covenants with Abraham and Moses for the Jewish nation, now became a new covenant for all who trust Jesus with their lives
At the moment of Christ’s death, a spiritual shift occurred — with signs accompanying.
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. Matthew 27:51-52.
The massive temple curtain dividing off the holy of holies, where only the High Priest could go and only once a year, was destroyed. And with it the order of priesthood. Now, in Jesus, any believer can come into the presence of God and enjoy a relationship with the God who we call ‘Father’. This is a new kind of relationship where there is no need for an in-between person and no need for the rituals because Christ Himself has become our Great High Priest and called us all into a shared priesthood of all believers, where our lives are the spiritual sacrifices through us showing that we love Jesus, 1 Peter 2:5. This new and personal relationship a new and far better covenant than the one established by Moses and limited to Jews under the law.
In this new covenant the ‘law’ or the way of living that pleases God is something that the Holy Spirit leads us in – as Jeremiah said hundreds of years earlier, it is written on our hearts, Jer. 31:31 and 33. It is a new and better covenant, Hebrews 8:6-13 and the in-between person, or mediator, is none other than Jesus Himself. For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance — now that He has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. Hebrews 9:15, see also Hebrews 12:24.
This is a huge benefit and huge shift. Keeping the law was a complicated business, fraught with failure. Living for God, enabled and empowered by His Holy Spirit, is joyful and hopeful. Under the Old Covenant the law proved that man could not live righteously before God, and penalties were required. Under the New Covenant we literally receive constant coaching in how to live unselfishly and well, a fellowship of doing life together, with God and with other believers.
7. And the curse over us because of our sin was broken.
A curse in the Bible is the opposite of blessing. While blessing is a predisposition of well-being and in the broadest sense, prosperity, a curse is the opposite. It is not God’s hand on us, but the enemy’s hand against us. However, at the Cross, Jesus died not only the most horrendous and painful death imaginable, but also the most shameful. Roman crucifixion reserved for the lowest and most vile class of criminal and everything from the procession with the victim forced, like a slave, to carry the heavy cross bar, to the public and lengthy execution, served as a pillory of shame and warning to others. For a Jew is was especially shaming, as Peter reminds us in his choice of word for ‘cross’:
“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the CROSS, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24
Similarly, in Acts: The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead – whom you killed by hanging him on a CROSS. Acts 5:30. The word could be used for tree, beam, or wooden construction. Jewish readers in particular would be reminded of Deuteronomy 21:22-23 “…Anyone who is hung on a pole is under God’s curse.” Paul quotes this and explains the divine exchange that Jesus made for us: Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” Galatians 3:13.
Where there is the sense that the enemy’s hand is against us — chronic or unexplained sickness, ongoing and irrational difficult — we might need to make a firm declaration stating that we are in Christ, and Christ has been made a curse for us, and therefore so this ground for oppression is removed.
In Jesus’ words earlier: To the Jews who had believed Him, Jesus said, “If you hold to My teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will SET YOU FREE… If the Son sets you free, you will be free, you will be free indeed. John 8:31-32 and 36.
Giving your life to Jesus, as He gave His life for you
So much was accomplished for us in those hours of torture and abandonment on the Cross. But to be free, to live in the benefit of Jesus’ shed blood, healed, redeemed accepted and free from condemnation, we need to be among “those who had believed Him“, above. Giving your life to Jesus means accepting the exchange in which He gave His life, lit early and painfully, for us. Our acceptance of that fact is our intentionally giving the charge of our lives to the Saviour, accepting what He has done for us that we could not do or ourselves, and calling Him our Lord.