Last week, Piper made clear where he stands on the question of who killed Christ. This week, in an article called The Unparalleled Passion of Jesus Christ, he explains the death of Christ further – do go over there and read the whole thing – this is just an excerpt.
Christ’s passion was unparalleled in human history because it was planned and predestined by God for our salvation. Beneath all the controversy over who actually killed Jesus, the deepest truth is: it was God who planned it, and saw to it that it came to pass. As the terrifying events unfolded the night before He died, Jesus said, “All this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. (Matthew 26:56) All the details, down to the fact that they rolled dice for His clothes (John 19:24), and pierced Him with a spear, rather than breaking Hlegs (John 19:36) all of it was planned by His Father and predicted in the Scriptures.
The early church summed it up like this in prayer: Truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. (Acts 4:27-28) Central to Christianity is the truth that God sent His Son to die. God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16) Jesus’ death was unique because there is only one Son and only one divine plan for salvation.
UNPARALLELED AUTHORITY IN DEATH
The passion of Christ was unique also because Jesus not only submitted willingly to His Father’s plan (Not my will, but yours, be done Luke 22:42); He also embraced it and pursued it with His own divine authority. One of the most stunning statements Jesus ever made was about His own death and resurrection: I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father. (John 10:17-18) No one ever spoke about his own life and death this way. The overwhelming testimony of the New Testament is that the controversy about who killed Jesus is marginal. He chose to die. His Father ordained it. He embraced it. One ordered all things, the other obeyed. The authority was in God’s hands. And it was in Jesus’ hands. Because Jesus is God.
UNPARALLELED MEANING FOR THE WORLD
Finally, the passion of Christ was unparalleled because it was accompanied by unique events full of meaning for the world. First, there were the statements of incomparable love and authority from Jesus on the cross. No crucified man, dying in agony, ever spoke like this. One of the thieves who was crucified with Jesus finally repented and said, astonishingly, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. What a moment to see a kingdom being established! Jesus did not correct him. Instead he said, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43) This was the voice of one who decides where thieves spend eternity.
The thief was not the only one who received the mercy of Christ as he died. Jesus looked out over those who crucified Him and said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. (Luke 23:34) They could make Him bleed and weep, but they could not make Him hate.
And when the moment of His death was near, Jesus cried out, “It is finished, and bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19:30) By this He meant more than my life is over. He meant, “I have fully accomplished the redeeming work my Father sent me to do. A lifetime of sinless obedience to God, followed by a horrific suffering and death that was why He came. It was finished.
The meaning of what He accomplished was symbolized by a surprising event nearby in Jerusalem. In the holy place of the Jewish temple, where only the high priest could go and meet God once a year, the curtain split as Jesus died. Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. (Matthew 27:50-51) The meaning is this: when Jesus died when His flesh was torn God tore (from top to bottom) the curtain separating ordinary people from Himself. The death of Jesus opened the way for the world into intimate, holy, personal, forgiven, joyful fellowship with God. No human mediator is needed any longer. Jesus split open the way for direct access to God. He has become the only necessary Mediator between us and God. The early church said it like this: Since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh . . . let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith. (Hebrews 10:19-22)