The death of Jesus is graphic. Even Mel Gibson’s rendition of the cross (barely R-rated) does not do it justice. An innocent man was nailed through the wrists and ankles to crossbeams of wood and left in the sun to die. To confirm the death, a Roman spear was thrust into his heart. There is nothing here that can even be included in a children’s story book about Jesus without some creative adaptation.
All this to ask the obvious: Why did Jesus die? Why did he suffer? Volumes have been written in response, but the text itself offers one insightful reason: to reveal Jesus as God’s Son. The centurion at the cross specifically noted, “Surely he was the Son of God!” (v. 54).
Matthew’s goal from the outset was to show Jesus as Messiah (1:1). As he nears the climax of his book (the resurrection being the climax), the death of the Messiah is intended to draw attention to his sacrifice as the suffering servant (Isaiah 53). As readers encounter Christ’s great love, then his power over death, the intended response is, “Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah. I will follow him.”
Just as Matthew answered Christ’s call to “follow him,” Matthew’s work is designed to cause others to do the same. As I wrote out the concluding words to this chapter, my thoughts were, “Is every area of my life devoted to following him?” Of course, the answer is that I am human and some areas lack in devotion. God has given me plenty to improve upon in my own life.
For readers today, my encouragement is to see the cross as God’s call to devotion to his Son. Are you following him completely today?
Dillon Burroughs has written, co-written, or edited over 60 books, including the upcoming devotional work Thirst No More (October 2011). He served as an associate editor for The Apologetics Study Bible for Students and is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary. Find out more at DillonBurroughs.org.