Jesus – Born To Die
By Adolph Saphir (1831 – 1891)
This is the great mystery of godliness, that God Himself has come down to earth; that God Himself has visited His people; that the Son of God became Man.
But while we adore the great mystery of the Incarnation, let us remember, that the Incarnation necessarily leads to the Crucifixion. The mystery of the manger involves the mystery of the Cross.
For remember, the great purpose of the Incarnation was not merely to visit but to redeem mankind. The purpose of the Father was the substitution of Christ, that sinners might be saved. When the Son of God said, “Lo, I come,” He referred to His Incarnation, to Bethlehem. But when He added, “To do Thy will,” He looked to Calvary, to His atonement, when on the accursed tree He died the just for the unjust (Heb. 10:9). He came willingly, joyfully; He was born of the Virgin Mary, in order to fulfill that will by which “we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (10:10). He was born in order to die. He came to lay down His life as a ransom. He took upon Him our nature that He might offer Himself as a sacrifice; He became Man to become man’s substitute and righteousness.
Focused on His Death
It is for this reason that we notice in the life of our Lord, that He is continually looking forward to His death. How different from other men! They speak continually of the great work which they intend to accomplish during their lifetime, of the actions and plans to which they devote their energies. Jesus always spoke of what He would accomplish by His death. While other men look upon death as the limit and termination of their work, Jesus regards His death as His great, His all-glorious work, the source and commencement of His true and eternal influence.
Just go rapidly in your mind through the Gospel of John, and see how constantly and emphatically the death of Christ is kept before our view. In the very first chapter, He is introduced as the sin-bearing Lamb. When He appears the first time in Jerusalem, He thinks and speaks of His death, the breaking and building again of the Temple. In His conversation with Nicodemus, He unfolds the mystery of the Crucifixion; the lifting up of the Son of Man, the sacrifice of God’s beloved Son. When He speaks of the bread of life which cometh down from heaven, He does not refer to His teaching or His example, but to “My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (John 6:51). He calls Himself the Good Shepherd (10:11), not because He watches over the flock, feeding them in green pastures, and leading them by quiet waters; but because He lays down His life for the sheep, as the Father gave Him commandment. When the Greeks come to the feast and desire to see Jesus, the Lord, beholding in spirit His future church, speaks at once of the death which He must first accomplish – the corn of wheat abideth alone, except it fall into the ground and die.
From the very commencement of His ministry the Cross stood before the eyes of His heart. To this great mystery of salvation, He continually directed His disciples; to this great mystery of salvation, He is continually leading us by His Spirit – Jesus Christ crucified. This is the Son of God, our Messiah, our All-in-all, our hope on earth, and our joy in heaven.
Source of Love and Hope
Jesus Christ crucified! See here the foundation of our faith, the source of our love, the spring of our hope.
We say to the sinner: “‘Behold the Lamb of God!’ (John 1:29). Whatever may be your present condition, and whatever your present life, stand still and behold the salvation of God. It comes down from heaven; it is the gift of the Father; it has not its root in your heart and character; it descends out of the fullness of Divine mercy – it is Jesus the Christ crucified. ‘Look unto Me and be ye saved…’ (Isa. 45:22).”
We say to the believer in every stage of his progress towards the heavenly Jerusalem: “Remain poor and needy, Christ is All-in-all; God has made Him for us righteousness in heaven, sanctification in our hearts and lives on earth.”
Here is the source of love. We may be conscious of the benefits which God bestows on us, and think with gratitude of that bountiful hand and Fatherly heart never weary in blessing and guarding us; we may feel awe and adoration and sweet longing at the contemplation of infinite goodness and purity; but we do not feel the burning love of God, until we see the crucified Savior. It is then that the Holy Spirit sheds abroad the love of God in our hearts.
Here is our hope. Nothing else can sustain the Christian under his trials, afflictions and infirmities. “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all…” (Rom. 8:32) – no argument of less weight will comfort and uphold us in sorrow and struggle. “…It is Christ that died, yea, rather that is risen again…” (8:34). This is our only shelter and strong tower in temptation and doubt. And what sweeter foretaste have we of heaven than in suffering, when we realize the sympathy of the merciful and compassionate High Priest, and when by His Spirit He assures us, that as He is afflicted in all our afflictions, so we shall share with Him His blessedness and glory! In Jesus Christ crucified is our hope.
Per crucem ad lucem. Through the Cross to the light. This is God’s way. Ought not Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into glory? Through much tribulation the church is to enter into the kingdom of God. Despised and rejected of men, she has no strength, splendor and riches of her own, but follows the Lord, who made Himself poor, who humbled Himself, who was obedient unto death of the Cross, that all power and glory may be ascribed to His God and our God, to His Father and our Father. Amen.
– Adapted from Christ Crucified by Adolph Saphir.