Ruth Jacob

Someone asked recently, "Why did Jesus have to die, and why in the way he did?  Couldn't God have found another way to save us?"

Just how does God save us?  Is there something about the way Jesus died that tells us something essential about God's nature, and the way he relates to, shows his love for, and benefits the world?

The prophet Isaiah, foreseeing the suffering of the Messiah and what it would achieve, says,

"It was our pain he took and our diseases were put on him, while to us he seemed as one diseased on whom God's punishment had come.  But it was for our sins he was wounded and for our evil doings he was crushed; he took the punishment by which we have peace and by his wounds we are made well." (chapter 53: 4-5)
When Jesus walked the earth in his flesh, he went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil (Acts 10:38).  He said himself that his commission was to "to give good news to the poor ... to make well those who are broken-hearted; to say that the prisoners will be let go, and the blind will see, and to make the wounded free from their chains" (Luke 4:18).  Many many times the gospel accounts tell us that Jesus had compassion on someone and then healed them; and this profound compassion he had seems to be essential to the healing that took place.  In fact, it was so freely available that a woman could access it just by touching his clothes when he wasn't looking and still receive healing from a chronic, debilitating and socially isolating disease (Luke 8:43-47).  Deep down, he experienced what these people were suffering and because of that he was able to absorb their suffering, leaving them free.  But at the time of his death, even that inner compassion wasn't enough for him; he ultimately took upon himself the physical suffering of all disease, all injury and all death.  Through his death on the cross we know that he even took our curses on himself1.

"The Blood of Jesus" has so many times been used as a kind of incantation, as though the utterance of the phrase had some power of itself.  Earnest people have urged others to "plead the Blood" or prayed for someone to be "covered with the Blood": there is no scriptural basis for doing this.  Yet the blood of Jesus does have real importance, and this is what I'd like to look at now.

To understand what the meaning is of Jesus's manner of death, we need to look at the background of this event.  The Law of Moses stated that "the life is in the blood" (Leviticus 17:10-14) and it was for this reason that no one was allowed to eat any blood; those who did were to be exiled from the people of God.  Instead, the Law said, the blood must be poured out onto the ground.  At the time that Moses gave the Law, which was the old covenant with the Jewish people, the blood of an animal that had been sacrificed was collected and then sprinkled over all the people, without exception and without discrimination  (Exodus 24:8).

In the same way, Jesus's life was in his blood.  When Jesus, the Son of God, died, he poured out his own blood.  Jesus was filled with God's spirit, God's life - and so his blood had the life of God in it, and it is that life that he was pouring out into the world.  He didn't pour his blood onto any person in particular; he poured it out onto the earth - into the universe - because he was sent to save the world, not just a select few.  After Jesus was raised from death, he no longer had blood; he referred to himself having "flesh and bones" (Luke 24:39).  He had given his blood, with the life of God, and he never took it back2.

Was Jesus the "good guy" appeasing an angry God on our behalf?  Was he doing it because God wanted to (or "had to") punish us, and this was the only way to stop him?  No!  Jesus was sent by his Father: they both loved the world; they agreed with each other to give themselves, they both agreed to suffer the agonising rupture of their relationship with each other which the Son's death would effect, in order to bring about the salvation of the creation from harm and oblivion.  "God so loved the world" we are told "that he gave his only son" (John 3:16), and that "the Father sent the Son to be the saviour of the world" (1 John 4:14).

Jesus is the express image of God3 - whatever we see Jesus doing is what the Father does too4.  Jesus poured out his blood - that is, his life; everything he was - into the world so that the world would be saved.  In this ultimate act of love we can see how, in just the same way, God will pour his own life into the universe so that it can be transformed, so that decay, death and entropy become no longer possible, so that perfect love is everywhere and completely excludes death, pain, sorrow, mourning and every kind of evil and destruction, and this is how God will become all, in all.  (1 Corinthians 15:28)

Once Jesus had poured his life out into the universe, the transforming process began, and he was the first to be raised with the characteristics of the new bodies we can expect and the new universe that God will create.  Jesus was the first to enter into that new reality, and looking at him as he was after his resurrection, we get a hint of what the entire universe will be like when the transformation is complete.

1 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us, for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree" (Galatians 3:13) (Reference in text to Deuteronomy 21:23)
2 God does not repent of His free gifts (Romans 11:29)
3 [Jesus] brightly reflects God's glory and is the exact representation of His being (Hebrews 1:3)
4 Jesus said, Truly I say to you, The Son is not able to do anything himself; he is able to do only what he sees the Father doing; whatever the Father does the Son does it in the same way. (John 5:19)