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I recently read a blog written by a man who expressed gratefulness that he was in a church that talked about sin. He had been raised in a church where sin had never been addressed. Consequently, the glad news of the gospel of Jesus was never explained. Why would the saving news of Jesus be necessary, if the sin question was not seen as a problem?

Easter is the time of the year when Christians should ask the most basic of all questions. Why did Jesus die on a cross? If it were a matter of His popularity failing and His enemies succeeding, Easter would be a story of what happens when the once-adoring crowds grow tired of you. Finally, the cheering multitudes become the jeering multitudes. Such is the nature of fickle humanity.

The problem with this rendition of the Easter story is that it simply doesn’t fit the narrative we find in the Bible. According to Matthew 20:28, Jesus explains that He had come not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many. That is, Jesus believed that His life was required as a ransom. Furthermore, Jesus was explicit about this. Consider His words recorded in John 10:17–18 (ESV),

“For this reason the Father loves me, because 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.”

According to Jesus, He had come to earth in order to die on a cross. This explains many of His actions. Throughout the gospels, there is a sense that when Passion Week arrived, Jesus acted as if He wanted to push the religious authorities of Israel so they would have no other alternative than to crucify Him during the Passover. It even explains why He went to Gethsemane to pray, just prior to His arrest. Jesus had often taken His disciples there in the past, and so it was easy for Judas to find Him.

From the perspective of the Bible, the cross is not the story of a tragedy. It is the story of the ultimate triumph of the Son of God. Jesus came to earth to lay down His life for the sins of many.

For this reason, the story of Easter is never told, if it is not a picture painted against the blackest of all canvases. The white paint of mercy and grace mean nothing if they are not superimposed on a vivid portrayal of the darkness of human depravity and sin. Unless sin is shown to be what it truly is, Easter can’t be understood. Sin must be shown to be sinful. It must be portrayed as depravity. We ought to describe it as performed with a clenched fist extended towards our Creator. It is defiance of God. It is an attempt to overthrow His reign. It is a war against all that is good.

Ultimately, it must be described as personal. Every hearer must get a picture of himself or herself. We should see that our sin was wicked enough to earn the eternal wrath of God. It was our just due. But in wondrous compassion, God sent His Son to pay the rightful punishment of our sins. Jesus, on the cross, drank the cup of the Lord’s anger against sin. Furthermore, as our sin substitute, no man ever suffered as He did. It was righteous that He should suffer so.

Hence, the only response to the cross, is to as thoroughly renounce our own sin as God does. Augustine said that when we first acknowledge our sin, we prove, that for the first time, we and God agree on something. We agree that our sin is sinful.

When we turn to Christ for grace, we revel in the truth that the mercy and grace we have received is far greater than we can ever express. We then say with the hymn-writer, “What wonderous love is this?”

Have a blessed Easter season!

Dr. John Neufeld

Dr. John Neufeld

Dr. John Neufeld is the national Bible teacher at Back to the Bible Canada. He has served as Senior Pastor, church planter, conference speaker and educator, and is known both nationally and internationally for his passion and excellence in expositional preaching and teaching.

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