Pastor Mark looks at how Jesus died (crucifixion) and why he died (for our sins), to prepare our hearts for Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday. Jesus is God. He lived without sin, died on the cross for our sin, and then rose from death. Jesus is our high priest, sacrifice, and scapegoat. It all comes down to Jesus. Did he die and rise for you? Do you trust in him, or will you suffer like him?
Well, Mars Hill, we just finished the Real Marriage sermon series. It was great. By God’s grace, the church really grew. Upwards of five thousand new people attended a Mars Hill church service. Within the course of one two-week period during the series, we saw that kind of major surge. I want to publicly thank Jesus and my wife, Grace, who has become an even better friend during this entire campaign, and tour to multiple states, and conducting media interviews. She’s handled herself well, and I appreciate her more than ever and praise God for her.
I also want to thank Pastor Sutton Turner and Pastor Dave Bruskas for being the Executive Elders that really helped to put everything together in my world for the Real Marriage sermon series and campaign, and all of the other activities.
I want to thank the Community Group leaders, and the Redemption Group leaders, and the members of Mars Hill Church, and the elders, and the deacons, as we welcomed so many new people. And more than ever, we’re really able to accommodate, help, love, and serve those who have sinned and feel guilty about that and need to have that guilt alleviated through Jesus, and those who have been sinned against and need to have that shame and defilement lifted by Jesus.
So, it’s been a great season. As that Real Marriage sermon series has now concluded, next week is our, Lord willing, biggest Sunday of the year. It’s Easter Sunday, where we celebrate the death, burial, resurrection of Jesus Christ with Good Friday, which feels really like a funeral, because that’s what it is, remembering the death of Jesus, our God and Savior. And then we move into Easter Sunday, where we celebrate the resurrection victory of Jesus Christ over Satan, sin, and death.
So my sermon today is about the death of Jesus Christ, and the topic simply is “Jesus died.” And what we’ll be looking at is how and why Jesus died, and this is to set your heart in the direction of resurrection, to get you ready for next week, which is Easter Sunday.
So, when we start talking about the fact that Jesus died, what we’re talking about is something called the cross or the crucifixion. For those of you who are Christians, you may have heard this word a lot, but you may not have a great understanding of exactly what crucifixion is and was. And for some of you who are non-Christians, you may not understand this at all. You may have heard of the cross of Jesus or the death of Jesus, but you may not have really gotten much significant teaching surrounding it.
I think what happens is, when it comes to the cross of Jesus, it is oftentimes just simply presented in a tragically trite way. “Jesus died on the cross for all your sins,” it is said. That is, in fact, true, but unless we explain it, we may not fully appreciate it. I think sometimes, when it comes to crucifixion, we don’t fully understand and appreciate it, because, quite frankly, we don’t see it.
The Bible doesn’t give us a lot of details about crucifixion, I think, in part, because the original audience that received it, they had already witnessed crucifixion. It was fairly common in that day. For example, when Jesus was a little boy, maybe three or four years of age, there was a Jewish revolt and uprising that was put down by the Roman government, and there was a mass execution via crucifixion. And so even Jesus, as a young boy, perhaps, if not likely, witnessed crucifixion.
It is believed to have begun eight hundred years before Jesus Christ even entered into human history as the God-man. And it began, most archeologists believe, with something called impaling, where they would take a man, and they would take a long, wooden pole, and they would run it through his midsection, and then lift him up on it, and drop it into a hole, so that he was impaled.
Over time, this was added to, and new modes of torture and suffering were created. It was really the Persians who perfected crucifixion, as it was practiced by the Romans. This is where you get the center post and the crossbar. And it was common that the man would carry the crossbar to his place of crucifixion, and then it would be added to the center post, and he would hang for days.
It was really the Romans who took that concept from the Persians, and they became masters in torture, and some of their soldiers delighted in creating, and inventing, and exploring new painful and shameful ways to bring about death. And make no mistake about it: this was the state’s way of causing terror. This is not unlike some extreme nations today that will place beheadings on the Internet or certain extremist groups that will do the same thing. It’s a way of publicly horrifying and shocking people. It’s a way of telling anyone who might agree with a person who is suffering, “Do not follow in their beliefs, or you will also suffer their fate.” And so this was done openly, publicly, and shamefully.
The ancient Jewish historian Josephus called it “the most wretched of deaths.” Cicero said that it was so displeasing that Roman citizens shouldn’t even mention crucifixion. And all the way back in the book of Deuteronomy in the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 21:22–23, which Paul also quotes in the New Testament, says, “Cursed is anyone who is hung on a tree.” “Cursed,” meaning, if you are crucified, you are cursed of God. That’s exactly what happened to Jesus Christ.
It was so painful to be crucified that a word was literally invented, and the word “excruciating” literally means “from the cross,” because there is not a more shameful, painful way to die than murder by crucifixion, and that’s exactly what we did to Jesus Christ. That’s exactly what we did to God become a man.
And what would happen is someone would be crucified, and they could hang for upwards of nine days. Some people were physically weak or already dehydrated, beaten. Some had already given up hope and would die fairly quickly, but it is not impossible to find historical records where men would hang for upwards of nine days in and out of consciousness, stripped almost or almost altogether naked in public places.
Again, it’s state-sponsored terror. This would be like crucifying people in front of a local mall, or a store, or a park, the kind of place where people frequented often, and large crowds would gather. And some men would suffer that fate for upwards of nine days.
They also did occasionally, admittedly rarely, crucify women. And when they crucified women, they would turn them around so that their face was toward the cross, and their back was toward the crowd, because they could not stomach seeing a woman in that kind of excruciating, debilitating, devastating suffering.
But you’ve got to think about the kinds of people who would show up to witness this. Let’s say, for example, in our own day, the state allowed someone to be crucified, and it was done publicly, and openly, and shamefully. Imagine the kind of people who would gather around, certain people who would enjoy seeing that kind of suffering. You can imagine guys having a few drinks, and others making jokes, and people placing bets on how long they’ll die, or if they’ll become incontinent, making fun of them. I mean, the body is in such trauma and shock at this point that men are weeping. They’re incontinent. They’re in and out of consciousness, and dropping, and dripping off of their body would be urine, feces, tears, blood. And for some, this was sport. They thought this was hilarious and entertaining. And so what you’ve got is you’ve got victims who are suffering, and then you’ve got their mothers who are weeping, and you’ve got the crowd who was cheering, sometimes as long as nine days.
Once someone did die, their body was discarded. Unless the family or someone who loved them claimed the body, it would literally just be thrown in the dump. There was not respect for these people.
That’s crucifixion, in general. As we look at how Jesus died, the question is, “What additional details does the Scripture provide about the crucifixion of Jesus?”
Well, what we do know is that he was a young man, early thirties, in all likelihood, healthy and strong. He worked a job as a carpenter with his dad, Joseph, his adoptive father. Jesus lived in a rural area called Galilee, and so most of his early life was spent in and around that region doing ministry. That’s where we see him preaching and teaching. Grew up in Nazareth, did a lot of ministry around Galilee.
I’ve been there. I can tell you it’s hot, it’s filled with hills, and it’s really rugged, rough terrain. With all the walking that Jesus did, you’d have to be in good shape. So, we can take the evidence of his lifestyle and his ministry, and also his upbringing and his vocation. We could say young, strong, healthy man. Probably didn’t have long hair, most likely had short hair. First Corinthians 11 says that men in that day had short hair.
So, you think of Jesus as a man in his early thirties, with short hair, in pretty good shape, at the very least, and he has transitioned his ministry toward the big city of Jerusalem where the temple is, and the priesthood, and the population center is. He is continually teaching, and preaching, and healing, and he declares himself repeatedly, emphatically, and unapologetically to be God.
On multiple occasions, those who opposed him, particularly the religious leaders, sought to arrest him, so that they might put him to death. And continually the charge was because, quote, “You, a mere man, claim to be God.” They looked at Jesus, and they said, “You’re not God. You’re a man.” Well, he is God become a man. As we have sinned against God, God came amongst us, and God comes as Jesus Christ.
Ultimately they do arrest him, and they want to put him to death for claiming to be God. And the religious leaders take him to the political leaders, and for one of the few times in that period of history, those two groups agreed. They agreed that Jesus should die. The religious people saw Jesus as a threat because he said he was God, and they didn’t want people to be worshiping Jesus as God. The political leaders also opposed Jesus, but for different reasons. In claiming to be God, Jesus was elevating himself above the Caesar, and in so doing, he was establishing himself as the highest human authority in the nation and on the earth.
So, suddenly the religious and the political leaders conspire together to murder Jesus, to put him to death, and to stop him and his growing popularity. And that’s why they crucify him openly, publicly, and shamefully. It was a way to discourage anyone from following him and the crowds that were devoted to him to relinquish their commitment and return to their homes.
And so Jesus was arrested. He was betrayed by a pretend friend named Judas Iscariot. Judas Iscariot was a man who had been one of Jesus’ inner circle of twelve trusted disciples. The Bible tells us that Judas was a man who was stealing from Jesus for many years and stealing money from the ministry. He was a crook and a thief. Furthermore, he was unhappy for some reason. There is speculation as to why, but the Scriptures are not entirely clear. What we do know is that he was unhappy, for some reason, with Jesus, and so he agreed to betray Jesus Christ for thirty pieces of silver, fulfilling a prophecy that was given hundreds of years prior in the book of Zechariah.
And so Judas went at night, and he got the soldiers to come and to arrest Jesus. And where Jesus was at that point was a place called the Garden of Gethsemane, and it was a place where Jesus had gone to pray. It was late at night, and it was dark, and he was tired. I’ve been there. It’s an actual, factual, historical place. Jesus knelt, and he prayed, and the Bible says that he, anticipating his crucifixion, was in such distraught agony and anxiety that he was literally sweating drops of blood.
And Judas came, and he betrayed Jesus Christ with a kiss, as a pretend friend. Jesus was arrested, and it’s important to note that all of this happened at night, because this was not a legal arrest. This was an illegal murder. They didn’t want to arrest Jesus and try him during the day, which the law required, because people would be aware of that. So, they were doing it at night, when everyone was at home and in bed. And Jesus was arrested. He was run through a series of false trials. The witnesses never did agree; and, nonetheless, they just decided to execute him and be done with him.
The Bible says that then they beat Jesus. A mob of men encircled him, men who had been jealous because of his popularity, and his success, and his fame; men who hated him, because of what he taught, that he was God, and he could forgive sin; men who wanted the kind of fame, and glory, and power that he enjoyed. They encircled him, and they beat him. If you’ve ever seen a man beaten by a mob, it’s a horrendous scene. The Bible says that he was actually blindfolded. What this means is Jesus couldn’t even see the blows coming.
When that was done, the Bible says that they simply took him and had him flogged. See, after that kind of beating, most men immediately go to the hospital. Not Jesus. He went to a flogging, and a flogging is such a barbarous, intense, horrendous mode of suffering, that many men simply died from it.
And some of you have heard me teach on this, or you’ve read it in Death by Love, and for some of you it is new. And it’s, quite frankly, I mean, if you love Jesus, it’s really hard to hear this.
But what they did is they stripped him almost naked, which is very shameful in eastern culture, in general, but in eastern Jewish ancient culture in particular. And they would have then affixed his hands together, probably around a large pole perhaps, so that he’s essentially handcuffed. Oftentimes, they would have the man leaning forward, sometimes over a large stone, to hold his body up, because he’d keep falling down. And then what would happen would be the man’s neck, and shoulders, and back, and legs, and buttocks would be exposed, bare.
Then on each side would stand a professional executioner, a trained soldier. And he would have something called a flagrum, or some of your archeologists would call it a cat o’ nine tails, and what it was, it was a handle, and from the handle proceeded straps of leather. So, you think about straps of leather proceeding, at the end of each was either a ball made out of stone or metal, and the purpose of that was that as it hit the human body, that it would tenderize the man’s flesh, like you would a steak at a barbeque.
Then at the end of each strap of leather, there was a hook, usually made out of metal or sometimes out of bone from animals. And as the flesh was tenderized, then the hooks would sink deeply into the man’s flesh, and then the executioner would take a tug on the flagrum or cat o’ nine tails and ensure that the hooks were sunk deeply into the man’s flesh, and then he would literally rip the flesh off of the man’s body. And there would be an executioner generally on each side, and so they would take turns doing this over and over and over.
Now, the flesh on the man’s back would look like ribbons. He would be a bloodied mess. His body would be absolutely traumatized, thrown into shock. You add the fact that Jesus had a sleepless night. Have you ever pulled an all-nighter? Just that alone, you’re not in the best shape. Now imagine enduring a beating, a horrendous beating, blindfolded, by a mob. You’re dehydrated. You’re hungry. Your body is in shock. You’ve got tremendous emotional, psychological, physical, spiritual distress and anxiety, and then they have you flogged.
Many men simply died from the flogging. Isaiah, seven hundred years before Jesus was even born, anticipating that horrendous event, said that “his form was marred beyond human likeness.” What that meant was even if you knew Jesus, had you seen him in that state, you would not have recognized him, because he didn’t look human. He just looked like a bloodied, beaten, traumatized mess.
Many men died from that, but Jesus, Jesus did not die then. In fact, he was still alive. And what they did then is shameful, and it’s horrible. They then placed a crown of thorns on his head; thick, deep thorns pressed into the brow of Jesus to mock him, King of the Jews.
Then they handed him his crossbar. Now, the crossbar, you think of something larger than a railroad tie, but like that. The crossbar could weigh one hundred, two hundred, or more pounds. It depended on the size. And this was roughly hewn timber, splinters, open. It would’ve been covered with the blood, and the tears, and the sweat of other men who had carried it before, because they recycled these materials.
They wanted Jesus to carry it through town. They wanted him to carry it before others. They wanted him to carry it so that others who saw him would know not to worship him. Again, this was state-sponsored terror.
They laid this crossbar on his back. Now, just for a moment, fathom how weak, how tired, how exhausted, dehydrated he is. Now anticipate what his shoulders and his back look like and feel like after a lengthy flogging. Now imagine a crossbar of heavy, rugged, hewn timber being thrust, probably violently, onto his back, so that he would have to carry it through town.
Again, I want you to just think with me for a moment about what Jesus endured. I just feel inclined to even say for some of you that are suffering physically, you’ve got debilitating illness or injury, the Bible says we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize. That’s what Hebrews says. But he has been here. He has felt that, and he is the one we can turn to in our time of need, because he has been through what we have been through. That’s my summary of Hebrews 4.
It’s amazing that the God who made the heavens and the earth would come into human history on the earth and that he would suffer as we suffer. John Stott, a great writer, wrote in a book called The Cross of Christ about the fact that in a world that is filled with suffering, he rejoices that at least we worship a God who is not immune to it. Our God did not remain back and say, “People are suffering, and life is painful, and arduous, and hard, and I certainly don’t want to involve myself in that.” Instead, he came into human history as the man Jesus Christ, and he suffered, and physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, in every way that any of us has ever suffered, he suffered. He suffered.
And there’s Jesus, marred beyond human likeness, carrying his crossbar to his place of crucifixion. Now the Bible tells us that along the way, he fell. And I’ve walked this path. It’s called the Via Dolorosa, the Way of the Cross. It’s still in Jerusalem. It’s still in the old city. And so you can go there, and you can see it for yourself.
And it’s narrow hallways and the businesses are there, and the crowds would’ve been packed in and around him, and making fun of him, and laughing at him, as Jesus is literally bleeding through town. And some of the terrain is, quite frankly, a little rough. It’s uphill. It’s ancient, so it’s not neatly organized stair-steps. It’s oftentimes slippery stone and marble.
The Bible tells us that Jesus tripped and fell, perhaps even just from the fatigue; and when he did, that crossbar would have fallen on his back, and he would have fallen face first, chest first into stone or marble pavement, and all of that weight would’ve been thrust into his chest cavity. Now, some of the medical experts that I have studied in trying to do my research about the crucifixion of Jesus, they say that that kind of trauma can produce a chest contusion. They say that that kind of trauma is akin to being in a car without an airbag or a seatbelt and then being in a head-on collision and being thrown into the steering wheel. That’s the equivalent of the force that Jesus endured when he fell, and the crossbar crushed his chest.
Now, at this point, Jesus needs a hospital; but, instead, Jesus continues carrying his cross until, finally, someone helps him carry it to his place of crucifixion. And there, they lay Jesus, who himself had been a carpenter with his adoptive father, Joseph, they lay him upon wood, and the God who made the heavens and the earth is now laid by people he made on wood he created.
And they take the equivalent of railroad ties, perhaps six to seven inches long, recycled nails that have been used for the murder of other men, as well, and they drive them deeply through the most sensitive nerve centers on the human body, through the hands and the feet. At this point, the body is reacting violently just from the nerve damage and the trauma, and then they would lift the man up, hung on the crossbar, nailed to the center post, and then it would violently drop into the ground, and the man’s body would just shake and tear.
And then the man would look out—because oftentimes, if you see the paintings and the artistic depiction and description of crucifixion, it’s often that the person is very high up. The truth is that a lot of crucifixions were done at eye level. So now Jesus is probably looking people in the eye, a mob of people, people who hated him, people who despised him, people who opposed him, people who publicly spoke out against him, people who criticized him. Some were laughing, others were cheering and jeering, and the drunks have gathered ‘round, and the worst kind of people are finding this highly entertaining.
Jesus looks out, and he sees some of his friends, as well, like John, who was like a little brother to him. Went on to write 1, 2, 3 John, Revelation, and the book of John. He would’ve seen his brothers. He would’ve seen his sisters. The Bible says that Jesus had both. And the Bible says that his own mother, Mary, was there. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine in that moment looking out and seeing the face of your mother? The same woman who, when you were a baby, and she birthed you, and held you for the first time, she counted to ensure there were ten fingers and ten toes, and now she’s seeing them nailed to a Roman cross, and cursed is everyone hung on a tree. That’s her boy.
Now, at this point, those who were being crucified would often seek retaliation—understandably so. They would spit. They would curse. They would urinate. They would yell. Not Jesus. Again, Isaiah, seven hundred years before Jesus was crucified, predicted that like a sheep before his shearers is silent, so Jesus would not open his mouth or utter a word. He didn’t retaliate. He didn’t seek revenge.
Jesus did say a few things from the cross. He looked at John and said, “Take after my mom. Look after my mom.” Jesus told the thief at his side, who was rightly dying but repentant of his sin, “Today, you’ll be with me in paradise.” Jesus cried out from the cross, “Father, forgive them!” It’s amazing that on the cross Jesus is thinking about other people and how he might love them, and serve them, and care for them, even in that moment of his most intense affliction. It tells us a lot about Jesus: his humility, his love, his generosity.
As Jesus was talking, we read that they took a stick with a sponge, and they shoved it into his mouth. And for many years, in studying the Bible, I thought that this was perhaps one moment of compassion. I thought that perhaps they were offering him a drink in his final moment and that it was some reflection of maybe a bit of goodness in the human heart. The Bible says that the heart is deceitful and wicked until it belongs to Jesus, and we get a new heart. And that’s exactly what we see in the actions of the soldiers who were present at the murder of Jesus.
I didn’t understand what that action that the Bible records was until I took a trip, went to Greece, Israel, Turkey, visited places where the New Testament was written to and from. And in one archeological dig, they had seating for an ancient public restroom. Some of you know this story. Many of you perhaps do not. And people would sit on marble slabs, and water would roll underneath as a sort of public restroom. And underneath the seat there was an opening.
So I asked one of the archeologists and some of the tour guides, “What was that for?” And they said, “Oh, well, the slaves or the servants would be paid to take a stick with a sponge on the end and use it to clean the person while they were seated upon the toilet.” So, it was ancient toilet paper. But then they found that as they reused the sponge, people would get sick, and they would have infections, so they would dip it in wine vinegar as an antiseptic to kill the germs.
I literally in that moment lost it. I just sat down and started tearing up and fighting back complete weeping. It dawned on me that when they took the stick with the sponge on the end, dipped in wine vinegar, and tried to shove it into the mouth of Jesus on the cross, what that was, was a soldier’s ancient combination of toilet brush/toilet paper. It was the kind of thing he had used to clean himself on the battlefield. And he took that and tried to shove it into God’s mouth to silence and shame him.
Yet, again, Jesus cries out in a loud, triumphant voice, I believe perhaps as he’s having a heart attack from the chest contusion. He says things like, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He’s quoting the Psalms there, and he’s talking about in that moment he has chosen willingly and lovingly to substitute himself for sinners. See, in the Garden of Eden, our first parents, Adam and Eve, they substituted themselves for God, and it created sin and death, and so God comes to bring forgiveness and life, and on the cross, he reverses that substitution, and he becomes cursed. He endures suffering. He tastes death, that we might receive forgiveness, life, and love.
And it’s not that we’re deserving. We’re not. It’s not even that we’re undeserving. It’s worse. We’re ill-deserving. We all deserve what Jesus endured, and Jesus endured it, that we might not have to, through faith in him. That’s how Jesus died, by crucifixion.
I want you to be very careful to not in any way diminish the work of Jesus by saying things like, “Yeah, I sin, but it’s not a big deal.” Or, “Yeah, nobody’s perfect, and I blew it, and it was a problem, but, you know, it’s not that big of a deal.” No, our sin is such a big deal that this is what had to happen to Jesus for you and me to be forgiven through justice.
And if you don’t know Jesus, you will suffer like Jesus suffered, forever in hell. And I’ve heard some say, “How in the world could God possibly punish anyone and send them to hell?” And my question is, if God himself is willing to suffer that we might be forgiven, and we reject that gracious offer of salvation, what else would we expect? Would we expect, though guilty, to not suffer, though we are glad that Jesus did suffer, though he was without any guilt or sin?
Do you see the problem? The problem is when we say our sin isn’t a big deal, or rejecting Jesus isn’t a big deal, what we’re saying is that the murder of God was not a big deal; it was not necessary. And, in fact, what we’re doing is we are contributing the same kind of voices that Jesus heard in his ears, as he was dying: mockery, rejection, scorn, shame, humiliation. All it takes to be among those scoffers and rejecters is to simply disbelieve in Jesus or to discount your sin and need for a Savior.
Man, Jesus loves you, and it’s not just this sentimental feeling love. It’s this efficacious serving love. “God demonstrates his love for us in this: while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” If you ever doubt, or disbelieve, or disregard the love of God for you, just remember the cross of Jesus Christ. You are loved by a just, holy, righteous God who adores you and his glory, and died to glorify himself and to offer salvation to you. That’s how Jesus died.
And on the cross he says, in a loud, triumphant voice, “It is finished!” All of human sin is dealt with. Forgiveness is offered. Eternal life is granted. Reconciliation with God is made possible through the death of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in our place, for our sins. And Jesus died.
And it was like an eclipse. The world went dark, and the curtain in the Holy of Holies, which separated sinful people from a sinless God was torn from top to bottom, from God to us, God showing that he had come down in the person and work of Jesus and that he had opened up a way for us to have reconciliation with him.
And this happened on a Friday, and Jesus promised and prophesied before he was ever crucified that he would be in the grave three days—just like Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days—and on the third day, he would rise forth. And in the Jewish accounting and reckoning of a day, any part of a day is considered an entire day.
So, he died on Friday, day one. He was put in the grave, and at sundown, sunset, the next day would begin. So, that through Saturday was day two. And then upon his resurrection, it was Sunday morning, when the light was shining, and that is day three. A part of a day counts as a whole day in the Jewish reckoning.
And so Jesus was dead for three days, and he rose from death on a Sunday. That’s why Christians stopped worshiping on Saturday and started worshiping on Sunday. That’s why Christians, as well, stopped offering sacrifices, because Jesus had already died for all sin, and started partaking of Communion to remember the sacrifice of Jesus once for all. And Christians started being baptized, showing that Jesus lived, died, and rose in their place for their sins. And through faith in him, they’re alive, forgiven, made clean and new by him, and Christianity is following in the resurrection wake of Jesus Christ.
Now that’s how Jesus died, was buried, and rose. Why? That’s what’s important. If all I told you was, “This is how Jesus died,” that would not be good news. “We murdered God.” That’s not good news. The gospel literally means good news. For Christianity, this is our good news. We celebrate it every year. We will this week on something called Good Friday.
What’s good about Friday? Well, that’s the day Jesus died. What’s good about that? The best person who’s ever lived, Jesus Christ, sinless God among us, treated in the most horrific, despicable, painful, shameful way, murdered. How could that possibly be good news, and why would we celebrate that on Good Friday?
And the Bible uses the little word “for” to transition from how Jesus suffered to why Jesus suffered. I’ll give you a few examples. Here’s why Jesus died.
Isaiah 53:5, “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities.” Why did Jesus die? Jesus died for us.
In addition, Romans 4:25: “[He] was delivered up for our trespasses.” Jesus died for us.
Romans 5:8, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Do you see the word? If all you knew was Jesus died, there’s no good news. The Bible adds the word “for.” It’s for us. That’s the good news. The good news is that it accomplishes, it achieves salvation for us.
First Corinthians 15:3, “Christ died for our sins.” Yours and mine. You and I deserve to be crucified. You and I deserve to suffer. You and I deserve the wrath of God and hell. And instead, through faith in Jesus Christ, we do not endure condemnation, shame, and hell, because Christ died for our sins. The penalty is paid, the condemnation is lifted, the shame is removed, forgiveness is granted, grace is offered, and we are loved.
First Peter 3:18, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.”
Now, how Jesus died? Crucifixion. Why Jesus died? For our sins. For our sins. This means if you place your faith in Jesus today and become a Christian, or you have sincerely, at some point in your life, all of your sins are forgiven—past, present, and future, all of them—that God is not angry with you, that God loves you, that God is not going to punish you, that he already punished Jesus, and God doesn’t punish his Son and punish you.
It’s one punishment, complete justice, and it would be an injustice for God to punish you and Jesus. When you’re suffering, know this. God loves you. He may use that to make you like Jesus, but he’s not punishing you in addition to Jesus, if you’re a Christian.
In addition, there is no hell for you. There’s heaven for you. There’s no shame for you. There is love for you in Jesus Christ.
It all comes down to Jesus. Did he die for you? Did he rise for you? Do you trust in him, or will you suffer like him? Because the wage for sin, the consequence, penalty, result of sin, is death. That’s why we die. That’s why we’ll all die. That’s why you’ll die. And Jesus died—not because he was a sinner, he was without sin—but Jesus died because he substituted himself in our place for our sins. He died. He died for us.
Yet death could not hold and contain him, because where there is no sin, there is no victory of death. And so the sinless Jesus rose from death, and he conquered sin and death. Friends, that’s what our whole week is about. Good Friday is about his crucifixion. Easter Sunday is about his resurrection.
And for us, it’s “the day.” Easter Sunday is the day. It’s the biggest day of the year, and it actually is the fulfillment of the day in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, they had “the day.” It was called Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. And you can read the Old Testament, and many simply called it “The Day.”
And it was on that day that God’s people would all come to a place, a temple in Jerusalem, and they would cleanse their bodies, showing that they need cleansing from God. They would wear white, showing that if God would give them his righteousness, they could be righteous in his sight. And they would sing the Psalms of Ascent, and they would walk literally up the hill to the great city of Jerusalem, a city on a hill carved out of stone. And they would gather near the temple where the Holy of Holies, the presence of God, dwelt.
And they would come to deal with their sin. This is something that our culture sadly, tragically, damnably does not understand. We’re not good people with good hearts that have bad days. We’re bad people with bad hearts that have good days maybe. It’s not just our upbringing. It’s not just our genetics. It’s not just our social and cultural conditioning. Our problem is sin, and it’s all the way down in the nature. It’s in the roots, and we do not need simply more good advice. We need good news. Good advice is about what we can do to make our lives better and the world a better place. Good news is about what Jesus has done, so that the work of salvation is finished and that we can become not just better people, but new people, by the grace of God.
And they would gather, and they were represented by someone called the high priest. He was the senior spiritual leader. He would prepare himself for the day by confessing his own sin and going through a lot of ritual that’s explained in the Old Testament. And acting as the mediator, the intercessor, and the representative between God and the people to deal with the sin problem, on the day he would take two goats. One was a sacrificial goat. The other was a scapegoat.
And representing the people he would lay hands on the sacrificial goat, and he would name the sins of the people. And then he would lift the head back, take a knife, and he would slit the throat of the animal, and it was considered a substitute. And sin of the people was placed upon it, and it died in their place, for their sins, through the shedding of blood.
All of that was to show that Jesus is coming, that Jesus is coming as our substitute. He’s going to take all our sin upon him, and he will shed his blood in our place for our sins, as our substitute.
Then he would take the second animal, the scapegoat; and, similarly, he would name the sins of the people over that animal, and the sins would likewise, similarly, be imputed or reckoned or granted to that animal. And rather than slaughtering it, it would be sent away. Josephus, an ancient Jewish historian, gives accounts where the people would chase the animal away, making sure that it fled into the wilderness. And that was showing that Jesus was coming, and he would take our sin away.
He would take it away forever, so that in Jesus, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, The Day, found its ultimate fulfillment, what people had been hoping for and praying for, and waiting for, for hundreds and thousands of years, happened through the body, on the cross, of Jesus Christ. He is our high priest. That’s what Hebrews says. He is our mediator between us and God. God becomes a man to mediate this treason of sin between us and God.
And Jesus similarly, he is the Holy of Holies. He is the presence of God on the earth, and he comes to bring upon himself our sin and to shed his own blood and to lay down his life, that we might be forgiven. And he rises three days later, that our sin would be forgiven and taken away forever, by the grace of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Do you know Jesus? If you don’t, you will stand before him and give an account. And God, who is holy and just, will sentence you to the eternal condemnation of hell, and you will suffer every moment of every day forever, like Jesus did on the cross. Don’t let other people lie to you. The truth is if God himself is willing to suffer, he’s willing to allow you to suffer, as well, and that’s what justice requires. If you don’t know Jesus, you are living in the path of the wrath of God, but it’s not too late for you, and I believe he wants you to hear this word from him through me.
Jesus is God. Jesus lived without sin. Jesus died on the cross for your sin. Jesus rose from sin. Jesus is your high priest. Jesus is your sacrifice. Jesus is your scapegoat. Jesus, right now, extends a hand of friendship to you and says, “Turn from sin. Trust in me, and it’ll all be finished. Salvation will be accomplished.” And, friends, if you’ve never done that, we would urge you, and implore you, and beg you to do that right now, to give your life to Jesus.
And for those of you who do know Jesus or come to know him today, next week is Easter Sunday. It’s the day. It’s the day we celebrate, beginning with what feels like a funeral because of the murder of our friend Jesus on Friday, but it concludes with what feels like a wedding celebration for a resurrected groom on Sunday.
This week, we are praying, I’m praying that God brings us eighteen thousand people to hear about Jesus to forty-one services across fourteen churches in four states. And it’s not just us. Any church that loves Jesus, we want it packed. We want people hearing about Jesus. We want people meeting Jesus. We want people to love, serve, become like, through the grace of God, Jesus. But we’ll see you next Sunday. Bring your family, bring your friends, bring your coworkers. Don’t be a coward. Be courageous. Invite them to come to church, so that, together, we might invite them to come to Jesus. Amen? We’ll see you next Sunday.
Father God, I pray for us this week, that how Jesus died and why Jesus died would be on the forefront of our minds, that we’d be thinking about it, that it would be on the forefront of our hearts, that we’d be feeling it. Holy Spirit, please, this week, keep Jesus, who he is, what he’s done, close to our minds and our hearts. God, as we lean into Good Friday, we know that it’s not good what happened to Jesus, but it is good what he used that horrific moment to accomplish: forgiveness of sin, eternal life, reconciliation with God. And, God, next week I pray for eighteen thousand people at Mars Hill Church. I pray for lots of people to meet Jesus. I pray for lots of lives to get changed. I pray for lots of baptisms to be conducted, showing the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, so that his name would be made much of and that we would get to share in his joy. And, God, I pray for the family, friends, coworkers, neighbors that are going to be invited, that they would accept the invitation to come to church, and upon hearing the good news, they would accept the invitation to come to Jesus, in whose name we pray. Amen.
Note: This transcript has been edited for readability.