April 3rd, 2015 is a date to remember. Why? It marks the 1,987th anniversary of the death of Jesus Christ. For many, that date will come and go with little more than a shrug. For others, especially those who call themselves Christian, that date will be eclipsed by a tradition known as Easter, which alleges to celebrate his resurrection. People of non-christian faiths are often puzzled as to why the death of a man, one of the many billions of deaths that have occurred on this planet, should even matter. This brief consideration will answer the following questions from a Bible-based point of view:
1. Who was Jesus?
2. Why was his death significant?
3. Is there value in what his death accomplished?
Regarding question one, a more comprehensive discussion of who Jesus was can be found in my journal entry: Jesus - God, man, or myth? According to the Bible, Jesus was the first creation of Almighty God (Colossians 1:15; John 1:14,16; Revelation 3:14; Micah 5:2). As the firstborn, Jesus shared in the creation of all other things (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16,17), including mankind (Genesis 1:26). This means that he has a vested interest in humanity. The first humans, Adam and Eve, were placed in a paradise-like garden called Eden. Having perfect minds and bodies, as well as the five senses of taste, touch, smell, sight, and hearing, they could fully enjoy and appreciate their beautiful garden surroundings, filled with everything needed to sustain their lives (see Genesis ch 1,2). Perfect life would mean that they would never get sick, never grow old, never die. However, they were also endowed with the gift of free will, meaning that they they could use their intelligent minds to make choices that would either benefit them, or ultimately cause them harm (see this principle stated at Deuteronomy 30:15-20). To test the first couple's love and appreciation for God and for all they had been freely given, a certain tree was placed in the middle of the garden named the "tree of the knowledge of good and bad." In addition, a second tree was placed in the center called the "tree of life." Two trees, two choices. Regarding the first tree God told Adam: "... From every tree of the garden you may eat to satisfaction. But as for the tree of the knowledge of good and bad you must not eat from it, for in the day you eat from it you will positively die."
As it turned out, Genesis chapter three informs us that a serpent, later identified in the Bible as the fallen angel Satan, who is also called the Devil, tricked Eve into eating of the forbidden fruit, and that later Adam also succumbed. Think of what Adam and Eve sacrificed when they disobeyed this simple and direct command of God! Their choice reflected greed, a desire for independence, yes, a life without their Father who had given them everything. On the day of their eating they died, spiritually. Eventually their physical bodies wore out and they returned to the dust from which they had been created. How sad! (Genesis ch 3, Revelation 12:9; Genesis 5:5).
Jehovah God allowed Adam and Eve to produce offspring, in harmony with his original edict (Genesis 1:28). God had purposed that perfect humans would eventually fill the earth, Eden would be expanded to create a global paradise, and harmony would forever exist among all of God's creatures. Would his original purpose now turn out a bust, a failure? Never could that happen (see Isaiah 55:8-11)! But now that the human race had fallen under the curse of Adam (see Romans 5:12), inheriting his imperfection and sinful inclination, which always leads to death, how would God's purpose be accomplished? This is where the first prophecy in the Bible comes to the rescue! Genesis 3:15 states: (God speaking) "And I shall put enmity between you and the woman and between her seed and your seed. He will bruise you in the head, and you will bruise him in the heel." This prophecy takes us now to question number two.
The prophecy in Genesis 3:15 foretold a rivalry and bitterness between God and Satan. God would have a "seed" (those who follow him, with Jesus being the primary seed - see Galatians 3:16,29) and Satan would have his seed (those who follow him, wittingly or otherwise - see Revelation 12:9). The prophecy also foretold that Satan would inflict a heel wound upon the seed of God. This occurred when Jesus was put to death as a criminal, handed over to the Romans by his own people - read Matthew ch 27). Yet, like a heel wound this would not be a permanent affliction. According to the Bible Jesus was raised from the dead by his Father just 3 days after he was put to death (read Matthew ch 28)!
Jesus' death was significant because his shed blood opens the way for God to redeem sinful humans by providing a mechanism for the forgiveness of sins (mistakes), thereby opening a window to the possibility for endless life. How does Jesus' death accomplish this? Adam was a perfect man who sacrificed perfect, endless life not only for himself, but also for his children (Romans 3:23; 5:12). Jesus, as a perfect man, willingly sacrificed his perfect life as a ransom
, or exchange, to buy back to God what Adam gave up, i.e. - us! (see Matthew 20:28; 1 Corinthians 15:45-47) As a man, Jesus was the exact equivalent of Adam, therefore God's perfect justice could be satisfied by Jesus' one sacrifice (see Exodus 21:23 for the principle, and see Hebrews ch 9,10 for a fuller explanation of how the ransom works). As a result, Jesus replaces Adam and becomes our "Eternal Father," offering us life, rather than selling us into death (see Isaiah 9:6).
This then leads us to question 3, is there value in Jesus' sacrifice, which could be re-titled: Uh, what's in it for me? Frankly, that depends a lot on you. You see, the ransom provision that Jesus' death makes possible is clearly open to all humans, past, present, and future (John 3:16). It is an all-encompassing provision made possible by our merciful heavenly Father. However, most humans will not
benefit from it. Why? Because while the provision is available
to all, not everyone takes advantage of it. In fact, Jesus himself indicated that relatively few would do so (see Matthew 7:13,14). The reason is that while nearly a third of the current population of planet earth claims to believe in Jesus, few are actually interested in anything he had to say, much less in practicing the things he taught (see Matthew 7:21-23). Because of this hypocrisy, many non-Christians want nothing to do with Christianity, or the Bible. This too was foretold (2 Peter ch 2, esp vs. 2). But for those who follow the simple formula found at Acts 3:19,20, which states: "Repent therefore, and turn around so as to get your sins blotted out, that seasons of refreshing may come from the person of Jehovah and that he may send forth the Christ appointed for you, Jesus," the ransom provision applies. Yes, true repentance requires that a person stop practicing the things that God (and Jesus) deems are bad. The only way to determine what things are bad in their eyes is to familiarize yourself with what the Bible actually teaches. Sadly, few want to commit the time to do this. And, admittedly, some things in the Bible are hard to understand, meaning that further research may be needed. But since the Bible indicates that Jesus' death opens the door to eternal life for true believers, would you not agree that any sacrifice of time is well worth it?
The blessings for the future under Jesus millennial reign will be endless. You can read about some of these blessings in the following verses (Isaiah 1:6-9; 33:24; 35:5-10; 65:17-25; Revelation 21:3-5). I warmly encourage all to read the cited texts. Planet earth is soon to be reborn. Jesus' death does have value, and makes all things possible. The only real question is this: Will you be there to enjoy it? It really is up to you.
* On April 3rd, 2015, Jehovah's Witnesses will gather together in over 230 lands to commemorate Jesus' death, in harmony with his command, found here: Like 22:19,20. At their official website, JW.ORG, on the homepage you can find an advertisement for this important event. If you click on it, you will find a locator tool that will enable you to find the nearest location to where you live that this event will take place. This special meeting is open to the public.
All are invited to attend. Last year nearly 20 million people from around the world attended. Hope to see you there!
For more information please visit JW.ORG