In the Image
And when Jesus had cried with a loud
voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I
commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost. Luke 23:46 (KJV)
I believe when considering the Lord and His death for our sins, we sometimes get caught up in just plain bad thinking. We think He was forced into an inescapable situation where He was murdered for righteousness. He was the Light of the world, and men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil, so rather than receive the light, they thought to extinguish it instead. Unrighteously murdered, yes, but forced into a situation of no return, no. The Lord Jesus was in complete control of every moment on this earth, including when he was hanging on the cross interceding for the sins of all mankind.
I believe one of the biggest evidences supporting this statement is the matter of the timing of His death. For instance, there are many times in the Scriptures when we read how the religious leaders or townspeople wanted to kill Him, yet the Scripture also tells us, “He passed through their midst for His time had not yet come.” All who hated Him were agreed that He must be done away with. Though they would attempt to execute him in anger, their plans were futile because it was not yet His time. Consider the following. “And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. But he passing through the midst of them went his way” (Lk. 4:28-30). Imagine, a crowd of angry people trying to throw Him off the brow of the hill, and He just calmly passes through their midst. He didn’t have to run for His life nor try to outsmart them. They were unable to accomplish their will because it wasn’t God’s will. This was not the time nor the manner in which He would die, and He knew it.
Consider Him before the religious leaders and Pilate after He had been arrested. We read of the many false accusations that could not stick to Him. They were just false accusations. Having declared in the garden, “behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners” (Matt 26:45), He knew His earthly ministry was drawing to a close. But those who desired to see Him dead had no way of accomplishing that feat, even though they had tried many times to take Him and kill Him, because of their inability to produce condemning evidence. Even after He allowed Himself to be arrested and was ready to complete the will of the Father, He had to give them the evidence they were looking for so they could accuse Him of blasphemy. “Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven” (Matt 26:64). Without this sentence they would have had nothing to charge Him with. It was only after they had exhausted all the false accusations that Jesus gave them reason to continue with His trumped up trial. We even see Him before Pilate and Herod, and instead of condemning Him, Pilate declares repeatedly that He has done nothing worthy of death. The highest ruling authorities in the region at that time found no reason for death. Yet Christ propelled Himself into the work of the cross.
However compelling both of these instances may seem, I think they are secondary to the control that Christ showed as He hung on the cross and completed the work of redemption. It seemed as though wicked and evil men were successful in railroading the Lord of glory to the cross of shame. As they gathered around the foot of the cross to mock and scorn the One that had only done good before them, they hurled the most ironic and ignorant abuses possible. “If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross. Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him” (Matt 27:40-42). The very work of salvation was taking place before their blinded eyes. Those who were supposed to know the Scriptures and should have recognized the Christ and His life saving work were blinded as they stood in the presence of that historic work of salvation.
Satan, too, must have been thrilled at the aspect that his eternal enemy, who righteously cast him out of heaven, was about die a cruel death. Victory was only hours away, and he would be able to claim victory against the eternal God. Yet only hours before the Lord had stood before Pilate and told him, “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world” (Jn. 18:37). Wickedness was coming to a climax as people stood there watching their Creator pay the penalty for their own sins. I’m sure the heavens watched in horror as the creatures scorned their Maker and subjected Him to a cruel death. Angels stood ready to attack and wipe out humanity in an instant at the word of the Son. A mystery from the beginning of time was unfolding before their very eyes. It was a mystery known only to the Godhead, the just sacrificed for the unjust. It was love deeper than humanity could ever comprehend.
Yes, as He hung there on that cross and His blood flowed freely for mankind, He was still in control. The sky had turned dark, and I believe it was as dark as the sinful human heart. While that sky was black the Father poured out His wrath on His only beloved Son, our Substitute, so that all who believe would be forgiven of their trespasses against God. The cup that the Lord anguished about in the garden, every drop was being consumed by the Lord, so there wouldn’t be one drop left for me. When it was over the Lord said, “It is finished,” He knew that the will of the Father was complete and that the penalty for all of humanity’s sin had been paid. His purpose on this earth was complete. To purchase by His own blood, man, so he could have eternal life.
Yet even in His death he was in control, for the Scriptures tell us that when the work was done, “he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost”(Jn. 19:30). This in itself was a controlled act. He didn’t die as a normal man dies. Often times we hear of men who face death, how they cling to life as long as they can. They gasp and suck every bit of air that they can to hang on in this life. It’s man’s natural instinct to try to survive. Not so with the Lord. He saw the work of redemption was complete, and He bowed His head and gave up the spirit. No one took it from Him; it was a willful obedience that brought Him to this end, and when the pain and suffering for the penalty of sin was accomplished, He expired at His will. This death was so different from that of normal men that it caused the Roman soldier experienced in execution of prisoners to react. “And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God” ( Mr. 15:39). This was a soldier who had seen many people die; he had seen and conducted many crucifixions, but it moved him so that he acknowledged the Son of God. He proclaimed there at the foot of the cross what the men of Israel should have been proclaiming from the beginning, “Truly this man was the Son of God.”
Have you, like the centurion at the foot of the cross, acknowledged and confessed, believing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? Have you knelt there as a sinner to allow Him to forgive you of your sins? His control when He was on the earth the first time is quite evident, and like it or not, He owns you, too, first of all, because He is your Creator, and secondly, because He died for your sins. You can either bow in submission and let Him control your life now, or when you stand before Him, then in a horrible and eternal way you will see and feel His control. “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt 10:28).
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