Tag Archives: Divine Love

Who Killed Jesus?

As we journey through Lent towards Easter, we must pass through Good Friday. There is joy in the resurrection of Easter, but first there is the pain of the trial and crucifixion of Jesus.

This time of year inevitably brings up the question, “Who killed Jesus?” I recently read an article on CNN’s Belief Blog about a new book by Pope Benedict XVI in which he says the Jews did not kill Jesus. My first thought when I saw the headline was, “Duh!” Having read the scriptures that prophecy the suffering of Jesus and what Jesus said about His crucifixion I have to wonder how anyone ever thought the Jews killed Jesus, and why it is news for the  Pope to say they didn’t.

But then I remember there have been centuries of confusion and lies,  perpetuated by the devil himself, pointing to the Jews as the ones who killed Jesus. These lies, based on picking out but a few verses and twisting them, are the source of years of anti-Semitism even in the church. It is sad, indeed, and so instead of stopping with my initial reaction I decided to write my own understanding of who killed Jesus. I’m sure I won’t get the same press or carry the same weight as the Pope, but if nothing else it will be a reminder to myself and my readers of why Jesus willingly died for our sins.

I first want to look at the Old Testament prophecy concerning Jesus suffering and death. The prophet Isaiah foretold the suffering and glory of God’s servant:

 4 Surely he took up our pain
   and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
   stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
   he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
   and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
   each of us has turned to our own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
   the iniquity of us all.

 7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
   yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
   and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
   so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
   Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
   for the transgression of my people he was punished.
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
   and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
   nor was any deceit in his mouth.

 10 Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
   and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
   and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,
   he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
   and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, 
   and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
   and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
   and made intercession for the transgressors.
Isaiah 53:4-12 (NIV).

Isaiah wrote these words almost 700 years before Jesus was born. It is one of my favorite sections of Old Testament scripture. These verses tell me a couple of things. First, it was for our sins and iniquities that Jesus was crucified. If it were not for the sin of mankind, the death of Jesus would have been unnecessary. So in one very important sense, it was you and I who killed Jesus.

Second, as verse 10 clearly states, it was God’s will that Jesus should die as an offering for our sin. So in another very important sense it was God Himself who was responsible for the death of Jesus. This is further supported by what Jesus Himself said:

The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to 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 authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” John 10:17-18 (NIV).

Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” John 18:11 (NIV).

It was the love of God that crucified Christ to save sinful man. The Jewish leaders, to the extent they called for Jesus to be crucified, were but pawns in the divine plan of redemption. In the same way, Pilate was a pawn that made crucifixion, which was illegal for the Jews to carry out, the method of His death. And Judas, the betrayer of our Lord, was a pawn who fulfilled yet another prophecy concerning this grand plan to save us from darkness. But in terms of cause and effect, it was the sin of man that was the ultimate cause of Jesus’ death, the thing without which it would have never occurred because it would have been unnecessary.

There is a great old hymn written by Frederick W. Faber titled “O Come and Mourn with Me Awhile (Our Lord Is Crucified)”, and my favorite verse of that hymn is:

O break, O break hard heart of mine
My weak self love and guilty pride
His Pilate and his Judas were
Jesus our lord is crucified

Although Judas’ betrayal, Pilate’s decree, and the Jewish leaders’ call for Him to be crucified all played a part in making the death of Jesus a reality, my own selfishness and pride played an even bigger role. This knowledge of my own sinfulness and the love of God that overcame it to redeem me causes me to want to come and mourn for just awhile. During this season of Lent and especially on Good Friday I will indeed mourn that my Savior and my God had to endure such suffering because of me and you. I am thankful, though, that Easter and the resurrection are just around the corner and my mourning will not last forever.

In closing, I want to share with you the Jars of Clay version of “O Come and Mourn with Me Awhile (Our Lord Is Crucified).” May it draw you closer to the love of God.

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Glad, Gladly, Gladness – A Poem

Today is Thankful Thursday and so I thought about words that are related to being thankful. It occurred to me that if we are thankful for what we have been given and for the blessings in our life, we will have a glad heart, we will worship the Lord gladly, and we will show the world the gladness that we possess. Here is a poem about the source of our gladness, which is God’s love found in Christ Jesus.

Glad, Gladly, Gladness

God’s
Love
Averts
Death.

God’s
Love
Answers a
Doubter’s
Lofty
Yearning.

God’s
Love
Always
Deepens
Nearness to
Eternal
Salvation.
Selah

A  Biblegateway.com search of the New Living Translation for the word “glad” returned 80 verses that contained either glad, gladly, or gladness. All are rooted in the blessing of the Lord’s salvation. These are two of my favorites:

Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return.
      They will enter Jerusalem singing,
      crowned with everlasting joy.
   Sorrow and mourning will disappear,
      and they will be filled with joy and gladness.
Isaiah 35:10.

   “Jesus said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced as he looked forward to my coming. He saw it and was glad.” 
   The people said, “You aren’t even fifty years old. How can you say you have seen Abraham?”
   Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I Am!”
John 8:56-58.

Are you glad today because you know Jesus loves you? Then share your gladness with those around you so that may go forth gladly as well.

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A Love So Divine

This past weekend I started reading Tortured for Christ by Pastor Richard Wurmbrand. It is the true story of his imprisonment and torture in Communist Romania for preaching the Gospel. I had intended to read the whole book and then write a book review. But something I read last night struck me so profoundly that I was compelled to share what he wrote and my thoughts on it.

Wurmbrand talks of love divine that cares for the souls of all mankind. It can only be attributed to the love of Christ dwelling within the heart of a believer. I can relate to this first passage, though the pain he describes did not come upon me when I first believed, but has been developed within me by the Holy Spirit over time.

In the first days after my conversion, I felt that I would not be able to live any longer. Walking on the street, I felt a physical pain for every man and woman who passed by. It was like a knife in my heart, so burning was the question of whether or not he or she was saved. If a member of the congregation sinned, I would weep for hours. The longing for the salvation of all souls has remained in my heart and the Communists are not excluded from it. Tortured for Christ, pg. 56.

For me it is not always a case of wondering whether or not others are saved. Often I know by their own words that they have rejected Christ. In many instances, it is family or friends, and the pain is all the greater. This passage was encouraging to me because Wurmbrand put into words what I feel in my heart, and it was a blessing to know I am not alone. It also reminds me that I cannot pick and choose whose salvation I should care about for it is all of mankind that God wants to redeem at the cross.

But in this passage Wurmbrand speaks only of the stranger passing in the street and a general love for mankind. On the very next page, he speaks of a love so divine is defies all human logic. He speaks of the love not of one’s family and friends, but of one’s enemies. He writes:

A minister who was horribly beaten was thrown into my cell. He was half dead, with blood streaming from his face and body. We washed him. Some prisoners cursed the Communists. Groaning, he said, “Please, don’t curse them! Keep silent! I wish to pray for them.” Tortured for Christ, pg. 57.

It was in prison that we found the hope of salvation for the Communists. It was there that we developed a sense of responsibility for them. It was in being tortured by them that we learned to love them. Tortured for Christ, pg. 58.

How does one love those who have beaten, starved, and tortured them, those who have deprived them of their physical freedom? Wurmbrand spent a total of 14 years in prison, his only crime preaching the love of Christ. As I read his description of the atrocities he suffered it is unfathomable that a human being could endure such hardship only to turn around and show love to those who caused it. It can only be attributed to the love of Christ dwelling in his heart.

As I read his account, I am convicted of the paucity of my own love for not only my enemies, but my friends and family as well. Given my regular reaction to those who have slighted me in some small way, would I respond to torture and hatred the way Wurmbrand did and other persecuted Christians do even today? Wurmbrand refered to 2 Corinthians 4:17, saying that the troubles he endured were “light and momentary” compared to the eternal glory he would experience in Heaven. I’ve used that same verse as encouragement, struggling with the concept that my own troubles are truly “light and momentary.” By comparison to what Wurmbrand and other persecuted Christians endure, my troubles are nothing. Yet I find it difficult to feel or show love towards those who cause them.

This morning I received an email that illustrated the divine love that comes from Christ. I am in charge of prayer requests at my church and the email I received was a prayer request for a young woman who had been hit by a drunk driver. She is in critical condition with serious brain injury and the doctors don’t know if she will regain speech or sight after the surgery they must perform. This first part of the prayer request is pretty normal; we often ask for prayer for our loved ones. It was the next sentence that struck me as being a wonderful example of divine love. “Please also pray for the young man that hit her.  Not sure what his issues are that he was drunk at 5 pm.  He and his buddy are fine, but need prayer about his/their life choices.”

Wurmbrand, no doubt, would not only pray for this young drunk driver, but would track him down and share with him the Gospel of Christ. Perhaps that is the response we should have as well. But I think even the thought to pray for one who has caused a loved one such pain and injury is evidence of the love of Christ in the heart of the person who sent me this prayer request. It is the type of love we should all aspire to.

In His sermon on the mount, Jesus said:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48.

Richard Wurmbrand has done just as Jesus commanded here. We have the power to do the same if we rely on the Holy Spirit. It is only when we allow the love of Christ to dwell richly in our hearts that we can so. It is when we see all of humanity, including our enemies, as God sees them that we will be filled with the desire that they know His love. And that desire will override our natural tendency toward hatred and revenge. In the end, it is a love so divine that it defies all human logic that has saved the human race from itself.

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