The Story of Scripture, Part 13 – The Crucifixion and Resurection

As Jesus travelled throughout the greater Palestinian region, opposition to his ministry mounted. Eventually, the Jewish leaders crafted a deceitful plan to see him murdered. Once this was put into motion, it lead to the famous betrayal and arrest of Jesus. They proceeded to put him through a mock trial and then took him directly to the Roman governor for execution. After suffering extreme injustice, severe mockery and brutal torture, Jesus was handed over to suffer the most appalling of all deaths — a Roman crucifixion.

As Jesus hung on the cross, it soon became apparent to many that what they gave witness to was no ordinary death. Even some of the most hardened, who were present at the crucifixion, were lead to confess that Jesus was indeed the one he had claimed to be. The land was covered in an unexplainable darkness, the earth shook violently, and Jesus uttered his final cry. The shout, “It is finished”, rung out at the same time that the cries of slaughtered lambs filled the temple. True atonement had been made. The blood of the Lamb had been shed for the sins of his people. And as terrible as the suffering of crucifixion would have been, it stood as but an external symbol of the spiritual realities taking place at the same time. While every other one of God’s judgements in history (even the flood itself) are of a restrained nature, at this moment in time the full unrestrained wrath of God was vented upon Jesus Christ.  On the cross, God’s own Son was enduring the full wrath of hell in the place of his people.

After the crucifixion, Jesus’s body was buried in a tomb that was sealed and guarded with the highest level of Roman security. However, just as Jesus had predicted, this was not the end. In yet another great display of the supernatural, the tomb was powerfully opened. Moreover, it left the Jews, Romans and indeed all of Jerusalem with a great historical conundrum – Jesus no longer lay where they had left him.  Instead, as he himself had prophesied, he had risen from the dead.

While all of Jerusalem puzzled over this seemingly impossible event, Jesus met his disciples once again, and allowed them to examine him carefully so as to be sure that he was alive.  Indeed, over a period of the next forty days, he appeared to many witnesses–at one stage even to a crowd of five hundred people. During this time,  he explained to his disciples the great significance of all that they had witnessed, saying:

Luk 24:44-47;

…everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures…

Through Jesus’ own exposition of the Scriptures, and by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they finally came to understand. This is the very revelation now recorded for us in the books of the New Testament;

1Co 5:7b;

For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.

2Co 5:21;

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Heb 9:12-15;

…he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.

The Story of Scripture, Part 12 – The Lion and the Lamb

John the Baptist was the one prophesied to come just before the Messiah, and to carry out a forerunning ministry in order to prepare the people. This he did, calling the people to turn from their sins, and then pointing them to their long awaited Messiah.

John 1:29;

[John]… saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 

In reading through the Gospel accounts, it is revealed that Jesus was the fulfillment of all the types and shadows in the Old Testament. Indeed he was the very hope of Israel; the hope of Adam and Eve themselves; and the very fulfillment of the promise given to all who looked forward to it from that time of the garden onward. 

This fulfillment motif carries right through the New Testament. He came as none other than the second Adam and the true Israel. Indeed, many moments in the life and ministry of Jesus are recorded precisely so as to make this parallel clear. Like Adam, Christ was tempted by Satan directly. Like Israel, Christ was called to faithfulness during a wilderness trial period. Of course, where Adam had failed (along with Israel after him), it is shown through these events that only Christ was able to succeed in being perfectly obedient to God’s covenant requirements. Thus it is Christ, and Christ alone, who is deserving of the great eschatological Sabbath blessing. Yet, as the spotless sacrificial Lamb he had also come to receive the covenant sanction of death on behalf of his people.  

In this regard, when Jesus’ enemies asked Him to prove Himself, he simply said; 

John 2:19;

“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

In this prediction, Jesus made reference to his own body as the true fulfillment of all that the temple had ever foreshadowed. Now it would be Jesus himself, and no longer a mere building, that would be the meeting place between God and men. The temple was always a vital reminder to the people of their need for a substitutionary sacrifice,  but now the ultimate sacrifice had come. He would be a substitute for his people in death, and so make a way to return to the fellowship that man had once enjoyed with God. To make this possible, Christ would have to die. However, in so doing he would defeat all of his enemies, and at the end be victorious over death itself.

Jesus was resurrected three days after the crucifixion, just as prophesied. Not only did this stand as a vital vindication of his ministry, but also a sign of his total triumph over evil. The Saviour had indeed come. All the promises had been fulfilled. Jesus of Nazareth had shown himself to be not only the sacrificial lamb promised to Israel, but also the very Lion of Judah; the mighty serpent-crushing Saviour first promised to Adam and Even in the garden. Added to this, Jesus had not merely made a way back to the garden, but rather to the final Sabbath glory first then offered to man.

The Story of Scripture, Part 7 – The Covenant at Sinai

Having journeyed through the biblical story thus far, at this point we should take a moment to consider the great importance of the covenant that God made with Israel at Mount Sinai. For the purposes of seeing the greater unity of the whole biblical narrative, it is vital to understand that this Sinaitic covenant was intended to mimic the very first works-based covenant in the Garden of Eden. In the same way that Adam received God’s moral law (written on his heart), as well as the the positive commandment not to eat of the tree; even so Israel also received the moral law on Mount Sinai (10 commandments), as well as it’s associated contextually specific commandments. Moreover, the same promise was given: Sabbath rest, conditioned on obedience. 

Of course, the nature of the rest promised to Israel was different in that it was typological, yet as the author of Hebrews later demonstrates, it was profoundly connected to Adam’s original promise of eternal rest by way of a type-antitype relationship. Viz., Even as eternal Sabbath rest (heaven) was promised to Adam for his obedience, temporal national rest (land of Canaan) was promised to the people Israel for their obedience. Canaan was to stand as a figure of nothing less than the New Heavens and the New Earth, all of which constituted a vital part of the biblical story. Indeed, it was through these very types and shadows, that God would show Israel (and later, the Gentile world) of their great need for the Saviour first promised in Gen 3:15.

We see this dynamic start to play out immediately. Because sin had spread to all men through Adam, Israel had proved to be no better than their first parents in keeping God’s law. In the very same way as Adam, Israel became guilty of severe covenant transgression, and so incurred the rightful judgment of God.  But if God knew that Israel was going to break the law, what was the point of giving it to them in the first place? Romans 5:4 provides the answer;

Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam… .

While the people of Israel had always been sinners, until the point of the Mosaic Covenant, they did not understand that they, like Adam, were covenant-breakers. In other words, if they had not received the Law, they would not have seen that their sin deserved the very same covenant judgment as Adam’s sin had. And even though they might have forgotten about what had happened in the garden, their failure to keep the law proved to them that they were in fact ‘in’ Adam (and just as guilty of breaking the covenant as he was). In fact, this is the very reason that this function of the law applies not only to Old Covenant Israel, but to all who come from Adam (me and you)! And this is why Paul tells us in Gal 3:24: 

“Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith”.

By the establishment of all the covenant laws, God showed His holiness to the people. The message that came to Israel was this: Your God is Holy. And you, a sinful people, cannot approach Him . . . unless He makes a way for you! Indeed, the only way that they could gain access to the presence of God was through the mediation of a priest and the offering of a blood sacrifice. This, of course, gave them an astounding picture of the Messiah who was to come; the Messiah who would be the very fulfillment of the ‘way’ (which God had made). He would be the Great and Eternal High Priest; His own body and blood would provide the sacrifice (the perfect Lamb of God); and he would even be the true fulfillment of the temple itself (by standing as God’s ultimate meeting place with men).