The Meaning of the Passion of Christ
by Dr. J. W. Jepson
No doubt many have asked, "What does it all mean? How does it affect me personally? And how should I respond?" Here are answers to these questions.
A red traffic light means stop, and most of us are careful not to run through it. We might kill somebody or get killed ourselves.
Also, that traffic signal is backed by a penalty for disobedience, and it is the penalty that makes it a law. Without a penalty that stoplight would be only very good advice. But because it is backed up by a penalty, people take it seriously. People pay more attention to penalties than to advice. And the greater the penalty, the more seriously they regard the law.
Now, God is not dealing with minor infractions. Planet Earth is in open mutiny. God is dealing with open, total rebellion in the human heart.
The fact of sin needs no proof. A drowning man needs no proof of the existence of water. He is surrounded by it and it is fast choking the life out of him. So it is with sin. It is everywhere, and billions of people are drowning in it.
If a person sins only three sins a day (and some people sin three sins in three minutes!), at the end of fifty years of sinning there would be against that person's record in the court of heaven no fewer than 54,786 sins!
Who can truthfully say "I have never sinned?" None! All of us have sinned (Rom. 3:23), and this fact alone completely cuts the ground from under all self-righteousness. We have all sinned, and the soul that sins shall die (Ezek. 18:4). The broken law demands the penalty. Justice demands that God impose the penalty, and this He will do because He is just.
Yes, God has a world of guilty sinners on His hands; and as the moral Governor of the universe He is obligated to uphold moral law and moral order. That means the execution of the penalty on those who have broken the moral law. And that includes all of us. But God is not willing that any should perish (2 Pet. 3:9). God wants to forgive if possible, not punish.
If God is going to forgive sin and still be just, something must be done so the offer of mercy and pardon will not lead people to think, "That was easy. God must not be very serious about sin after all."
What can that be? Repentance? Yes, repentance is a necessary condition of forgiveness-but repentance alone will not save us. We have sinned against the holy Lord God of the universe, and only He can forgive us. Nor can any animal, nor any mere human, be our substitute. For one thing, all of us have sinned. We would have to suffer the penalty for our own sins, and so we could not do it for someone else. Nor could the suffering and death (if that were possible) of an angel from heaven be sufficient to satisfy the demands of the moral law.
There is only one satisfactory substitute-someone without sin, without guilt, acting solely from love: God Himself.
Who is this who left the throne of eternal majesty, laying aside His divine prerogatives, taking on Himself full humanity, entering and developing in the womb of a virgin named Mary, and then as a new-born baby lying in a manger as the universe watched in wonder? It is God Almighty in the Second Person of His eternal Trinity. His name is Jesus!
The scene changes. We come now to Calvary. The sight shocks us. Jesus is hanging on a Roman cross. We stare at the blood that gushes from His wounds. We remember that God said in Leviticus 17:11, "The life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes an atonement for the soul." That is the life of the Son of God being poured out for our sins!
How great is the guilt of sin? How great is God's commitment to provide the only way to forgive our sin without condemning all mankind? How great is God's love, grace, and mercy? Look at our suffering, dying Substitute! If the sight of Almighty God, our Creator and lawful Sovereign, taking on Himself full humanity to die in agony and blood on an old rugged cross, under the weight of our sins-if that does not break our stubborn hearts, make us love God and hate sin, then nothing will!
Let us go once more to Calvary. You are standing at the foot of the cross. Jesus is dying. The weight of your sins is pressing down upon Him.
Suddenly, the Savior raises His head. His eyes meet yours. He calls you by name. He says, "I am doing this for you-because I love you."
Can you turn around, walk away, and go on living the life and doing the things that nailed Him there? Doesn't everything in you move you to fall on your knees and cry out, "My Savior and my God? Then do it! Now!