Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. – Galatians 1:3-5
It is an inescapable fact of the human experience that we all face death. We have to live through the deaths of loved ones, and then, eventually, we have to face our own end. It has been this way since Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the forbidden tree. So it is that one in everyone dies, and every death marks the end of someone’s ability actively to affect the course of history.
Yet there is one death that has altered and defined the history of the entire world.
The death of Jesus Christ stands in distinction from all others. First, unlike most people, He faced death willingly. He declared, “I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:17-18). The Lord Jesus was no helpless victim. He went to the cross neither as a result of cruel fate nor because He lacked the power to do anything about it. He could have called legions of angels to His defense had He so chosen, but instead He faced His grim execution and “gave himself” courageously and willingly.
Second, His death was purposeful. Jesus died “for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age.” The cross represents the appeasement of God’s wrath at sin by God’s love for sinners through God’s gift of His Son. He alone determines how sinful people can be declared righteous in His holy presence. He knew that it could be not the result of their endeavors, their observance of the law, or all of their triumphs put together; but He determined that it would be as a result of Christ’s death on the cross.
Third, then, and utterly uniquely, this death was saving. There is no other way for sinners to be made right with God. If there were, then Christ would have died for nothing. No, when Christ died on the cross, it did not serve merely as an example or as a display of God’s love—although it was those things too. Most fundamentally, when Christ died, it accomplished salvation for sinners.
The ignoble death of a 1st-century Galilean man did all of this—what a wonder! And yet, that is not the greatest marvel of all. The greatest astonishment is not that it was done but that it was done for you and for me. We will never grasp the depth of it—the magnitude of the love that brought Him to that cross—and so we joyfully confess with Paul that on the cross, the Son of God “loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). We must never grow cold to the central truth of Christianity, and of eternity: that “Jesus … gave himself for our sins to deliver us from this present evil age.” We will be giving God glory for this salvation forever; be sure you give Him glory today, too.