At the turn of the twentieth century, Morgan Robertson wrote a novel about a ship that sailed between Southampton, England, and the United States. The year was 1898, and it was the ship’s third trip from New York to England. The ship, the biggest and grandest liner ever built, never reached its destination. Its hull was ripped open by an iceberg, and it sank with heavy loss of life. The fictional ship was the Titan, and the book’s title was Futility. Fourteen years later on April 15, 1912, this novel was strangely acted out in history in many ironic details. The historical ship was the Titanic!
As one looks at the scenes of the Passion history leading to Christ’s death, one is struck with a strange paradox, namely, that most persons involved in the story want Jesus to die! God the Father, Satan, Barabbas, the high priest, Pilate, the religious leaders, the crowds, Judas, and Christ Himself—all want Jesus to die! To be sure, there are different agendas, conflicting purposes and motives. Many are selfish, but others catch the unfathomable dimension of God’s purpose and goal, the proper, right reason that Christ must die.
Satan Destroyed the Gift of Life
and Relationship with the Father
As sad and painful as it must have been, the Father’s desire for Christ to die was necessitated by sin and its tragic consequences. God’s gift of life at creation was destroyed by Satan through sin, and humankind became alienated from God. There was only one way for that tragedy to be reversed; namely, Christ was made to die as our substitute to pay for the sins of the world. Only then could we have life restored; only then could our relationship with the Father be reconciled. As the second lesson appointed for this Ash Wednesday declares, “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:20b–21).
This action of God reveals the drama that brings victory over death by restoring life. It is a most unconventional and unexpected plan, not accomplished by a show of earthly might and armies but through apparent failure: disciples forsake their leader, betrayal by a close friend, insults and gross injustices, and the human helplessness of Christ, who could prevent it all, saying, “Do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once send Me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Mt 26:53). Yet He doesn’t call down the angels and, later, when He is taunted to come down from the cross to prove He is who He claims to be, He doesn’t do that either. It looks like a total failure. The hopes and dreams that Christ had inspired in the lives of people were dashed. Yet the war is fought successfully on a different plane with an unconventional procedure—not by the one who lives but by the one who dies! The victory is won by death! The death that the Father desires is the ultimate sacrifice that pays and atones for our sins and reconciles us with God.
Christ was not simply the victim of His environment or circumstances nor was He helpless to avoid death. The Bible affirms that He chose to obey the will of His Father and to die because of His lavish love for us! He says, “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. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (Jn 10:17–18). The scenes of Lent are really a glimpse of the cosmic war being waged between God and Satan for our salvation!
The Father loves and cares for us so much that He sent His Son to that cruel, crude death. Why? Because of that supreme, selfless sacrifice on Calvary’s cross, sin and death no longer have power over us. What unfathomable love! It is in that context that the Father wants Christ to die.
By the Spirit’s power, let this Lent be a time of reflection, appreciation, and recommitment for us as we express our thanks in worship, in obedience, and in trust.
How Christ Must Die
The plan and purpose of Christ’s death was to redeem and restore us into a right relationship with the heavenly Father. Satan and his followers, however, desired nothing more than to sidetrack or nullify the Father’s plan, which would destroy the gift of restored relationships and make Christ’s sacrifice ineffective.
Thanks and praise to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for the power, the will, the grace, and the love to fulfill this plan of the Father! Gratefully, with the apostle Paul we exclaim, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways! . . . For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever” (Rom 11:33, 36).
Next week we will consider another participant from the Passion history of Jesus who says that Jesus must die—Satan himself!