He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried.
He descended into hell.
In many cultures there is the notion of payment that happens by shedding blood. One expression of this concept is blood guilt. It is thought that justice demands the shedding of blood, and that the guilty one must pay. God taught the Israelites for centuries that the blood can also be shed by a substitute. Read Genesis 22:1-14. In this passage it is told how God asks Abraham to sacrifice his own son. At the very last moment God stops the situation and gives a substitute sacrifice for the boy. Abraham declares in faith that one day God will give a suitable sacrifice. Once again God will provide a substitute. Abraham gets involved in the midst of events that give an idea of what God will do, when he gives the final solution to our problem with sin and guilt. God gives his only son as a sacrifice. Before he is arrested, Jesus discusses in prayer with his Father the necessity of the sacrifice and the disciples stay further. Finally Jesus carries himself his own cross towards the place of execution. Everything happens as in the case of Abraham, with the difference that now it is no longer a play and things are no longer symbolic, but Jesus must really die. He dies as a substitute for us. The animal sacrifices did not take away the guilt, they only taught this principle that the final solution would be the death of the innocent for the sinners (Hebrews 10:1-10).
There are three important words associated with the death of Jesus on the cross: redemption, atonement and justification.
- Redemption means being bought free. Jesus paid with his death the price of sin and thus frees us from enslavement to sin and the devil (Ephesians 1:7).
- Atonement means paying compensation for the damage caused by the crime. Jesus put to death the hostility that had been created between us and God. The sacrifice of Jesus meets the justified demands of God. Because of atonement made by Jesus the grace of God towards us is just. All the sins of all human beings have been paid for (Romans 5:9-11).
- Justification means that because of Jesus, God accepts us sinful human beings. On the cross Jesus is reckoned as a sinner in our place, so that God could reckon us as holy in his place. Because of his death on the cross we have this confidence: Anybody who believes in Jesus is in front of God counted as one who had never sinned, counted as one who had lived a perfectly good life (Romans 3:25-26, 2 Corinthians 5:19-21,Philippians 3:8-9).
Redemption, atonement and justification have taken place totally and completely, and are gained through faith in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9). This faith then results in a change in life. Jesus lives in us and makes us more righteous day by day.
The Bible describes in great detail the hours that preceded the death of Jesus. The gospels are focused on the cross. Jesus was not the only one who was punished with crucifixion on that day. Two other persons also died in the same manner. Also their words have been recorded in the gospels. One of these criminals noted that they deserved their punishment, but that Jesus was innocent. He begged for mercy from Jesus and Jesus declared to him a promise of salvation. The other one who was crucified did not believe. On those three figures hanging on the crosses is the whole state of the mankind in miniature. One innocent and two kinds of sinners: forgiven sinners and simply sinners. You will find there also yourself (John 3:16). Grace is God’s love towards us who we have not deserved it.
The crucifixion took place on a Friday morning. At noon there came total darkness. In the afternoon Jesus gave his spirit and died. In memory of this we celebrate annually during Easter week a day named Good Friday.
Something to ponder
The different aspects of the faith in Jesus are emphasized in a different manner in different cultures. It is said, that for the Africans Jesus is the winner over the demonic forces, for the Indians a spiritual teacher, for the people in Islamic countries a maker of miracles, for the Latinos Jesus is the defender of the poor, and for the Europeans he is someone who helps us to understand the meaning of life. Together all these give a richer picture of who Jesus is to us. What does Jesus mean for the people in your nation?