From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests, and teachers of the law, and that He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Mt 16:21
Jesus, the Divine Son,
be killed and
be raised? What could it possibly mean that God “must” do something? Is He compelled by some other person or force? Not likely, considering His supreme position in the universe. Has He trapped Himself into it by willing it? No, I think there’s a better answer.
. . .
A couple of years ago
did a series titled “Is Our Gospel Too Small?” That question has been on my mind often lately as I’ve considered this rich and exhaustless science of salvation. I’m afraid that perhaps our good ol’ evangelical pragmatism has duped us into shrinking the Gospel down to one (important) part of the problem and one (very important) part of the solution. It is good and necessary to be able to explain the Gospel simply and there are some helpful tools out there for doing just that, but if we think that three select texts from Romans on a pocket-sized pamphlet does justice to the sin problem or to the Savior solution, then indeed our Gospel is far too small.
The sin problem is bigger than only my personal wrong choices—it is a problem in my nature, it is a social problem too; in fact, it is a complex cosmic problem! And the solution is bigger than the death of Jesus on the cross. To solve the big, complex, personal-social-cosmic problem, God made a big, complex, personal-social-cosmic solution which includes the cross event, but is not limited to it. The solution requires His deity, His incarnation, His perfect life, His resurrection, His inaugeration, His ascension, the sending of His Spirit, the revelation of His will, His intercession, His judgment, the cleansing by His fire, His return—and even more!
Our sharp focus on the cross—to the neglect of the manger and the empty tomb and the heavenly sanctuary and the new earth—has diminshed our appreciation for the whole work of God. It has narrowed our vision to the gift of justification and left us with teeny tiny predestinations and sanctifications and glorifications. What a joy it is to be forgiven! Yet there are more joys beside, joys that are stuffed on every page of every Bible, waiting for some perceptive soul to take them up and enjoy them.
Recently an important insight was forged in my mind about salvation:
Everything that God has done, is doing, and will do is necessary for our salvation
. No piece of the plan is superfluous, no action has been unnecessary, no part is an appendix. I was initially startled to read that Christ “was raised to life for our justification” (Rom. 4:25) because I thought that justification was completely secured on the cross, but I thought wrongly. My justification requires not only the cross but the resurrection, and indeed every aspect of Christ’s ministry. I could no more be saved without His kingly inaugeration than I could without His sacrificial death. Sounds almost heretical, doesn’t it?
But now that I understand God’s salvation economy, I perceive the significance of Matthew 16:21. Who or what makes it necessary that Christ go and suffer and die and live again? By His own free will the Lord has chosen to enact a glorious plan of salvation, and
if we are to be saved
then Christ must go and must suffer and must die and must be raised again. Christ journeyed to Jerusalem because He wanted to save me, and that meant enduring the cross. Christ still wants to save me, and now that means not a cross but the tunic of the High Priest, soon it will mean returning in the clouds, and someday it will mean recreating the heavens and the earth---and all for love of us!