Friday, April 10, 2020, is marked on many calendars as “Good Friday” and is regarded by many as the anniversary date of the crucifixion and death of Jesus of Nazareth. It happened about 2,000 years ago. So who is this Jesus of Nazareth and why do so many people take note of this day?
Jesus of Nazareth is acknowledged as and identified in both Scripture and history as the long-awaited Jewish Messiah. Through the writings of the Hebrew prophets God had promised to send His Son to be their Savior. But He’s not just the Jewish Messiah, He is the Savior of the world. In fact, as you read through Scripture you will find Jesus of Nazareth identified by several different terms.
Even before His birth it was announced that the firstborn son of Mary would be called the Son of God (Lk 1:35). His given name was to be Jesus (Mat 1:25), which is a name full of meaning. Literally translated it means “Jehovah is salvation.” He was also identified by other names and titles. He was to be called Immanuel, which is translated “God with us” (Mat 1:23). John, usually referred to as “the Baptist,” called Jesus the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29). He was often called “Rabbi” (Teacher) and truly He was (Jn 7:14). Another John, the apostle, called Him “the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the while world” (1 Jn 2:2). As an aside, the Calvinist would maintain that Jesus is the propitiation only for the “elect.” However, John is clearly pointing out in this passage that Jesus is the propitiation “for the whole world.” Either John is wrong or the Calvinist is wrong. Paul, the apostle, referred to Jesus on multiple occasions as “Jesus Christ” (Rom 1:1). The word “Christ” literally means “the anointed one” and certainly Jesus was anointed by His Father for the mission He was to perform. Among the Old Testament prophets Isaiah probably had more to say about the “Coming One” than any other prophet. In his writings Isaiah gives Jesus several titles: Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isa 9:6). But in other passages Isaiah’s description of Jesus was not so flattering.
In Isaiah chapter 53 he described Jesus as a tender plant, a root out of dry ground, no form or comeliness, no beauty that we should desire Him, despised, rejected, a Man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, stricken, smitten by God, afflicted, wounded, bruised, chastised, oppressed, and buried with the wicked. All of which eventually led Jesus to the cross to be crucified in our stead.
That is exactly what the word “propitiation” means – a substitute sacrifice, a satisfying sacrifice. As Isaiah wrote, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way” (Isa 53:6), coinciding with what the apostle Paul would write hundreds of years later: “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Rom 3:10, quoting from Psa 14:1-3; 53:1-3; Eccl 7:20), and a few verses later, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23).
Because the “wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23) and a blood sacrifice is required to pay that debt, which, according to the previously mentioned verses, is a debt we have all acquired, there exists only two choices. Either the soul who sins shall die (Ezek 18:4, 20) or someone else must pay the debt for us. That’s where Jesus, as the propitiation for our sins, does His work. He lived on the earth as a man (Phil 2:7, 5), experiencing all the temptations that we experience (Heb 4:15), yet not succumbing to those temptations as we do (1 Pet 2:21-25). He was sacrificed as that perfect lamb, having neither spot nor blemish, to redeem us from our sins (1 Pet 1:18, 19).
So, who is Jesus? He is the One who did what had to be done so that we may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn 3:16).
Finally, how do we take advantage of that great sacrifice? By doing the same things those people in the first century did. “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). “And now, why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).
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