Skip to content
Back to Blog

What the Death of Jesus Means to Us

October 9, 2023

We are all familiar with the events of the crucifixion. Most of us heard the story of Jesus dying on the cross when we were children. Jesus dies a horrible death on a Roman cross, unimaginable pain and suffering and humiliation. When Jesus dies, He cries, “It is finished!” His mission is complete. He then willingly gives up His spirit. But we all know that this isn’t the end of the story. Jesus is buried in a borrowed tomb and on the third day, Sunday morning He’s resurrected from the dead. Easter Sunday! The glorious resurrection!

What I want to do here is to make application for us of Jesus’ death on the cross. To begin I’m going to ask that we put ourselves in the place of Jesus’ followers when Jesus dies on the cross. How are you feeling right now? You’ve spent a lot of time listening to Jesus’ teachings. He taught like no other person ever taught. You’ve heard His claims to deity such as when He said, “I and the Father are one.” You’ve witnessed countless miracles. You recall Jesus saying several times that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and be killed and on the third day be raised. He even said He would be lifted up, a direct reference to His death on a cross. He said that He, the Good Shepherd, was going to lay down His life for the sheep. And now it’s all come true! Just like Jesus predicted. Here He is dead up on the cross. How do you feel right now as you look up and see Jesus there?

Troubled, confused, distressed, scared. “God, what is going on? Why did this happen? What do we do now?” This is where Jesus’ followers are at this moment in time. They’re not celebrating. They’re sad.

Even today most people, upon hearing the story of the crucifixion of Jesus for the very first time, whether children or adults, are horrified by it. And the question most of them ask is “Why did God do this?” “Why did Jesus – this perfect Man, the perfect Son of God, sinless, good and kind, who healed many sick people and did all of these incredible things – WHY did He have to die and why did He have to die like THAT?”

As 21st Century believers we’ve read our Bibles and we know that the resurrection is coming and that’s important theologically. We’ll be talking about that more in the next couple of weeks. That will be a game changer. As will Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit is poured upon believers giving them new insight. So, from our post-resurrection, post-Pentecost vantage point we can see that the death of Jesus was all part of God’s sovereign plan. But why a death like that? A violent and bloody death, Jesus crucified on a cross, nails driven thru His hands and feet, a crown of thorns thrust into His scalp – this bothers a lot of people even today. We can understand why.

And yet we Baptists knowing the story of Jesus’ death on the cross sing so many hymns and choruses about it. We sing of the cross – “At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light, and the burden of my heart rolled away”; “Beneath the cross of Jesus I fain would take my stand”; “There my burdened soul found liberty At Calvary”; “Down at the cross where My Savior died, down where for cleansing from sin I cried. There to my heart was the blood applied; glory to His name!” We sing about the Old Rugged Cross, “When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died.” We also sing about the blood of Jesus.

The blood of Jesus represents our Lord’s DEATH on a CROSS.

  • “Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?”
  • “There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel’s veins.”
  • “Redeemed how I love to proclaim it. Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.”
  • “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine. Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine. Heir of salvation, purchase of God. Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.”
  • One of the verses of Only Trust Him says, “For Jesus shed His precious blood, rich blessings to bestow. Plunge now into the crimson flood that washes white as snow.”
  • One of my favorite hymns, Jesus Paid It All, says, “I’ll wash my garments white in the blood of Calvary’s Lamb. Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow.”
  • “He breaks the power of canceled sin; He sets the prisoner free. His blood can make the foulest clean. His blood availed for me.”
  • We even sing about the blood in that great hymn of invitation: “Just as I am without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me.”

You’ll sometimes hear Jesus’ death on the cross referred to as “The Atonement.” So then, what does atonement mean, generally? It means to repair a wrong or injury, to make amends, to make things right.

What Jesus did on the cross for us He did in order that we could have a right relationship with God. So, what was wrong with our relationship with God before? Why did Jesus have to do this? Go back to Genesis Ch 3 and there you read how mankind’s perfect relationship with God was messed up by “The Fall,” by the sin of Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden. Their sin, which led to both physical and spiritual death, was passed down to all their children and to their children’s children and so forth; eventually all the way down to us. What Jesus did on the cross repaired that broken, messed up relationship. So, Jesus’ death on the cross is huge! And it is certainly worth singing about. I’m going to draw your attention to some of the New Testament teachings about Jesus’ death and what it means to us today.

Let me take you back to just prior to all the events of the cross. John doesn’t record this in his Gospel, but Matthew and Luke do. When Jesus sat down to eat His last Passover meal with His disciples, He did something that was very unusual…

“Now while they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.’ And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is being poured out for many for forgiveness of sins’” (Matthew 26:26-28).

Paul would later tell the Corinthian believers: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).

So then, we are instructed, as Jesus’ followers, to remember Jesus’ death on the cross. Jesus obviously felt that it was important enough for us to remember. The list of things that Jesus did for us on the cross is actually pretty long. In my seminary course in Soteriology (the study of the doctrine of sin) we spent some time discussing this topic and my professor mentioned 20 things. But I want us to focus our attention on 5 main things that Jesus accomplished. These are five things that we should all know which tell us what the death of Jesus did for us.

Substitution – Christ died in our place. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin in our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). What Jesus did was on our behalf. It was HIS righteousness imputed to us, not our own righteousness.

“For Christ also suffered for sins once for all time, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit” (1 Peter 3:18). Christ died for our sins, the just for the unjust. His death was once for all, satisfying God’s justice.

“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous person; though perhaps for the good person someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8). Christ died for us, the ungodly, and in doing so He demonstrating His great love for us.

A point here about the seriousness of sin – some might ask, “why did Jesus have to die? Couldn’t God just forgive us?” God is love, but God is also just, holy, righteous – that is His nature so He cannot let sin go unpunished. To show how serious God was about sin to His people in Old Testament set up the sacrificial system (Leviticus 1, Day of Atonement, the sinner identified with an animal, which was sacrificed in that person’s place).

John Stott has a great quote about substitution from his book “The Cross of Christ.” He says, “The essence of sin is we human beings substituting ourselves for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting Himself for us. We put ourselves where only God deserves to be; God puts Himself [in the person of Jesus Christ] where we deserve to be.”

“Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned he stood, sealed my pardon with his blood: Hallelujah, what a Savior!” Substitution!

Redemption – The act of paying the ransom or purchase price for something. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought for a price: therefore, glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). We were bought with a price. We were redeemed. We are not our own.

Jesus speaking of Himself said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Jesus, Son of Man, gave His life a ransom for many. HE paid the ransom price.

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written: “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE” (Galatians 3:13). Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law.

“In Him [Jesus] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our wrongdoings, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight, He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He set forth in Him, regarding His plan of the fullness of the times, to bring all things together in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth” (Ephesians 1:7-10). Christ freed us from the consequences of sin (eternal condemnation). This was all part of God’s plan and purpose!

“Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe!” Redemption!

Propitiation – Satisfying the holy wrath of God against man’s sin. This big word is used 4 times in the New Testament. God’s wrath is pure and holy. His purity is too intense to ignore evil. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18). God cannot pretend our sin is not there or does not matter. It’s there and it must be dealt with.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in God’s merciful restraint He let the sins previously committed go unpunished” (Romans 3:23-25).
God passed over the sins previously committed. This, of course, was demonstrated in the last judgment on Egypt where God spared the firstborn of households that had the blood on the doorpost.
“Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brothers so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” (Hebrews 2:17). Here the writer of Hebrews emphasizes why Jesus had to become a man, be made like his brethren, human for human – to satisfy God’s requirement.

Hebrews portrays Jesus as our faithful and merciful High Priest. But not only is He our High Priest, He is also the perfect sacrifice for our sins. “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things having come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made by hands, that is, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all time, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:11-14). So then, Jesus is the perfect sacrifice for sin.

“By this will, we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all time” (Hebrews 10:10). The perfect sacrifice for sin once for all. “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). Jesus’ death satisfied God’s wrath against the sins of the whole world.

To summarize, Jesus’ death on the cross was the perfect sacrifice, once for all and for the sins of the whole world. So then, why is it that not all will be saved (what “universalists” believe)? “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone WHO BELIEVES IN HIM will not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Here we see a key element of salvation, which is, our belief in Him and what He did for us. He did everything for us! We either accept His free gift by an act of our faith, by believing in Him -- or we reject it.

“Til on that cross as Jesus died the wrath of God was satisfied; For every sin on Him was laid -- Here in the death of Christ I live” Propitiation!

Reconciliation – Re-establishing a right relationship with God. “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:10). At one time we were enemies of God alienated from Him, but because of what Christ did, we can be forgiven and have our fellowship restored with God.

“For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the hostility, which is the Law composed of commandments expressed in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two one new person, in this way establishing peace; and that He might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the hostility” (Ephesians 2:14-16). Through the cross He “put to death the hostility” between us and God.

“For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.

And although you were previously alienated and hostile in attitude, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His body of flesh through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach” (Colossians 1:19-22). God reconciles man to Himself by offering a pardon. Thus, we can be at peace with Him. I heard it put this way -- In all other religions man reconciles himself with God. The God of the Bible takes the initiative with humanity offering pardon and friendship to all who trust Him.

“Oh! For the wonderful love He has promised, promised for you and for me; Tho' we have sinned He has mercy and pardon, pardon for you and for me. Come home, come home, ye who are weary come home.” Reconciliation!

Justification – This is a legal term meaning to be declared righteous. Note that this is imputed righteousness. It is the righteousness of Christ, not our own. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ… Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him” (Romans 5:1 and 9). Having been justified we have peace with God. We are saved from God’s wrath – all because of what Jesus did.

“Nevertheless, knowing that a person is not justified by works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the Law; since by works of the Law no flesh will be justified” (Galatians 2:16). We are justified by faith in Christ. It’s all about what Christ did on the cross. It’s not what we do in our own human effort.

“But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we did in righteousness, but in accordance with His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He richly poured out upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by “His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:4-7). We are justified by His grace and mercy and made heirs. That means we get a spiritual inheritance.

I need to point out something very important. Justification is not being handed a “Not Guilty” verdict. It goes much further than that. We are actually vindicated and declared righteous! We are found in Jesus, not having a righteousness of our own that comes from the law, but that which comes thru our faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith. The fact is that we ARE guilty. We ARE sinners. But BECAUSE OF JESUS we get all the benefits that a perfectly righteous person deserves.

“When He shall come with trumpet sound, oh, may I then, in Him be found; dressed in His righteousness, alone, faultless to stand before the throne.” Justification!

What Jesus Christ accomplished on that old rugged cross for us was amazing grace! The perfect Son of God died in our place (substitution). He paid the price that we could not pay ourselves (redemption). He satisfied God’s holy anger against our sin (propitiation). He restored a right relationship between us and God (reconciliation). And finally, because of Him you and I are declared righteous before a holy God (justification).

Yes, we praise God for the resurrection, an essential to our faith. But let us never ever forget the cross!

Back to Blog