and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will
of this three part series discusses the crucifixion of Jesus as it
relates directly to personal salvation of the believer.
Part 2 declares how Jesus revealed his death by crucifixion to have been the exact moment of the coming of the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.
Here in Part 3, it is our purpose to examine our Lord's words to determine what the cross means to him personally and individually. We seek to identify with him so as to truly appreciate what he did for us at Calvary. The three parts, again, are:
1. Personal salvation of the sinner
2. Coming of the kingdom of God
3. Personal experience of Jesus
these three with the three perspectives of three dimensional space, and
understanding that one needs to perceive this topic in all three
dimension before one can comprehend why Jesus died, we seek by
this third perspective to more fully comprehend the cross by means of a
three dimensional view.
did the cross mean to Jesus, personally?
of Nazareth came into the world with the most profound comprehension of
his heavenly origin. It was not his choice of will to come into
the world, but he appeared only in obedience to the will of the Father:
 So Jesus proclaimed, as he taught in the temple, You know me, and you know where I come from? But I have not come of my own accord; he who sent me is true, and him you do not know.
 I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.
 Jesus said to them, If God were your Father, you would love me, for I proceeded and came forth from God; I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.
he journeyed to the world only with the understanding that his was a
round trip ticket. He spoke of his return as he neared the end of
 I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and going to the Father.
Immediately prior to his initiating the action that put him in the cross, he acknowledged that this was his return trip:
 And now I am no more in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to thee. Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.
Therefore the cross was, for Jesus personally, his return trip to the Father -- the return to the Father's house -- which he had not wanted to leave.
 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
 But now I am coming to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.
The great joy of the Son of God was to be experienced only in his return to the Father. Therefore, we must acknowledge that the cross was, for Jesus, his return trip ticket to his Father's house and was, from that perspective, the means to his great joy. That's the positive side of the experience for him; everything else is tragic, tortuous and dreadful. His way back to the Father was not an easy journey, but it was the only way for him, and has become the only way for all of the Father's children to follow him to the Father's house. So, he entered into this experience with the realization that he was leading the way for others to follow, so that he might rescue men for God. It was necessary that he leave the Father so as to return to HIm; it was necessary for him to return to the Father so as to lead others to HIm. Here is the way he explained it:
 Then Jesus told his disciples, If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
He did not come as a sightseer. He was not a tourist. He was the emissary of the Father, sent to perform a certain mission, and he could not return until the mission was fulfilled. Indeed, the return, the cross, was the fulfillment of the mission, the last witness to Truth, which was one way he acknowledged his purpose in coming when he responded to Pontius Pilate as follows:
 Pilate said to him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.
What is this truth? He was about to crown his witness on the cross, so that we see the cross as the culmination of his testimony to Truth, apart from which his testimony would have been an incomplete failure. Therefore, we can see the cross as being, for Jesus personally, the crowning culmination of his testimony. Throughout his mission he was looking to this event with mixed feelings, both of eagerness and dread. Of eagerness because of the joy of returning to the Father; of dread because of the horrendous suffering. Whatever the specifics of truth, it focussed ultimately on the cross; Jesus knew it and knew that the cross was to be his most difficult witness, without which his witness was not complete.
The statement to Pilate was a general statement of his purpose in coming into the world from heaven. He gave a more specific statement here:
 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me;
He clarified this by continuing to define the Father's will immediately. He said,
 and this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up at the last day.
 For this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
Therefore, the Father's will is fulfilled only in the resurrection at the last day, when He will raise it up at the last day. So everything points to the resurrection to the Father's Glory as being the Father's will in its essence.
He came, as he said, down from heaven (to earth) to do the Father's will (on earth, as it is in heaven). That being his task, and it being an exceedingly difficult task -- even for the Son of God -- he sought all the help he could find, even on earth and from his close disciples, by urging them to pray for him, that he would complete his mission, which was to do the Father's will on earth:
 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
Obviously, he had not fulfilled his mission -- completed his testimony -- at the point of instructing them to offer this prayer in his behalf. Furthermore, on the night prior to his crucifixion, he still had not completed his testimony or done the Father's will that he was sent to do, for we find him agonizing in Gethsemane and praying to the Father with these words:
 Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.
Herein was the great contest that raged within Jesus of Nazareth. Whether, as a man, to save his life on earth (which was his will as a man) and fail of his mission, or as a man to choose to go, non resisting, to the horrendous death of the cross so that he might complete his testimony and return to the Father, which was his Father's will. So therefore, he clearly perceived that his crucifixion was, for him, the Father's will, according to which he was to be the archetypical leader for all others who would yield to the Father's will so as to take up their crosses and follow him.
The crucifixion of our Lord was, to him, a bitter cup of suffering. He chose to make it so! But why? Why could he not have enjoyed that last Passover with his disciples, spent one last, quite evening with them, bidden them a last farewell and retired to a bed, there to fall asleep so as to pass quietly to the Father? In the morning, finding that he had gone to the Father, they would have prepared his body for burial and laid him to rest in the borrowed tomb to await his resurrection.
Yes, we know that the prophets foretold his suffering, and in his suffering he fulfilled the prophecy. That is, however, no explanation for the suffering. Why was it so prophesied?
Why was his suffering written long before it was to come to pass? There were other prophecies that were not fulfilled; why must this one have been fulfilled?
There is a very clear answer to such questions, and we will turn to it, but first consider a "what if" and think of its significance. That is, what if Jesus had passed quietly in his sleep as suggested above? He came to bear testimony to the Truth, of which his death was a critical element, but what kind of testimony would that have been? How would that have been a manifestation of the Great Principle -- of the hatred of life? Who would not desire to have an assurance of departing this world so peacefully? Then, his imperative to his disciples would not have been, "Take up your cross and follow me" but would have been something such as this unique instruction to the disabled by the pool: "Take up your bed and go home!" (Mark 2:11)
Not only this, but so ordinary a death would not have attracted the attention of the world such that it continues to be narrated to this day, even among those who are his worst enemies through following a false apostle in his name. No, our Lord knew from the beginning that he must suffer, and so he said:
 And he began to teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
 But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.
The Christians have attempted to persuade the world, contrary to the Word and to all reason, that he suffered so as to bear the sins of the world -- that is, that he was suffering punishment for our sins. But Jesus himself gave a radically different explanation for his suffering, and we cannot perceive the essence of it apart from listening carefully to him.
He suffered for one primary reason -- he was in the domain of his eternal enemy, Satan, who was not about to allow him to go peacefully in his sleep. He knew, even before he came, that he was entering into a hostile environment controlled by the deadly enemy, who would surely seek to destroy him. He came into a world that was ruled by Satan. Even as an infant, Satan was cognizant of his presence within his domain and sought to destroy him, which precipitated the brutal slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem. Thereafter the child, Jesus, was returned quietly to Nazareth where he grew to maturity and in wisdom and knowledge in a clandestine manner. Satan's servants thought that he was surely slain at Bethlehem, and gave no further consideration to seeking him. No one guessed who he was until he came out and began to reveal himself by confronting the Satanic forces that ruled the land.
Let us review the scene so as to define the conflict that engaged this single human individual, and in which he must prevail for the salvation of all men who will follow. Satan, the Prince of this world, ruled over the world by the power of the fear of death, thereby preventing the will of the Father from being done on the earth. The Father's will is that each individual freely choose to go to the Father in heaven, out of love for the Father. The Way there is to hate the life of this world and to die to the world so as to rise to the Father. When humans freely choose to follow that Way, Satan's rule is ended and the Father's will is being done on earth as it is in heaven. The kingdom of God has come on earth, as it is in heaven. In the battle with Jesus of Nazareth, Satan would use his forces on earth to make the death of Jesus (his departure from this world on the return trip to the Father) the most fearsome death. It must therefore be by freely choosing and enduring a horrible death that Jesus would overcome Satan for all men who will to follow him. That is the necessity and the purpose of his passion. It is his crowning testimony!
His first struggle with Satan -- the opening battle in the war to follow -- came during his wilderness fast when Satan sought to sway him from his mission by making him one of his own subregents, such a man as Herod the king. There it was that he made his best offer, which was never withdrawn:
 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them;
 and he said to him, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me."  Then Jesus said to him, Begone, Satan! for it is written, `You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'
Thus it was that Satan had offered him the rule of the world provided only that he would submit to becoming the vice regent of Satan. This was his most powerful temptation. Think of it! With a simple act of submission to Satan, there was offered to this man the rule over the world, with all the power of it and all the glory of it, and a reprieve from the suffering that Satan must surely otherwise inflict. What a deal!
But he refused it:
Begone, Satan! for it is written, `You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'
There must be one last and final battle with the prince of this world before he could be overthrown such that God's kingdom would prevail on earth as it does in heaven. Along the way there would be a succession of encounters, both with the demonic spirits, and with the human children of the Satan, the devil. Further, he desired, in love for Israel, that all would repent and follow him so that it was essential for him to reveal himself to them and provide an opportunity for repentance and turning from the rule of Satan. In addition, there were those whom he called his "chosen" whom he must gather as sheep into the fold before his departure so that they would serve to maintain his testimony and to occupy his domain until his return. We have here in the Fourth Gospel the description of one of these encounters that occurred in the Temple, between Jesus and "the Jews who had believed in him."
This was not "the elders, chief priests, and scribes" that the evangelist had said were to reject him, but certain "Jews who had believed in him." He absolutely defined the former when, nearing the end of his invasion of the world, he addressed these "scribes and Pharisees" and said:
 Jesus said to them, If God were your Father, you would love me, for I proceeded and came forth from God; I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.
 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.
 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous,
 saying, `If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.'
 Thus you witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.
 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers.
 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?
 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from town to town,
\ that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechari'ah the son of Barachi'ah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar.
 Truly, I say to you, all this will come upon this generation.
He said, upon this generation. It included both "the Jews" (even "those who had believed in him" and the scribes and Pharisees (elders, chief priests and scribes). Thus it was that he was moved to pronounce this characterization of them:
 Then he goes and brings with him seven other spirits more evil than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. So shall it be also with this evil generation.
Now the combatants had been defined who were to engage in this terrible, final battle required to bring God's kingdom to earth. Satan must now be overthrown by violence -- his own violence -- vented against the non resisting Son of God. Opposed to him, standing firmly and poised heroically for this cosmic battle, there is only . . . a single and solitary soul set alone to face the onslaught of the ruler of this world. If you want to understand what the crucifixion meant to Jesus of Nazareth in it's hour, place yourself in his position. The stakes were the highest! The enemy was the fiercest! Every other human who had resisted Satan had lost! He was all alone!
His chosen ones -- even they were all to forsake him and flee. One of them would betray him; another of his most dependable would deny him three times before this battle came to its victorious conclusion. Not only would he deny his Lord, but he would also be found actively serving the the enemy when he sought to tempt Jesus to turn from the awful battle:
 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.
 And Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying, "God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you."
 But he turned and said to Peter, Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men.
That is the picture of his awful solitude in the midst of the conflict. And there is worse yet, because in the most critical moment, just before his death through suffering, even God his Father would withdraw from him.
 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, Eli, Eli, la'ma sabach-tha'ni?" that is, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
In the final moments of his passion, he must stand alone before the powers of evil, and as a man, so that he might win the victory as a man. It was during those few moments that the risk of defeat were surely the most powerful because, as he said to all, he did have the power to rescue himself from suffering and create a different outcome:
 But how then should the scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?
If not already, are you beginning to become sensitive to what the crucifixion meant, personally, to Jesus?
Our Lord knew that there must be a contest to the death so as to overthrow the power of the Prince of this world. Here is how he expressed the rule of Satan:
 Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the ruler of this world be cast out;
 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me;
 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go hence.
 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
These sayings are part of a long discourse to his disciples, presented immediately prior to his passion. As indicated by v. 14:31, above, the Passover meal was concluded and they rose to follow him out to Gethsemane. During the course of that night, the most awful, critical night in the history of the world, he wrestled with the ruler of this world who, through the power of the temptation to love his life, threw the full force of his most powerful weapon against him . . . . only to fail. Satan failed then, and he failed on the day following with his last desperate unleashing of the power of his domain -- the domain then occupied by his humans subregent, Caesar, who was capable of imposing the terrible suffering of crucifixion. Apart from that suffering, Satan knew that he had not expended his full strength in defense of his domain, and so he heaped it upon him in his final effort to impose on Jesus the love of life. HIs enemies on that day, the human ones, all brashly identified themselves when crying out,
Surely, you now understand why he had to suffer so terribly, and why the prophets foretold that it must be so? And surely you can have some small appreciation of the terrible ordeal that our Lord endured for our sakes, for his the sheep of his flock for whom he laid down his life in this way?
We have no king but Caesar!
He did not die bearing the penalty for our sins; no, not bearing a the penalty but winning the victory for all who will follow him according to his clear explanation:
 And he said to all, If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
He won the battle for the sake of all human beings on the global scale; yet it remains for each one to share in that battle and that victory at the individual level. It was all for our sake that he went ahead of us, not instead of us. And we who, believing him, can see that he has secured the victory once for all that all who will may stand redeemed from the power of evil, need only to receive his word and believe it.
So it is that we must put all three perspectives together in a sort of spiritual orthographic projection, that we may know the Truth that sets us free. The agony of the cross was
(1) The final battle, the victory of the King whereby the kingdom of God has come on earth as it is in heaven.
(2) The victorious conclusion of the battle was the exact moment of the coming of God's kingdom on earth, as it is in heaven, and
(3) The Way whereby we individually must follow who would claim the promise of salvation for eternal life and inherit the kingdom of God.
This Way is accessed by what is a strait gate, indeed. And the Way itself is narrow. All is exactly as he said:
 Jesus said to him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.