Jesus' Death: Victim or Victor?

As we come to the week of Good Friday and Easter, let us take time to think of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. Did He die a victim of his circumstances? Was his death an accident, a humiliating defeat? A theologian once said, “He who understands the Cross aright … understands the Bible, he understands Jesus Christ.” 

On the surface, Jesus suffered not only death, but a humiliating one at that! He experienced a type of execution reserved only for notorious criminals. It was a slow and painful death. Add to this ignominy, we have the mockery and taunting by the crowds, the abuse by the religious leaders and the Roman soldiers! His status as a prophet was challenged before the high priest: “Prophesy to us, Christ. Who hit you?” His kingship was mocked by the inscription put on the cross (“The King of the Jews”) and by the taunts of the soldiers. His priestly role was challenged by the scoffing remarks of the rulers: “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God … “(Lk. 23:35). Thus the crucifixion was a contradiction to everything he claimed for himself. 

Evil seemed to have triumphed: the powers of darkness appeared to have defeated Jesus. Death seemed to be the end of his mission; he had failed in his task. No longer would disciples heed his teachings and obey his commands, for they all left him. His voice was stilled, so that he could no longer preach and teach, and his body was lifeless, unable to heal, raise from the dead, and quiet the storms. But is that so? 

If we look closer at all the circumstances surrounding his last hours on earth, we will get a picture of a calm and composed figure who is in absolute control of his entire situation. From the start of the week before his crucifixion, Jesus demonstrated that he was on top of his circumstances. He directly ordered Judas the betrayer, "What you are going to do, do quickly" (Jn. 13:27). To Pilate, Jesus said, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above” (Jn. 19:11). Finally on the cross, Jesus cried out, “‘It is finished,’" and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (Jn. 19:30). This is a cry of victory in the hour of defeat!     

No, the cross is not a symbol of defeat or tragic death of an innocent victim! It is by his death that Jesus conquered sin, death and the devil for us. Paul sums up it well, “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Col. 2:15). Let us approach Good Friday with thanksgiving and reverence as we celebrate the triumphant death of our Lord Jesus Christ .

Rev. Mark Tay