Jesus' Cross, Resurrection, and Mission

Jesus' Cross, Resurrection, and Mission

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Take some time to read Matthew 26:17–30; 27:32–56; 28:1–20; Romans 5:1–11:

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”—Matthew 28:16–20

Core truth: Jesus’ death and resurrection achieves God’s ultimate victory over sin, brokenness, and injustice and opens an abundant future for all who trust in him.

The story of Jesus reaches its climax in his death and resurrection. His death demonstrates God’s love for the world (Rom. 5:8) and decisively deals with human sin and injustice by opening up an abundant future for all who trust
in him.

The Scandal of the Cross

All four Gospels record the dramatic end of Jesus’ earthly life. The combined forces of Rome, the religious leadership, and the crowds all conspire to send Jesus to a brutal death on a cross. The message is clear: all humanity is responsible for the death of Jesus. Crucifixion was a form of capital punishment reserved for slaves and rebels against Rome. It did not bring death swiftly but instead prolonged the suffering and shame of the one being executed. For a Jew, it was scandalous because it involved the shame of being hung on a tree. To the Romans, it marked a violent and humiliating end to a life in a way that stripped its victim of any status and crushed all hope. Paul will later write, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18).

The Meaning of the Cross

Jesus’ death was purposeful. Jesus willingly laid down his own life for the world. The Gospels offer complementary reflections on the meanings of his death. John describes Jesus’ death as the fullest expression of love: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). God loved all humanity enough to give his Son for their benefit (John 3:16).

Matthew, Mark, and Luke refl ct on the meaning of Jesus’ sacrifi by describing the initial celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Jesus offers bread and wine as symbols of his death. Matthew 26:28 reads, “Th s is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” These words indicate decisively that Jesus’ death is an act for us. Jesus’ death is for our sins. Jesus emphasizes the importance of covenant between God’s people and God at the Last Supper when he says, “Th s cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” (Luke 22:20). Jesus’ death establishes the new covenant promised in the prophets and a clear pathway to God.

Last, Jesus’ death is also for the evils and injustices of the world. In Matthew 8:17, Matthew comments that Jesus healed the sick and cast out demons in fulfillment of Isaiah 53:4: “He took up our pain and bore our suffering.” Isaiah 53:4–6 is central to the early church’s preaching on the cross (see Acts 8:30–35). Typically Isaiah 53 is used to proclaim Jesus’ death for sin, but Matthew reminds us that Jesus died also for pain, suffering, demonic oppression, and affliction. Jesus’ saving death is God’s answer to all sin and evil post Genesis 3–11.

Resurrection, New Life, and God’s Mission

Jesus’ death did not mark the end of Jesus the Messiah. God raised him from the dead to definitively announce the victory of love over all darkness and sin. God saves us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Jesus’ resurrection becomes the impulse for a new stage in the mission of God. Jesus unleashes his disciples to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth. It is news that must be shared. The first heralds of the resurrection are the women who found the tomb empty on the third day. The angel sends them to announce Jesus’ resurrection to the disciples. In the first century, women were not allowed to testify in a court of law because they were considered unreliable. Yet, God entrusts them with the message of resurrection. This is a crucial word for us today. We may not always feel ready or qualified, but God has given us a story to testify and embody. The news of Jesus’ resurrection is the most important news in history and God entrusts it to a group of faithful women. He entrusts it to us, too.

Next, Jesus appears to his remaining eleven disciples (Matt. 28:16–20). He commissions them to make disciples of all nations. Jesus moved throughout the land of Israel in fulfillment of the Old Testament’s vision of Messiah. Now post-resurrection, he sends his followers into the whole world in fulfillment of God’s mission to bless the nations. “Go” becomes the church’s mantra. With the resurrection of Jesus, God’s people now become both a sending and a sent community. The movement that Jesus models becomes the modus operandi for the church.

Post-resurrection, the biblical story opens up fully to the nations. The scope of God’s mission becomes explicitly for all nations. The entire world of Genesis 1–11 is the target of the gospel. In the Old Testament, Israel’s mission was one of being and living as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. With few exceptions (e.g., Jonah) the nations had to come to Israel to learn about God. Now there is a grand reversal. Jesus’ disciples “Go and disciple” (Matt. 28:18–20) by engaging all peoples with the gospel.

God with Us

Profoundly Jesus is called Immanuel (“God with us”) at his birth. It is fitting that the Gospel of Matthew ends with the fullest expression of this promise. After commissioning his followers to carry the good news to the world, Jesus ends with a promise: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (v. 20). Don’t miss this. The risen Christ, Immanuel, leads his people as they embody his humanity-and-creation-loving kingdom in/to/for the world. Let’s go.

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