Approved by his Father

At the commencement of his public min­istry, Jesus made his way to the Jordan to be baptised of John the Baptist. Upon his baptism the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended as a dove upon him, with the accompa­nying words, “Thou art my beloved Son; in whom I am well pleased” (Luke 3:21-22). Thereafter, John introduced Jesus to his disciples in the telling words, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away (mg or ”beareth” cp Isa 53:12) the sin of the world.” Here, at the beginning of the Lord’s ministry, was signalled the climactic purpose at its end: the con­quest of sin, his obedience to death, even death by crucifixion (Phil 2:8).

In the teaching and parables Jesus spoke, in the miracles he performed by his Father’s power, it was clear beyond question that he was “a man approved by God” (Acts 2:22). As such he fully understood his work in Jerusalem. “From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples, how that he must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day” (Matt 16:21).

With Peter, James and John, he ascended a high mountain apart and was transfigured before them, a foretaste of the glory which would be his following his death and resurrection. There he spoke with Moses and Elijah “of his decease (exodus) which he should accomplish at Jerusalem” (Luke 9:32). Significantly, after this the Father’s approval was once more publicly declared: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him” (Matt 17:5).

Sonship did not make Jesus sinless, but it made sinlessness possible. Wonderfully, the Son of God com­menced his descent to Jerusalem knowing what this meant; that the shadow of the cross lay across his path.

The Road to Jerusalem

Progress on that path required great determination, a desire to honour his Father’s will: “And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51; Isa 50:7). Later there was another revelation of what was on our Saviour’s mind: “I have a baptism to be baptised with; and how am I straightened (mg “pained”) till it be ac­complished” (Luke 12:50).

Following his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, “certain Greeks” sought him and this underlined how important his coming sacrifice was and he said, “Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name”. Once more a voice from heaven responded positively, reassuringly (John 12:27-28).

The ‘Passover Lamb’was now in Jerusalem and was subject to the scrutiny of his enemies who sought to slay him; but he emerged without spot or blemish. As the hour drew near he surrendered to his foes and although he could have evaded them all and disappeared into the darkness, he sought to do his Father’s will. He cast himself on the ground and with strong crying and tears sought that if there was another way, it might be made known to him. This desire was subject to “not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matt 26:39). Three times he prayed and at the last, returning to his sleeping disciples, he said with determination and resolution, “Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me” (v46).

Arrest and Trial

Jesus appeared before Annas, Caiaphas the High Priest and the Sanhedrin. “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: In his humili­ation his judgment was taken away” (Acts 8:32-33; Isa 53:7-8). He had to endure the provocations and the travesty of justice, all the while remaining faithful to his Father’s will.

Crucifixion

Bearing his cross Jesus was led to Golgotha – “the place of a skull” (John 19:16-17). There they cru­cified him; the most horrendous way to die, slow, drawn out and naked before the mocking crowds.

This our Lord endured so he might be the accept­able sacrifice for us: “Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). On the cross, Jesus witnessed the amazing fulfilment of what the psalms and the prophets had said would take place at his crucifix­ion. Many times these details had been rehearsed in his mind and now he experienced them in their awful reality.

Heaven’s displeasure at what was happening was seen in the darkness that enveloped the land from the sixth to the ninth hour (Matt 26:45 – noon to 3pm in our time), and also by an earthquake in which “the earth did quake, and the rocks rent” (v51). In addition to this the veil of the temple was rent, demonstrating that the way into God’s pres­ence was about to be “made manifest” (Heb 9:9-12).

The time came when all the Scriptures describ­ing his death had been fulfilled, save the last part of Psalm 69:21, “and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink”. So our beloved Lord, “knowing that all things were now accomplished … saith, I thirst” (John 19:28). Having received the vinegar he said, “It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the spirit”. Thus he ‘mocked’ death! (v30) He had done his Father’s will perfectly. Sin had been conquered and the flesh shown to be rightly related to death. He had finished the work his Father had given him to do: “he became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil 2:8).

The Resurrection of our Lord

The Father had assured the Son that He would raise him from the dead if he laid down his life. The Apostle Paul continues in Philippians 2, “Wherefore God hath highly exalted him, and given him a name that is above every name …” (v9). We can see from this how Christ, too, was saved in the death he died for us.

Earlier the Lord had told his disciples that his Father loved him because he would lay down his life, “that he might take it up again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself” (John 10:17­ 18). He had power both to lay his life down and to take it up again. The “power” lay in his compliance with his Father’s will. Accordingly, on the third day he was raised from the dead and glorified (Eph 1:20; Luke 24:1-8). At Pentecost, Peter declared that Jesus “was approved of God by miracles … him being delivered by the predeterminate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it” (Acts 2:22-24).

Concluding Thoughts

From our Lord’s prayer in John 17:5, “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory that I had with thee before the world was”, it is clear that the sacrifice and glorification of the Son was part of Yahweh’s eternal purpose. This purpose will be consummated at the end of the millennium for we read, “for he (Christ) must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death … And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all” (1 Cor 15:25-28, RSV “everything to everybody”).

So we can see that the scope of this purpose in Christ, “the logos” of John 1:1, predated creation and will reach finality after the Millennium. It is the pre-eminent theme of the Scriptures and uni­fies the Word of God from Genesis to Revelation.

Just how much did the Father love the Son? Speaking of those “that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name,” Yahweh said, He “will spare them, as a man spareth his son that serveth him” (Mal 3:16-17). In these words there are over­tones of how the Father would desire to spare his own Son. The Apostle Paul reflects, “he that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things” (Rom 8:32).

The most difficult purpose having been done, the lesser cannot fail, so nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v39).

Our response, surely, is to manifest the same love to others that has been shown to us. This was taught by the Apostle John in 1 John 4:9-11: “In this was manifest the love of God toward us because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us we ought also to love one another.”