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He Lives that Death May Die

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“Crown Him with Many Crowns” is a theologically robust and altogether triumphant declaration of the surety of Christ’s role as the supreme Savior and Lord over all. Though it is a song worthy of being sung each Lord’s Day, it emerges most frequently around Easter. The hymn declares the wonder of the atonement and what Christ has accomplished by conquering the grave. One of my favorite lines in all of hymnody is found in this song:

His glories now we sing, who died and rose on high; Who died eternal life to bring and lives that death may die.

It seemed as though all hope was lost as Christ carried His cross outside the city gate. While hanging on the cross, enduring the wrath of God, the sinners that nailed him there made a mockery of Him. They cast lots for His garments and taunted Him; that if he were really from God, they said, He’d save Himself. Those who were onlookers at Calvary did not understand what was happening. His disciples may have even felt as though they had backed a fraud. All they could perceive was weakness.

He Was Thirsty for Us

When I was a kid, Remember the Titans was a movie that had to be watched at least once a year. In this film, Denzel Washington portrays a newly hired football coach who is tasked with bringing together a team and a town that is racially divided. Washington took his team away from the town for preseason training camp. In one of the movie’s many memorable scenes, Blue, a lineman, complains that the team needs a water break. Denzel Washington’s character gets in Blue’s face and reminds him that water is for cowards and for the weak. It’s an acknowledgment that you’re in need.

In John 19, Jesus is on the cross. He is not only going through physical torture but he is also being crushed (Is 53:5) by God. And in the midst of it He says, “I thirst” (Jn 19:28), which seems to be a sign of weakness. Jesus had taught in Matthew 5:6 that those who “thirst” for righteousness are blessed, and now He, the Righteous One, is on the cross thirsting. This is the same One who told the woman at the well that she needed the living water that only He could give. He had been pointing to the cross the whole time. We could not drink from the well that never runs dry; we could not have our satisfaction met in the Righteous One if He was not left thirsty for us.

Only because of what we see here at the cross can you and I drink from the river of life “without price” (Rev 22:17). We can hunger and thirst for righteousness and be satisfied. The cross looks like weakness to the world, like this self-proclaimed King is being exposed as a hack. But you cannot be satisfied in Him without Him being crushed for You.

This is the hope we have in the gospel. Our God could have crushed us. He would have been perfectly just and righteous to condemn us all. Jesus Christ came so that we would not be crushed, so that we would not be condemned. He went to the cross to bear the punishment due our sins and the just wrath due each of us. As He breathed His last, He cried out, “It is finished” (Jn 19:30).

Death is Swallowed Up in Victory

The price for sin had been paid by Christ’s death, but Christ’s death was not the end. The tomb could not hold Christ. The grave has been swallowed up in victory. Jesus walked out of the tomb, never to die again.

Mary stumbled to the tomb in despair on that first Easter Sunday. She did not simply find an empty grave: she encountered the living Savior. The One who purchased her reconciliation with God, the One who bore the judgment she deserved, the One who hung naked on a cross as he breathed his last, was now alive and standing in front of her. Just as Jesus called Mary’s name and her eyes were opened to the truth on that first Easter Sunday, so too may we gather on Easter and every Lord’s day to celebrate the risen Christ.

After making purification for sins and rising from the dead, Jesus “sat down at the right hand of  the majesty on high” (Heb 1:3). He ever lives to make intercession for us (Heb 7:25). All who trust in Christ alone for salvation are no longer aliens but citizens of the kingdom of God, no longer enemies but welcomed to His table, no longer orphans but His own beloved children.

This is glorious news; it is news that we must get to those who do not know Christ. As Mary told the disciples of the risen Lord, so we have been commissioned to tell this good news to everyone. We can go to the ends of the earth with supreme confidence in Him “Who died eternal life to bring and lives that death may die.”

 

Eric Roberts serves as an Assistant Editor at Radical. He is the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Hoover. Eric and his wife Morgan live in Birmingham, Alabama.
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