Summary: Jesus died AS A MAN to give life TO HUMANITY. Christ is the new Adam. New identity in Christ.
CROSS PURPOSES 6: NEW LIFE IN CHRIST
In our study, “Cross Purposes,” we have asked, “Why did Jesus die on the cross?” The answer is multi-faceted, and every angle we take yields profound insight into the grace of God:
The cross demonstrates the love of God.
The cross is God’s answer to human suffering.
The cross satisfies God’s justice and mercy.
The cross reconciles people to God, and to each other.
The cross redeems believers from slavery to sin and evil.
Hallelujah for the cross! Yet there is something more—something deep and profound, yet simple enough for a child to understand.
***Many year ago, I was visiting a 96-year-old woman in Chicago. As we sat in her old, decaying house, she told me a story about her son, who died at the age of 6. Shortly before he died, he said to her, “Wasn’t Jesus a good man to die so we don’t have to die?”
Of course, the boy died, as we all do eventually. Yet in unquestioning faith, he believed that the death of the man Jesus meant that his death would not be the end, but a new stage of life, which would never end. Jesus died so we can live.**
But why was it necessary for a man—a man named Jesus—to die so we could live? If God gave life to humanity in the first place, couldn’t God simply raise the dead and give them life that lasts forever?
Yes, but what kind of life would it be, if nothing else changed?
***If you could go to a cemetery and raise from the dead all who were buried there, what would you have? Some pretty good people, some difficult people, some scoundrels, and perhaps some dangerous people! Even the best would be imperfect, for that is the condition of humanity.**
It would not be enough for God to give immortality to humans, without dealing with the corruption of human nature, which touches every human being. We see that corruption in our attitudes and actions, as we find ourselves saying, “Why did I do such a foolish or evil thing?” We see it in people we love, as we might want to grab them by the collar and talk some sense into them. We see it in the political realm, leading to cynicism and frustration. We see it in business, in culture, and even in the church.
The Bible identifies the cause of human corruption as sin—rebellion against God and his ways. Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” God created us to share in his glory, but sin corrupts us at the core, so that we fall short of the glory for which he created us. None of us escapes corruption. We even say, “We are only human,” recognizing that humans, by nature, are not as they should be.
Humanity is corrupted by sin, and sin leads to death—physical and spiritual death.
How did we get into this fix? The apostle Paul gives a puzzling answer. Read Romans 5:12.
Genesis tells us that Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden in uncorrupted bliss. They were in touch with God, in harmony with God’s world, and unafraid of the animals. They lived without shame: Adam took delight at staring at Eve, who was perfect in his eyes. They had a perfect relationship with each other: no power struggles, no fear, nothing to hide.
Then Adam and Eve sinned; they rebelled against God. Sin corrupted their nature and their perfect lives. They were ashamed of their bodies, and their shame reached to the depths of their personalities, as they hid from God. Their relationship was cursed, as God told Eve, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” Work became painful toil, with thorns and thistles.
This was not the glorious life God intended for humanity! God refused to allow humanity to exist forever in this fallen state, so Genesis 3:22 tells us, “The LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden, into a world where all people eventually die.
The story of Adam and Eve is not confined to the far-distant past; it is OUR STORY. (In fact, the Hebrew word for man is “adam.” God intends us to understand that Adam and Eve represent humanity.) Paul connects us to Adam and Eve, when he says, “…sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned…”
How could the sin of Adam and Eve bring sin and death to us? In our individualistic Western worldview, we think we independently make our own choices and reap the consequences for ourselves. That is partially true, but we also have to recognize our connections with others. We are profoundly influenced by family background and cultural heritage. We are shaped by our environment—our access to clean air, water, sanitation, healthy food, medical care, education, accumulated knowledge, and technology. Our personalities are molded by the actions of people around us.