Death, it seems, is always tragic. It mars everything in our world. Yet for Christians, the death of Jesus is remembered not as a disaster, nor as a tragic waste, but as the central event of their faith—indeed, as the central event in all history. Why? Why do Christians believe that the death of the founder of their faith is an event to be remembered, celebrated and proclaimed? In this set of foundational studies, Matthew Jensen leads us on a compelling step-by-step tour of the Bible’s teaching on this most important subject. You’ll discover why Jesus’ death is not a tragedy but an historical event of unparalleled importance. Whether you’re an established Christian, a new believer or an interested investigator, these eye-opening studies will deepen your understanding of why we can say that Jesus died for our sins.
Table of contents:
The death of Jesus on the cross is central to Christian faith. It is celebrated around the world on Good Friday, and is proclaimed regularly wherever Christians gather together. Each of the four gospels devotes an enormous amount of its account to describing the events surrounding the crucifixion. And the apostle Paul sums up the content of his message by saying simply, “we preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor 1:23). Almost all Christians would include it as one of the basic ideas that someone must believe in order to be saved.
But history shows that the meaning of Jesus’ death is easily misunderstood. In 1 Corinthians 1, Paul says that Jewish people of his day saw Jesus’ death as “a stumbling block” because they wanted “signs” as proof that Jesus was their long-awaited Messiah. On the other hand, Greeks saw Jesus’ death as foolish because they wanted “wisdom”—that is, a message with intellectual appeal—and the death of God’s saviour on a cross certainly did not seem wise to them (1 Cor 1:22-23). Both the Jews and the Greeks of Paul’s day saw the event of Jesus’ death, but interpreted its meaning in light of their own expectations. How should we understand the cross so that we don’t simply interpret it in light of our own expectations and so miss its true meaning and importance?
Later in 1 Corinthians, Paul presents another summary of his gospel message—a summary that includes an answer to this problem of rightly understanding Jesus’ death. At the heart of Paul’s gospel is the idea that “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures” (15:3). The significance of Jesus’ death is that it was for our sins. This is Paul’s understanding of the event. But the verse says more than that. It also gives us the basis for interpreting the death of Jesus this way: in accordance with the Scriptures. If we want to understand Jesus’ death, we need to interpret it in light of the Old Testament Scriptures.
These studies examine seven ways in which Jesus’ death is interpreted in the New Testament in light of the Old Testament Scriptures. We start with one of the gospel records of Jesus’ death. The first study asks us to read through chapters 14-15 of Mark’s Gospel so that our memories of the death of Jesus are refreshed.
Each subsequent study examines one Old Testament image that is used to interpret the significance of Jesus’ death. These studies follow a consistent format:
I pray that these studies will give you a clearer, deeper understanding of this central aspect of Christian belief. May they help you to see what it means to “preach Christ crucified”, and may they deepen your love and trust for the one who “died for our sins”.
— Matthew Jensen, September 2013