Have you considered the legacy you would like to leave? I’m not speaking here of a material legacy for your family but a legacy or gift for the benefit of others. Writing in The Weekend Australian (March 16-17, 2024), Nicki Gemmell spoke of ‘the ultimate sacrifice’ of Alexei Navalny, the late ‘Russian opposition leader whose sacrifice was driven by a deep love of his country and of his compatriots’. ‘We’re not used to heroes in real life anymore,’ she wrote.

In commenting on Navalny’s life most commentators miss the point that his sense of suffering, even his willingness to lay down his life in the cause of human rights, arose from his Christian faith – something he came to profess in his adult years. Navalny’s heroism echoed in a small way the greatest sacrifice the world has ever known – that of Jesus, the Son of God.

Come with me to the Gospel of John. In the course of his public ministry, John records, Jesus spoke of his hour. When Mary asked Jesus to do something about the need for wine at a wedding in Cana (John 2:1-11), he replied that his hour had not yet come. Later on, he said it again (John 7:20 and 8:30). But in John 12:23, when Philip and Andrew reported that some Greeks wanted to meet Jesus, a turning point came. It was then that he said: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified”.

Suffering. It is through Jesus’ death alone that God’s kingdom is open to all who believe in him (Jesus) – Greeks (the non-Jewish world) as well as Jewish people. Twice more, when he was with his disciples in the upper room, Jesus spoke of the time having come for him to depart this world through an event that would be his glorification – he was speaking about his death.

Sin-bearer. We get glimpses of Jesus’ understanding of the purpose of his life throughout the four Gospel records. An important key to the back-story is found in the prophetic words of Isaiah that speak of a coming ‘servant’. Chapter 52, verse 13 through chapter 53, verse 12 are very important, especially verse 6: All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Jesus, the Word of God incarnate, was born to suffer and die as the one perfect and sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the world. The hidden nature of the depths of God’s love is revealed in the crucifixion. His imminent death would be his glorification – where glory speaks of the outward manifestation of his true inner character.

Glorification. Furthermore, Jesus prays that the Father’s name will also be glorified. Too often we forget that God, whose nature is always to show mercy, is passionate about rescuing the lost. In John chapter 12, verse 28 we read God’s response: ‘I have glorifiedyou (it), and I will glorify it again’ – a reference to Jesus’ raising Lazarus from the dead, and supremely in God’s raising of Jesus from the dead. Jesus’ glorification is also the Father’s glorification.

Judgement. Another significant facet of Jesus’ crucifixion we often overlook is that the world and its ‘ruler’ were judged then and there. For Jesus’ death involved a conflict with the powers of evil. As Jesus’ crucifixion involved the reversal of the events of Genesis 3, the original tempter needed to be deposed once and for all.

Through his crucifixion Jesus, the Son of God, not only overcame the power of sin, but also disarmed the evil powers of this world and triumphed over them (Colossians 2:15). Yes, the powers of evil are still hell-bent on defacing and destroying the image of God in us. But these very powers are in their death throes, kicking out against what they know will be their end.

The extreme cost to God. In John 12:32 we read Jesus’ words: ‘And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.Jesus endured the extremes of injustice and torture, suffering and crucifixion.

Jesus’ death was not that of a misguided martyr as in the pop-opera, Jesus Christ, Superstar. Nor is the cross a heartless God punishing a hapless Son. Jesus tells us himself: it was his choice (John 10:14-15), because both he and the Father love the world and are intent on its rescue, no matter the cost (John 3:16). The death of God’s Son on the cross might seem strange, but it reveals the deeper wisdom of God and the invincible power of his love. Only God himself could perfectly satisfy the innermost depths of his righteousness.

In the midst of the noise and suffering of a troubled and evil world, Christ has left us an amazing gift. Through his cross he has not only conquered the power of sin and evil, but also of death itself. The breaking news of Easter Day that Christ is risen, awakens us to a hope and a future far beyond our imagination.

The events of Good Friday reveal that Jesus’ suffering and death weren’t the end of a heroic life, but the inauguration of God’s new age. This is God’s extraordinary gift.

It leaves us with questions we need to address. Do we truly believe this? Have we personally turned to the Lord with thankful hearts in repentance and faith? Is our joy such that we want to pass on the news of Christ’s great gift, no matter the cost, to family and friends, as well as to the wider world? Is this a legacy you want to leave?

On Good Friday and Easter Day may you know afresh – or for the first time – the joy and the hope of God’s gift of new life in Jesus Christ.

Prayers. Almighty Father, look graciously upon your people, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed and given up into the hands of wicked men, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Almighty God, you have conquered death through your dearly beloved Son Jesus Christ and have opened to us the gate of everlasting life: grant us by your grace to set our mind on things above, so that by your continual help our whole life may be transformed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit in everlasting glory. Amen.

© John G. Mason