Jesus’ Death in Light of His Life
By Jordan Villanueva
One cannot read John and not see the different dichotomies presented by the apostle throughout his gospel and epistles. Light and Darkness. Spirit and Flesh. The list goes on and on. And yet, there is one dichotomy that is significant for followers of Jesus especially around the celebration of His resurrection. The dichotomy of Life and Death.
This Easter Sunday, millions of people around the world will gather together to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus and the sacrifice that was made on our behalf. And yet, it is important to not dissect Jesus’ death and resurrection from His life. I was reminded of this in a conversation with a peer of the significance of Jesus’ life in light of His death. The reality is, one cannot truly appreciate His death apart from His life.
John 10:1-18 says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying. So, Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So, there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” (ESV)
One can see from John’s account that there was some confusion in verse 6 regarding the understanding of this illustration. Unfortunately, there is still some misunderstanding regarding this figure of speech of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Specifically, in terms of the way in which the Shepherd lays down His life. In verse 11, one factor that contributes to this specific Shepherd being described as “good”, is in the way in which He willingly lays down His life. John doubles down on the willingness of the Shepherd in verse 18 when he records the Good Shepherd’s words that “no one takes His life from Him.” Jesus lays His life down at His own accord.
This willingness to lay one’s life begs the question as to what kind of life was surrendered. This question sheds light on the quality of life that is being laid at the altar on our behalf. The reality is, this was not just any life that was laid down. It was the life of the One who has given life to everything else. It was the life of the One in whom it was foretold would come. It was the life of the One in whom fulfilled the law perfectly and completely. It was the life of the One who lived life in the manner in which it should be lived. It is only when one considers the life that is being laid down, that one begins to fully appreciate the death that occurred. Because unfortunately, death is a common occurrence in our fallen world. We have become numb to the reality of death. And unfortunately, we have grown numb to the death of Jesus because we fail to consider that this death is not like any other death because His life was not like any other life.
This Easter, it is my hope that we would celebrate Jesus’ death in light of His life. That we would consider the significance of Jesus’ death that only occurred after He willingly laid down His good and perfectly lived life on our behalf. When one reflects upon the dichotomy of Jesus’ life and death in conjunction with one another, a greater appreciation and understanding results. And this appreciation and understanding leads to what the Good Shepherd references in verse 10, that we might have life abundantly. We have the opportunity to have abundant life in the death of Jesus only because of the abundant life that He lived while here on earth. As the body gathers over the course of the next few days to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus, consider His death in light of the abundant life that was willingly surrendered. Praise be to God the Father for sending God the Son to live amongst us. Praise God the Son for laying down His life on our behalf. And praise be to God the Holy Spirit, in which we pray. Amen.
*The views expressed are those solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Pastor’s Common