Today is one of the most sacred days in all Christianity, the day that Jesus was crucified. This event marked the consummation of the Savior’s earthly ministry, the fulfillment of a centuries-old prophecy that, just as God had brought physical liberation to the ancient Israelites in Egypt, he would also bring spiritual redemption to all those who earnestly followed him.
Many of my friends in India often wonder what made Jesus different from the rest of the ancient prophets. The events of his mortal ministry, from the Sermon on the Mount to the Last Supper, would have left a timeless legacy of wisdom and good works, standing alone. He had already spread so much good in the world. So then why did Jesus have to go one step further? Why did He have to die for us?
To truly appreciate the magnitude of this event to mankind and its value to us individually, it is first necessary to understand the need for a Redeemer. Anyone who takes the time to sincerely examine their life will readily admit–sometimes wincingly–to possessing a fair share of weakness and imperfection. But what we often neglect to fully contemplate, are the eternal consequences of our flaws. We believe our faults are forgivable because they are ubiquitous in the world today and we believe God is merciful.
The reality, however, is that, were it not for Jesus Christ, our outlook would be pretty bleak. This is because, as I have mentioned in earlier posts, we are subject to eternal laws and principles to which even God, in all his wisdom and power and love, is bound to honor. Foremost among these laws, is the law of justice, which prescribes a punishment proportionate to sin. In the grand councils above, it was determined that there was only one way we could escape the punishment due to us for our unceasing failings. Only one way we could stir up any pity at the bar of judgement. It would be necessary for someone completely perfect to sacrifice Himself and vicariously bear the reproof of the penitent on their behalf.
And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance. (Alma 34:15)
Having willingly submitted himself to the chastisement we were lawfully due, Jesus alone satisfied the demands of justice and laid claim to the Father’s mercy on our behalf. It is only He who can argue for our forgiveness. In modern-day revealed scripture we catch a fascinatingly candid narrative of the Savior’s eternal closing statement in defense of those who demonstrate faith in Him:
Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him— Saying: Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified; Wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life. (Doctrine and Covenants 45:3-5)
On the first Good Friday, the anniversary of which we commemorate today, Jesus–the only perfect person to ever walk the earth–was accused, bound, scourged, mocked, reviled, spit on, and ultimately crucified. The despair was so intense that during the climactic moment of atonement, while nailed to the cross, Jesus writhed “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46) and the elements of the entire world groaned at the scene. Only that cataclysmic injustice could counter-balance the suspension of justice that a merciful judgement for us would imply. This Easter season, may we strive to always remember that infinite sacrifice.