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Enjoying Life as God Intends

2019 Advent Devotional – Day 21

Born to Die

Read Matthew 27:11-31. If time permits, read Matthew 27:1-66.

In reading the biography of Martin Luther, it would seem like he has always been destined to be the one who would bring Reformation to the Church. He was born at a time when disillusionment towards the Church is high. Corruption and immorality were rampant amongst the bishops. Biblical scholarship began to move towards the study of original texts (which meant the Greek and Hebrew Scriptures). Luther just seemed to possess the right personality who took God and the teaching of the Church seriously. Luther’s conflict with his father also seemed to deepen his motivation to find a gracious God through the Scriptures. Take all of that, and add in the invention of the printing press, it was just the right mix of events, trends, scholarship, personalities, and technology that enabled him to forge ahead with the Reformation. He seemed destined for it, under the providence of God.

What was king Jesus destined to do? In a nutshell, Jesus was destined to die by crucifixion. When Jesus himself mentioned this to his disciples, they were incredulous. How could a powerful king, who was going ahead healing people (see previous devotional), be crucified? Kings are supposed to reign and rule. But, not this king. Jesus himself happily admits that he is indeed the king of the Jews (v11). He was betrayed by Judas, captured by the soldiers and led to Pilate. When he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he stood silent. Even Pilate’s wife recognised that Jesus was innocent (v19). However, in an effort to placate the raging crowd, Pilate instead chose to kowtow to the crowd and release Barabbas instead of Jesus. Pilate had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to the soldiers to be crucified. Before doing that, the soldiers mocked and flogged Jesus. Barabbas, who was rightly imprisoned because he led an insurrection (cf. Luke 23:19), was freed instead.

If we have been reading through the Gospel accounts, this should not come as a surprise to us. Jesus repeatedly said that he will be betrayed, and crucified (cf. Matt 16:21-23, Mark 8:31-33, Luke 9:21-22). Jesus was destined for it, and he knew it. However, his death is not a futile one. It is precisely that he was destined for death that there’s a particular purpose and reason to it. In this passage, we see what kind of king he is. He is the kind of king who took the punishment and place of someone who was guilty, and he does that willingly.

This passage gives us a picture of the Gospel message. Barabbas, the one who is guilty and rightly imprisoned, walks free at the expense of Jesus Christ who was innocent. That situation is a mirror to us. We are the ones who are guilty of sin and rebellion, but yet we are spared of the judgement of God at the expense of Christ who took our place and our punishment. What kind of king is Jesus? One who loves his people and willingly gives up his life for their sake.

And this was no accident of history as well. He was destined for it since his birth. In fact, he was destined for it even before that through the many prophecies in the Old Testament. One example is Isaiah 53:4-12. It was even hinted in Genesis 3:21 when God sacrificed animal to use their skins to cover the sinfulness of Adam and Eve, like how the blood of Christ covers our sins. As we come to our Christmas celebration this year, let us come to appreciate that the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ is one that has been orchestrated since the beginning of time. He was destined to die for sinners like you and me.

  • Pray that God will strengthen us with power by his Spirit to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.
  • Pray that we see our salvation as part of a much bigger picture of God’s plan for the whole creation.