We talk a lot about what Jesus’ death means for us, especially in this season of the year. But what did death mean for Jesus? How did he interpret his life and his purpose in light of his own death? 

Adam and Jesus Christ in Romans 5

The book of Romans makes a sustained comparison between Adam and Christ (Romans 5:12-21). Adam sinned, and in him all of humanity sinned. The result is death and condemnation. Christ, on the other hand, reversed the Fall, and in Christ all of humanity is offered the chance to accept redemption.

Adam’s story was replayed and perfected in the person of Jesus. The difference is, whereas the first Adam failed, the second Adam—Jesus—succeeded.

Look at Romans 5:17-19:

“For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one,”—that is, through Adam—“much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ”—the other Adam.

“So then as through one transgression”—Adam’s disobedience—“there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness”—that is, Jesus’ obedience—“there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience”—Adam—“the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.”

Paul referred to Jesus’ life and death as “the obedience of the One.”

Jesus’ Obedience in Philippians 2

Philippians 2 says much the same thing:

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a think to be grasped. (Philippians 2:5-6)

In other words, Jesus did not regard his equality with God a thing to be clutched or held on to. Rather, instead of holding on to his royal heavenly glory, he

Emptied himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:7-8)

Notice how Paul again interpreted Jesus’ entire ministry in one phrase: “he was obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Jesus’ Obedience to the Father’s Will

In the Gospel of John, Jesus’ death, for Jesus, meant his obedience to the will of the Father. Throughout the fourth Gospel you’ll find references to the fact that Jesus did what he saw the Father doing, and he spoke what he heard the Father saying.  He came to do the Father’s will. He spoke the Father’s words, and he did the Father’s deeds. He revealed the mission of the Father in the world. He was obedient to the Father’s will. He willed to die out of obedience to the Father.

What did Jesus’ death mean to him? Obedience. It is because of his obedience that we have been called now to die with him, to be buried with him, to be raised with him, and to live a life of obedience.

May we, in this Holy Week, remember to put off the deeds of darkness, and put on love which is the perfect bond of unity. May we encourage and admonish one another, worshipping together so that we may be drawn together more fully into Christ’s likeness.

Jesus also understood himself to be fulfilling the larger story of scripture. You can read a summary of that overarching story here.

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The previous was adapted by Rachel Motte from a sermon Dr. Sloan delivered on April 5, 2009. Robert Sloan is the president of Houston Baptist University in Houston, Texas.

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