Christianity 201

December 14, 2021

If Dead, Jesus Couldn’t Save Anybody

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Jesus and his disciples left Galilee and went up to the villages near Caesarea Philippi. As they were walking along, he asked them, “Who do people say I am?” – Mark 8:27

[Jesus] I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.John 3:46

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” – John 20:28

This is our fourth time with freelance writer and editor Rebecca LuElla Miller, whose blog A Christian Worldview of Fiction is about topical issues, Christian fiction reviews, and occasional devotional insights. Clicking the link which follows takes you there directly.

Who Is Jesus?

I recently heard a speaker recount a situation in which a young adult was asked, Who is Jesus? The responder started some nebulous answer, then stalled out altogether. Simply, he didn’t have a clear answer. Was Jesus a religious figure, the founder of some new religion? Was He a good teacher who pointed people to a more loving way to live? Maybe He was nothing more than a cute baby that came into the world a long time ago so we could all have Christmas.

Just exactly who is Jesus? It’s an important question and one each person needs to be able to answer. Of course there are the answers skeptics give—a fairly unimportant first century Jewish rabbi whose followers turned into a cult figure people started to worship. Something along that line. It’s hard to deny that he did in fact live, though some atheists go so far as to ignore Biblical and extra-Biblical evidence to the contrary.

The people of His day actually struggle with the question, too. Who is this man? Some said He was a prophet, maybe Elijah. Herod wondered if He was John the Baptist come back to life. More than one person, though, thought He just might be the Messiah, the Christ of God.

After all, the Jews had been waiting and looking for this Promised King. They believed the Messiah would free them from pagan rule. The current pagan rule was Rome, though the Jews had been conquered and enslaved by various other nations. But at the time that Jesus came on the scene, it was the Romans they hoped He would defeat.

But to be honest, “they” didn’t all hope Jesus was the Messiah. In fact the contemporary Jewish leaders contended with Him at every turn. At one point they accused Him of doing miracles by the power of Satan. Ultimately they became so jealous of His following and so fearful they would lose their own positions of authority, they conspired to have Him killed. At that point, they actually didn’t care if He was the Messiah. Maybe they had even stopped believing that God would send a Messiah.

Certainly when Jesus was executed, when He hung on the cross, dying, I’d venture to guess that close to 100% of the people stopped believing that this Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth, was God’s Messiah. I mean, how could you have a dead Messiah? How could He save anybody if He was dead?

What they all missed, even Jesus’s followers, was that the very act of dying was the means God chose for their salvation.

In many ways, it’s more surprising that the Jews missed it because their whole history was littered with sacrifice: Passover lambs for the life of the first born in every family; sacrifices for the sins of the people; scapegoats for the sins of the nation; a ram caught in a thicket as a substitute for Isaac. All through Jewish history, sacrifices to save. But along comes Jesus who dies, and they miss who He is, what He’s doing.

Actually, one of those hated Roman soldiers understood better. As Jesus asked God to forgive the men who were killing Him, or perhaps when the earth shook or the sky went dark in the middle of the afternoon, this centurion figured out that Jesus was not just a run-of-the-mill guy. “Surely, this was the Son of God,” he concluded.

What did he know about God? About His Son? Had he been in Jerusalem when Jesus caused the lame man to walk? Did he hear the rumors about Lazarus coming back to life? Or about Jesus multiplying a few loaves of bread and a couple fish so that He could feed 5000 people? We don’t know. But this Roman “pagan” was convinced, as Jesus breathed His last, that this Man was indeed the Son of God.

But that brings us back to the point that had the Jews stumped: how could Jesus save anybody if He was dead? Besides what we can see more clearly in hindsight—that Jesus in fact saved by dying—it was a realistic question. I mean, the Messiah was to be a king, to reign forever. So a dead man wouldn’t qualify, would he?

That part they got right.

Which is why Jesus didn’t stay dead…

… He is risen. He is risen indeed! Jesus, the Messiah, the Christ of God, His very Son is risen and alive and will one day return to take His rightful throne.


Related: From Christmas two years ago, check out This Is Why Jesus Came.


I Peter.1.3 …It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, 4 and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.


Subscribers: There was an editing error in yesterday’s devotional which has since been corrected. In the phrase “you shall have no other Gods,” verse 23 of Exodus 20 says “alongside me” or “to rival me” while the shorter version often quoted as part of the Ten Commandments just says, “no other Gods,” full stop. The paragraph which follows was clear that the shorter reading “appears to create an either/or situation. In verse 3 it’s going to be Yahweh, and nobody else, but in verse 23, it’s picturing a situation where there are competing gods both vying for attention at the same time.” Obviously both situations can occur in the lives of different people.

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