Someone I knew died a couple of weeks ago. Someone who wasn’t supposed to die, at least not by human conventions. He was 56, with a wife and twin 10-year old sons. Because he and his wife had children later in life, he was super involved in everything the boys did. Football, Boy Scouts, Soap Box Derby – he did it all with enthusiasm. They were his life.
He went out to their garage one morning to work on a float for the city’s Christmas parade, and when he didn’t come in for lunch, his wife found him, a victim of a massive heart attack.
We weren’t close, but I knew him. I knew he loved his God and his family and his town. He was kind and humble and sincere, and he is gone far too soon.
Someone else I know died once too. He was 33, with no wife and no kids, and he was supposed to die. That was the plan from the beginning.
He was supposed to die because his death was the only way for us to have life. We were born sinners and we couldn’t keep God’s law on our own, so someone else doing it for us was the only option.
Jesus lived an absolutely perfect life. He obeyed the first time, he never lied or stole, he never had an impure thought, he never cheated or yelled in anger or got impatient or selfish – he never did a single thing wrong.
He did all that because he knew we couldn’t. He knew we had been estranged from God due to our sin, that because of God’s holiness we couldn’t be right with God on our own, that we were doomed to an eternity apart from him.
He knew we were broken beyond repair – that we were actually dead in sin – and there was only one way to bring us to life and make us whole again.
So when he was crucified and the curtain was torn in two and the earth shook, it wasn’t just the result of one man dying. That was the crushing effect of one man taking the punishment for the sins of the world, the punishment that we deserved.
And yet, it still wouldn’t have been enough if he hadn’t risen from the dead three days later, if his heart hadn’t started beating again, pumping real, actual blood through his veins. His resurrection meant death was defeated. It meant salvation was secured, God’s justice was satisfied and the great exchange – our sin for his righteousness – was complete.
All we have to do is repent of our sins and believe by faith that Jesus lived and died for us. When God looks at us now, he sees his children, family members who he has adopted. This is what Jesus’ death accomplished. Actual salvation for actual people.
But to die, he had to be born first.
He was fully God, but if he didn’t become fully man, if he didn’t become a boy like us who would run and play and skip rocks and scrape his knee, all the stories he heard about the saints of old, the saints who were pointing the way to him – well, they would have been just stories and not part of the greatest redemption plan of all time.
He became man because death was an essential part of the plan, but it wasn’t the end of the plan. From the cry of a baby in a manger to the agony of a man on a cross to the triumph of a resurrected King, the plan goes on, and we wait now until the final day when that King returns in glory to fulfill every hope, wipe every tear and right every wrong, praising the Father forever.
From birth came death, which led to life, now and forevermore. Amen.