JESUS THE CHAMPION OF FALLEN HUMANITY
Man's position, viewed from the fall of Adam to the death of Christ, seemed hopeless. Had things continued on until the end of time, as they had been prior to the death of Christ, there would have been no hope for man, he being under the sentence of eternal death--either in time or in eternity. When Israel was in Egyptian bondage, suffering under the heel of the oppressing Pharaoh and crying out to God for deliverance, the Lord looked upon her in her affliction, had pity upon her, and came and delivered her. In a similar manner, the Son of God looked upon the helpless, hopeless condition of humanity and volunteered to champion the cause of man and to rescue him from the death-grip of Satan. In Job, chapter 41, Satan is spoken of under the symbolism of Leviathan, the mighty monster of antiquity, that is called "the king over all the sons of pride" (verse 34). In Ephesians 2:2 he is called "the prince of the powers of the air, of the spirit that now worketh in the sons of disobedience." This mighty one held the world in his grip.
As we have already seen, Satan still retained, after his rebellion, right and authority over all creatures who followed his path into the fields of disobedience and rebellion against the will of God. Through sin, which he introduced into the universe, he held the power of death over the human family with all that that word implies. Under God's moral government, the Lord Jesus, the second person of the Godhead, could not arbitrarily take this power of death out of his hands. God must be righteous in His dealings, under His established regime, with all concerned. When He created man, He gave him dominion over the earth (Gen. 1:28). We have abundantly seen that man lost his standing with God and his dominion over the earth. It was through the exercise of the God-given power of choice that he lost everything, including his dominion over the earth--through the strategy and deceit of the devil. The Lord Jesus Christ, the second person of the Godhead, as we have seen above, became a perfect man in order that He might exercise the power of choice and might snatch from the devil the dominion, right, and authority that he held over the human race. This entailed for the Son of God a lonesome, dreary journey through His earthly life, which we must now investigate.
We have seen how the Son of God entered the human realm by miraculous conception and virgin birth in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. He, like a normal child, grew and developed physically, mentally, and spiritually as is seen in the following quotation: "And the child grew, and waxed strong, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him" (Luke 2:40). Herod attempted to destroy Him, the Christ child. But God the Father watched over Him and sent Him out of the zone of danger until the death of Herod. After our Lord's return to Nazareth from Egypt, we do not get another glimpse of Him until He was twelve years of age. At this time He accompanied His mother and Joseph, His foster father, to Jerusalem to observe the feast of the passover. In the Temple He showed unusual comprehension of truth and spiritual realities. He thus confounded the doctors of the law with the wisdom with which He spoke. After this episode He returned to Nazareth with Mary and Joseph and continued the normal development of His powers as we see in Luke 2:52: "And Jesus advanced in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men." At about the age of thirty He left Nazareth, went to John, and was baptized of him in the river Jordan. Unlike all who accepted baptism at John's hands, confessing their sins, Jesus had no sins to confess. The preacher instinctively and by spiritual insight recognized the purity and the holiness of the person who had come to receive baptism at his hands. He therefore recoiled and requested baptism of Jesus. "But Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness ..." (Matt. 3:15). Then John baptized Him. As He was coming up out of the water, the heavens were rent asunder and a voice from heaven said: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 3:17). Then the Spirit of God in the form of a dove alighted upon the Lord (Matt. 3:13-17).
After God's public acknowledgment of Jesus as His Son, Satan appeared upon the scene and tempted Him for a period of forty days. "And straightway the Spirit driveth him forth into the wilderness. 13 And he was in the wilderness forty days tempted of Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him" (Mark 1:12,13). At the completion of this period of testings, the devil came to Him with three major temptations. The account of these is found in Matthew 4:1-11:
Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he afterward hungered. And the tempter came and said unto him, If thou art the Son of God, command that these stones become bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Then the devil taketh him into the holy city; and he set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto him, If thou art the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and, On their hands they shall bear thee up, Lest haply thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, Again it is written, Thou shalt not make trial of the Lord thy God. Again, the devil taketh him unto an exceeding high mountain, and showeth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and he said unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil leaveth him; and behold, angels came and ministered unto him.
An account is also found in Luke 4:1-13. The devil brought all the power of his cunning art to bear upon Him in order to get Him to sin--but to no avail. The Lord Jesus refused the short cuts to world-dominion and spurned every temptation that was placed before Him. Then the devil left Him for a season.
Six months prior to His execution, Christ foretold His tragic death. Satan, being present, made the suggestion through Peter that the Lord Jesus should not submit to such a fate. Turning to Peter and seeing Satan present as the one suggesting the thought, Jesus said, "Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art a stumblingblock unto me: for thou mindest not the things of God, but the things of men" (Matt. 16:23). At different times, even at the very end of the Lord's earthly life, Satan did his utmost to prevent our Lord from going to the cross voluntarily to champion the cause of man--to pour out His blood for man's redemption and to fight the battle of human freedom. But all Satan's efforts were in vain. Christ, according to Isaiah 50:7, had set His face like a flint, and nothing could deflect Him from perfectly doing the will of God.
The purpose of Christ's coming into the world is most forcefully set forth in the following passage, which, on account of its fullness, spreads before us the scheme of redemption from beginning to end, and which I quote in concluding this chapter:
11 But Christ having come a high priest of the good things to come, through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation, nor yet through the blood of goats and calves, but through his own blood, entered in once for all into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling them that have been defiled, sanctify unto the cleanness of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish unto God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of a new covenant, that a death having taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant, they that have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must of necessity be the death of him that made it. For a testament is of force where there hath been death: for it doth never avail while he that made it liveth. Wherefore even the first covenant hath not been dedicated without blood. For when every commandment had been spoken by Moses unto all the people according to the law, he took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, This is the blood of the covenant which God commanded to you-ward. Moreover the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry he sprinkled in like manner with the blood. And according to the law, I may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and apart from shedding of blood there is no remission.
It was necessary therefore that the copies of the things in the heavens should be cleansed with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ entered not into a holy place made with hands, like in pattern to the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear before the face of God for us: nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place year by year with blood not his own; else must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once at the end of the ages hath he been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And inasmuch as it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this cometh judgment; so Christ also, having been once offered to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time, apart from sin, to them that wait for him, unto salvation.
10 For the law having a shadow of the good things to come, not the very image of the things, can never with the same sacrifices year by year, which they offer continually, make perfect them that draw nigh. Else would they not have ceased to be offered? because the worshippers, having been once cleansed, would have had no more consciousness of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance made of sins year by year. For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins. Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, But a body didst thou prepare for me; In whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hadst no pleasure: Then said I, Lo, I am come (In the roll of the book it is written of me) To do thy will, O God. Saying above, Sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein (the which are offered according to the law), then hath he said, Lo, I am come to do thy will. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By which will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest indeed standeth day by day ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, the which can never take away sins: but he, when he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; henceforth expecting till his enemies be made the footstool of his feet. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also beareth witness to us; for after he hath said, This is the covenant that I will make with them After those days, saith the Lord: I will put my laws on their heart, And upon their mind also will I write them; then saith he, And their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. (Hebrews 9:11-10:18)