A gracEmail subscriber writes: “You said that Jesus was without sin. But didn’t he become a sinner by taking on our sins? Isn’t this why he was forsaken by God on the cross?”
* * *
Indeed, Jesus was the “lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). He “bore our sins in his own body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24). God made him “who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf” (2 Cor. 5:21). He “became a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13). It is as if the cross of Jesus was a cosmic lightning rod planted squarely in the middle of the universal storm of divine judgment, a judgment that built in intensity and in momentum as it whirled forward from centuries past and backward from centuries future to that very day and that very spot. There and then, for a few hours that Friday on a center cross outside Jerusalem, all the moral consequences of all the wrongs of every person who does not ultimately and eternally reject God came crashing down on Jesus — Jesus who had willingly, lovingly and sacrificially walked through life to that intentional destination, to hang there suspended between heaven and earth as the sky went dark and the judgment-storm whirled and the pent-up lightning of holy judgment crashed — Jesus who was born and lived and longed for that very moment and that result.
To this end, Jesus had personally lived a perfectly obedient life. He was “holy, innocent, undefiled” (Heb. 7:26). He was “without sin” (Heb. 4:15). He was “spotless” (1 Peter 1:19). He was “without blemish” (Heb. 9:14). God was “well pleased” with Jesus, his “beloved Son” (Matt. 3:17). Because of Jesus’ absolute faithfulness to God, his own perfect character, God in his absolute faithfulness to Jesus raised him from the dead and gave him the right-hand position of honor beside him in heaven (Heb. 7:28–8:1). God made Jesus “king of kings and lord of lords” (Rev. 17:14). God gave him “the name which is above every name” (Phil. 2:9).
Jesus represented his people in both respects — in his actions and his passions — in his doing and in his dying. He lived a righteous life in our stead — and we receive the reward he deserves (Heb. 10:4-10; Rom. 5:19). He also died a sinner’s death in our stead — and we escape the judgment he accepted (Isaiah 53:5-6). Yes, Jesus was without personal sin. He became a sin-offering by taking on our sins. That is why to all appearances he was forsaken by God on the cross. And that is also why, after Jesus was dead and buried and his followers had scattered in grief and confusion, God showed that he had not finally forsaken Jesus — showed it by raising Jesus out of death’s grip and back from among the dead, to ascend to heaven to be “the one mediator between God and humankind, himself man, Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all” (2 Tim. 2:5-6).