A Death Unlike Any Other

Jesus’ crucifixion was not significant because this “was a method of punishment suffered by countless others in those days.” That is a claim made in a letter to a local newspaper. I agree there is nothing very unique about how Jesus died. Thousands of individuals in the first century were executed by this cruel method. There are two reasons, however, why Jesus’ death is extremely unique.

The first is because of what His death accomplished. The Bible teaches Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty our sin deserves. During His ministry on earth, Jesus declared, (Mark 10:45) that He had come “to give His life as a ransom for many.” Dying as a substitute for someone else is uncommon but not unheard of in our own culture. Jesus’ death, however, is totally unique because of who He was and is. The Bible indicates that Jesus was both fully God and fully human. Because He was truly human, He was able to actually die, something God cannot do. Because Jesus was truly divine, His death is able to serve as a substitute punishment, not just for one other person, but for “the sins of the world.” When Jesus died on the cross that first Good Friday, He died in our place and for our sins. Through a physical and spiritual death, He experienced God’s wrath, which is the penalty our sin deserves. Because Jesus has paid that penalty, the sins of those who turn to and trust in Him are freely and fully forgiven. That makes Jesus’ death very different from any other that has ever occurred.

The second reason Jesus’ death is unique is because within three days after being executed, He rose from the dead. Many insist this resurrection never happened, but logic and the historical evidence are not on their side.

A number of years ago, philosophers Gary Habermas and Anthony Flew debated whether or not Jesus rose from the dead. Habermas pointed to the historical evidence and argued that alternative explanations as to what happened are not plausible. He noted that claims Jesus merely fainted on the cross, or that the disciples, Romans, or Jews took His body from the tomb, are not supported by the evidence. Flew, at the time the world’s most prominent atheist (this was before he became a theist), simply argued “we know Jesus did not rise from the dead because dead people stay dead.” His only basis for rejecting the resurrection was his (then) embrace of “scientific naturalism” which rules out miracles by definition.

Of course, “scientific naturalism” rules out many other things besides someone rising from the dead. Those who embrace this view are left with a reality made up of only matter and energy, with no room for God. Logically, this leaves a barren universe, devoid of genuine meaning, morals, love, and freedom—where human beings are merely cosmic accidents. There would also be little room for true knowledge, since our thoughts and arguments would merely be the results of chemical reactions.

If Jesus really did rise from the dead, it makes Him and His death totally unique. It also gives great credibility to the claims He makes and the hope He offers because it confirms that His death is truly unlike any other.
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Dan Erickson