There have been many Christian martyrs over the centuries, people who gave their lives in defense of the Gospel or as punishment for following the Lord Jesus. Was Jesus the first martyr when he died on the cross? The answer is no; Jesus was not a victim of angry people who overpowered Him and put Him to death.
There is another reason that Jesus suffered through the crucifixion and died on the cross.
Jesus’ death was the fulfillment of God’s determined plan of justice, reconciliation and salvation for fallen man. God would pour out His wrath for all of our sin onto His precious Son. Payment would be made for a debt that you and I could not pay. God would balance the scales of justice and open the way back into His presence for Believers who place their faith in Jesus.
Jesus willingly laid down His life. In fact, He had told His disciples several times that He was going to allow Himself to be handed over to the teachers of the law and the people to be flogged and killed (Matthew 10:17-19). He even told them plainly that He would be crucified!
Jesus also explained to His followers that the reason He would do this was because He is a good shepherd and therefore would lay His life down for His sheep. (John 10:14-15). He further explained that not only would He lay down His life but that He has the authority to “lay it down and take it up again.” (John 10:18) Wow! He was in full control of this entire event from His entrance into Jerusalem, through all of the illegal trials, the flogging and all the way to Golgatha where he died on the cross.
The followers of Jesus were upset when He talked about this awful event, maybe so upset that they didn’t notice the good news that Jesus added to this prediction. Jesus said in verse 19 of Matthew 10, “…on the third day He will be raised to life!”
We may wonder why Jesus had to endure such a horrible death. Some may believe that He was a martyr who was overpowered by evil men who wanted to kill Him. But the Bible tells us the real reason Jesus was nailed to the cross. Jesus endured the wrath of God that was due to you and me for our sin. Yes, He substituted Himself for us! He received the punishment that we deserve so that through Him, we can be reconciled to a Holy God. This plan was the reason that Jesus was faithful in sacrificing His life on that cross so long ago.
Good Friday is a somber day, but I’m truly thankful that Jesus gave His life, willingly, so that I can be forgiven and live in relationship with Him!