From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.(Matthew 16:21)
There was no option. It was absolutely necessary. He had to do it. This is what Jesus set forth when He declared that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things…and be killed, and on the third day be raised (16:21). Simply put, there was no other way to create and bring salvation to mankind.
This is likely also the reason why, immediately before stating this necessary goal, the Lord Jesus would warn the Apostles to tell no one that He was the Christ. For when we proclaim Jesus to be the Christ, we must realize this is the work of the Christ, this is the reason the Son of God became flesh—to die our death and to rise from the dead. The Apostles up to this point did not understand what it meant for Jesus to be the Christ. The Apostle Peter, often the representative of the Apostles, shows this failure to recognize the necessity of Jesus’ death and resurrection: And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” (v 22). The necessity of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection is further sharpened by His rebuke of Peter: Get behind me Satan! (v 23). It is satanic to believe that the Christ had a goal other than to die and rise again!
The Christ did not come to be a great military deliverer or the ultimate social reformer, nor did He come to be a “bread king” by miraculously providing a continual flow of earthly food, healings and exorcisms. Though Jesus did indeed perform such miracles—thus identifying His person as the Son of God and demonstrating His loving mercy—yet He would not continue walking this earth for this purpose. His purpose and calling was infinitely higher. He came to bring man back into God’s presence, to ultimately make all things new and take away all hunger, sickness, satanic influence and death—forever. To accomplish this He had to take away the root of all evil: He had to bear our sins in His body on the cross. Then He had to rise from the dead to prove that His crucifixion was the valid payment for sin and that He was guaranteeing righteousness as a gift, ultimately creating the resurrection of the righteous.
We mentioned last week that believing Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, is the foundational creed. Now the creed expands, for to believe Jesus is the Christ it is necessary to believe that He must die and rise again, and that He would do this for mankind’s eternal salvation. As the church would advance with the proclamation of the Gospel, this would be the foundational message. Consider a couple of excerpts from the book of Acts, identifying the foundational message of Christ’s necessary death and resurrection: …this Jesus…you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up… (2:23,24). …and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. (3:15). Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. (4:10). The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. (5:30).
Christ’s saving death and resurrection are the central proclamation and thus the heart of the Christian’s faith and hope. Baptism, always part of the Gospel proclamation, uniquely unites us with Jesus death and resurrection (Rom 6:3ff; Col 2:12). Consider the Apostle Paul’s encouragement: But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. (1 Thess 4:13-14). Indeed, as a result of faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection not only do we realize that we shall awaken from the sleep of death, but we are also comforted when loved ones fall asleep with this faith.