The fact that Jesus died on a cross really is good news. Through Him we are reconciled with our Heavenly Father. His anger is turned away and we become His children. We are counted just through Jesus because all our sins are laid on Him.
It really is good news. But does it actually apply to me? After all, Jesus died two thousand years ago in distant land. And while the news of His death sounds wonderful, how can it make a difference to someone living in 21st century? To ask the question that Wesley wrote in his famous hymn: Died he for me?
I believe there are two important answers to that question.
First of all, let’s consider what happened in the temple at the moment Jesus died. Matthew tells us in Matt 27:51 that the curtain in the temple was torn from top to bottom. Previously the curtain had existed to prevent people entering the Holy of Holies. Only the High Priest could enter there, once a year, to offer sacrifices on the day of atonement. It was a symbol that God was in essence unapproachable, except only for one special person once a year. But Jesus’ death removed that barrier between us and God once and for all. The no entry sign into God’s presence has been taken down. That’s why the curtain was torn from top to bottom.
So the apostle Paul tells us that… through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit (Eph 2:18). That word access is a special word used of an approach to a king. There is a way back to God that is open even 2000 years after the event, and will always remain open. Through faith we can step right into God’s presence at any time and any place.
But we must ask, secondly, how Jesus death can actually deal with my sins? This is perhaps slightly harder to grasp but in the end we have to recognise that God is not bound by our understanding of time. In Jesus’ time the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection because they only recognised the first five books of the Old Testament and didn’t find evidence for it there. So how did Jesus counter their arguments? Matthew 22:31-32 But about the resurrection of the dead – have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”
Our relationship with God is not limited by our own understandings of time or death, and Jesus’ death on the cross remains effective not just for those who lived at that time but for anyone who approaches Him in faith. After all, if we say that Jesus conquered death, then this means that victory won by His death and resurrection is something that we too can share in – no matter the age we live in! Thanks be to God!