1-1-4-2 Ongoing Crucifixion and Death

It is helpful to consider in more detail the Lord's prophecies of this moment of handing over. He said that He would be, in the future, delivered up (Lk. 9:44); but the parallel Mk. 9:31 records Him saying: " I am delivered up" . And Lk. 24:7 says that at this time, He told them that He must be delivered up. It is possible that He said all three things in one sentence, such was His emphasis: " I must be delivered up, I will be delivered up, in fact I am now being delivered up" . He saw the future experience of the cross as being fulfilled in His daily experience of life. John the Baptist beheld the Lord Jesus walking, and commented that He was then, as He walked, the lamb of God (with all the sacrificial overtones of that phrase), that takes away, right then, three years before the cross, the sin of the world (Jn. 1:29). The cross was to Christ a baptism He was being baptized with, it was only accomplished in His physical death; the process was ongoing (Lk. 12:50). By inviting the disciples to share His cup and His baptism, He was offering them there and then a part in the life of self-crucifixion, which found its natural and final articulation in the death of the cross. He deftly poured out the wine as a symbol that His life was even then being poured out (Lk. 22:19). He spoke with arresting continuous tenses of how ‘The good shepherd is laying down his life for the sheep...I am laying down my life of myself’ (Jn. 10:11,18). He would be delivered up, but in principle He went through it in His daily life beforehand. He speaks of “the cup that I shall drink of, and...the baptism that I am baptized with" (Mt. 20:22). This sheds light on four occasions when the Lord appears to use tenses in a confusing way. He speaks of how He will go to die on the cross, but that in a sense “I am" there already. Each of them occurs within the context of Him foretelling His death on the cross:

- John 7:33-34: “Then said Jesus unto them, Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto him that sent me. Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come". He then went on to foretell how that out of His pierced side there would come the water of the Spirit. “Where I am" is parallel with “I am going...". Note in passing that He saw the cross as a going to the Father. There the Father was especially manifested.

- John 12:24-26: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve me, let him follow me [‘following’ Christ is normally used by Him in the context of the need to take up His cross and follow Him]; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour". Losing life as the Lord lost His, serving Him, following Him, being “where I am" are all parallel.

- Jn. 12:38 speaks of how the Jews refused to believe in Jesus whilst He was still alive- and yet by doing so, John says, they fulfilled Is. 53:1:"Who hath believed our report". But the “report" there was clearly the message of the cross. It’s as if John applies a clear prophecy about the cross to people’s response to Jesus during His lifetime.

- John 14:2-4: “[in response to Peter’s question as to where Jesus was now going to disappear to, i.e. in death] I go to prepare a place for you [through His death on the cross]. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again [in resurrection], and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know [He had often told them of His forthcoming death]."

- John 17:24: “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world". John opens his gospel with reference to the fact that they did behold His glory. His glory was especially manifested in His death, as shown elsewhere in these studies and in ‘The rock that followed them’. “Where I am" and His future glorificaton are linked into one and the same event, even though the glorification was not then apparent. This use of language is to be connected with the way John’s Gospel speaks several hour of the hour coming, and yet having already come (Jn. 4:23; 5:25; 16:32). I have suggested in The Cross In John’s Gospel that all these references have application to the Lord’s death.

Incident after incident in the mortal life of Jesus had echoes of the crucifixion to come. Consider how He met the woman at the well “at the sixth hour" (Gk.), He was thirsty, a woman got Him something to drink and encouraged Him in His work (Jn. 4:6 cp. 19:14,28). No wonder He spoke of His meeting with her as a finishing of the Father’s work, which is the very language of the cross. He lived out the essence of the cross in that incident, just as we do, day by day. Jn. 8:28,30 records that He predicted that when He was crucified, then His people would believe on Him; yet “As he spake these things, many believed on him", there and then. There was such congruence between His message of crucifixion and His actual life, that people believed there and then, even before seeing the actual crucifixion. His life was a crucified life, and it elicited faith in those who perceived this.

The Father loved the Son because He laid down His life in this way (Jn. 10:17). And ditto for all those who try to enter into the spirit of laying down their lives after the pattern of our Lord's final moment. But well before His death, our Lord could speak of how " I lay down my life" (Jn. 10:17); His whole life was a laying down of His innermost spirit, His final outbreathing was a summation of His daily attitude. He saw His death as the baptism with which He must be baptized (Lk. 12:50 cp. Rom. 6:3,4; Col. 2:10-12, His 'baptism-unto-death' Gk.); and yet He spoke of the baptism with which He was being baptized in an ongoing sense (Mt. 20:22). The Lord spoke of the manna as being a symbol of His body, which He would give on the cross. He described the gift of that bread, that figure of His sacrifice, as not only bread that would come from Heaven but more accurately as bread that is coming down , and had been throughout His life (Jn. 6:50,51 Gk.). The spirit of life-giving which there was in His death was shown all through His life. He could take the bread and say that “this is my body which is being given [Gk.] for you"; He saw His sacrifice as already ongoing even before He left the upper room. The cross therefore manifested the real Christ; “He was manifested, that he might put sins away" (1 Jn. 3:5) could suggest that in His atoning death, ‘He’ was manifested. There God set forth Jesus in His blood, for all to see and respond to (Rom. 3:25 Gk.). There the real essence of Jesus was publicly shown forth. And there we come to know what love is (1 Jn. 3:16). In similar vein we know that the promises were confirmed by the death of the Lord; and yet “all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen" (2 Cor. 1:20). “In him" is put for ‘on account of His death which confirmed them’. ‘He’ was His death and His cross. In the preceding verse, Paul has spoken of “Christ crucified". He was brought to the cross a man who had already died unto sin; and the very quick time in which He died reflected how physically worn out His body was, in reflection of how sin had virtually already been put to death in Him.

In Gethsemane He spoke of drinking the cup of His final death and suffering. But earlier He had spoken in the present tense: “the cup that I drink of...the baptism that I am baptized with" (Mk. 10:38). The drinking of the cup of death was ongoing. Likewise there are several verses in Psalms 22 and 69 which are evidently relevant to both the Lord's life and also His final hours on the cross. " The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up" is in the context of the cross, but is applied to an earlier period of the Lord's life (Ps. 69:9 cp. Jn. 2:17). " I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother's children" is another example (Ps. 69:8); it is a prophecy about the final sufferings of the Lord in crucifixion, and yet it is elsewhere quoted about the experiences of His ministry. The Lord taught that taking the cross was to be paralleled with loving family members less than Him (Mt. 10:36-38). In the incidents where the Lord Himself showed a relative lack of love for His natural family (Mk. 3:21,22,31-35) He was therefore living out the essence of the cross. And “they hated me without a cause" (Ps. 69:4) was true throughout the Lord’s life (Jn. 15:25) as well as particularly in His death. Luke saw this link between the Lord’s death and His whole life when he says that they had been “eyewitnesses" of the Lord’s ministry, using the Greek word for autopsy- Luke saw his record of the Lord’s life as being an autopsy of His death (Lk. 1:2). Perhaps this idea explains why Paul likens the Lord on the cross to the body of the criminal lifted up after death, not in order to lead to death (Gal. 3:13; Dt. 21:23)- as if he understood the Lord to have been effectively dead unto sin at the time the body was lifted up on the cross. He was there the propitiation for our sins, and yet He is that now, each time we sin (1 Jn. 2:1; 4:10).

“Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?" was fulfilled both in the final, friendless rejection of the crucifixion, and also in the failure of Israel to really believe as a result of the Lord’s miracles done during His life (Jn. 12:48). When the Lord calmed the raging sea into a still calmness, He was consciously replicating what happened when Jonah was cast into the sea. He said plainly that He understood Jonah’s willing submission to this as a type of His coming death. Therefore He saw the stilled sea as a symbol of the peace His sacrifice would achieve. And yet even during His ministry, He brought that calmness about; for in principle, His sacrifice was ongoing throughout His life. His blood is a symbol both of His cross and of the life He lived. He took our infirmities upon Him on the cross, and yet He had done this in His ministry by healing sicknesses (Is. 53:4 = Mt. 8:17). His whole life was a being acquainted with grief (Is. 53:3); and yet we read in this same context that He was put to grief in His death (:10). The grief of His death was an extension of the grief of His life. “Who hath believed our report?" (Is. 53:1) was fulfilled by the Jewish rejection of Him in His life, as well as in His death (Jn. 12:38)."He bore the sin of many" (Is. 53:12) is applied by Jn. 1:29 to how during His ministry, Jesus bore the sin of the world. He was glorified in His death (although the world didn’t see it that way), as well as in His life (Jn. 12:23,29). In His preaching to the woman at the well, the Lord saw Himself as ‘finishing God’s work’ (Jn. 4:32,34). And yet John evidently intends us to connect this incident with the Lord’s final cry from the cross which he records: “It is finished!". Only on the cross was the work finished; but by pushing aside His own hunger, tiredness and desire for solitude in order to convert that woman, the Lord even then was ‘finishing the Father’s work’, in that in essence He was living out the spirit of crucifixion. And so with us; the life of ongoing crucifixion demands that we consciously push ourselves in the service of others. Lk. 9:23,24 describes cross carrying as a rejection of saving our life, of making our present life as rich and fulfilled as possible; and instead concentrating on giving up our lives. William Barclay comments on this passage: “A man must spend his life, not hoard it...the Christian must realize that he is given life, not to keep it for himself, but to spend it for others; not to husband its flame, but to burn himself out for Christ and for men...the questions are not ‘How much can I get?’, but, ‘How much can I give?’. Not ‘What is the safe thing to do?’, but ‘What is the right thing to do?’"(1).

The cross of Christ is personified in Phil. 3:18, as if to show that the Lord's whole being and life was crystallized in His cross. He could take the bread and wine with the comment that right then His body was being broken and His blood shed (note the present tenses). The Jews " slew (Jesus) and hanged (him) on a tree" (Acts 5:30). There seems to be a distinction here; as if the 'slaying' was an ongoing process in His ministry, crowned by the final hanging on the tree. Paul speaks similarly in Galatians; as if the body was already dead when it was lifted up on the tree; for he quotes the Mosaic law regarding the body of a dead criminal being displayed on a tree as if it was descriptive of the Lord’s death (Gal. 3:13 cp. Dt. 21:23). The veil symbolized the flesh of the Lord; and yet in it was woven scarlet, a symbol of His blood and sacrifice (Ex. 27:16), which permeated His mortal life. The lesson is that the cross is a daily way of life. The Lord taught this when He asked us to take up the cross daily: to live each day in the exercise of the same principles which He lived and died by. Let's not see spiritual life as a survival of a few crises, as and when they present themselves. It's a way of life, and the principles which lead us to the little victories (when we scald ourselves with hot water, when we dirty a newly washed shirt...) will give us the greater ones also, when (e.g.) we stand before a tribunal, or face death in whatever form. Paul speaks of “always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus" (2 Cor. 4:10), as if he full well understood the ongoing nature of the Lord’s crucifixion, and saw it as the pattern of his daily living. And this is why the place of crucifixion was so public- it was near a road, for passers by spoke to the crucified Jesus (Mk. 15:29), and Simon was a passerby coming in from the field (Gk. agros, Lk. 23:26). The cross confronted people in their daily living, just as it should us today. Quintillian (Declamationes 274) records how crucifixions were always held in the most public places where crowds would gather. For us, if we are living the crucified life with Jesus, it cannot be done in a corner. Crucifixion is by its very nature a public event. There was once a doctor in Paraguay who spoke out against human rights abuses. Local police took their revenge by torturing his teenage son to death. The local people wanted to stage a huge protest march, but the father disallowed them and chose another means of protest. At the funeral, the father displayed his son’s body as it was when retrieved from jail- naked, scarred from electric shocks, cigarette burns and beatings. And the body was displayed not in a coffin but on the blood-soaked prison mattress. This public display of a body was the most powerful witness and incitement possible. And the public nature of the display of God’s tortured son was for the same basic reason.

These ideas help us understand more clearly why the Lord chose to be baptized. He understood baptism as a symbol of his death (Lk. 12:50). Rom. 6:3-5 likewise makes the connection between baptism and crucifixion. The Lord knew that He would be crucified, and yet He lived out the essence of it in His own baptism.

One of the common Aramaic Passover sayings at the time of Jesus was: “Behold this is the bread of affliction which our fathers did eat as they came out of Egypt. Whoever hungers, let him come and eat, and whoever is in need, let him come and keep the Passover". The Passover Haggadah of today includes virtually the same words. Now it is evident that Jesus several times in the course of His life alluded to these words. He spoke of how all who were hungry, who were heavy burdened, should “come" unto Him. And the bread which He gave would constantly satisfy. The conclusion surely is that He saw Himself even during His life as the slain Passover lamb. He lived out the essence of the cross in His life.

In similar vein, there are evident parallels between Paul’s account of the breaking of bread, and the Lord’s words about the giving of His body. There is no record of the great preaching commission in John, but he does in fact record it in more spiritual and indirect ways. And likewise there is no account of the breaking of bread, but in fact he has already recorded the essence of it in the discourse about the bread and wine of life in Jn. 6:

Jn. 6:51

1 Cor. 11:24

The bread which I will give


Is my flesh

Is my body

For the life of the world

Which is for you

Note in passing how ‘we’ are ‘the world’ to Jesus. And He likewise should be our world, as we are to Him. The word of interpretation which Jesus spoke over the emblems was a reflection of the way the head of the family explained the meaning of the Passover lamb and unleavened bread to the participants during the Passover meal. But before His death, during His life, the Lord Jesus as it were proclaimed this word of interpretation over His own body. The conclusion is clearly that He saw Himself even during His life as the slain Passover lamb. This explains why so much stress is made upon His “blood" saving us, when crucifixion was in fact a relatively bloodless death. It wasn’t as if the Lord was killed by His blood being poured out. But it was the life which the blood represented which was the essential basis of our redemption. And that life was lived out over 33 years, not just in the 6 hours of crucifixion. All this means that the spirit of the cross must be lived out in daily life; not merely in occasional acts of heroism, nor only in occasional acts of commitment or religious duty, such as attending ecclesial meetings. The cross was and is a life lived.

Not only was the Lord’s death ongoing during His life. It was normal to write over the crucified ‘This was...’. But over the Lord it was written: ‘This is Jesus’, as if for all time, this was His memorial to all generations. Jn. 3:13,14 link the Lord’s ascension to Heaven, and His ‘lifting up’ on the cross. They were all part of the same, saving process. Likewise the atonement is a function of His death and resurrection combined; it was only the empty tomb that gave the cross any power at all. It continues now, in that men can crucify Him afresh, and even now put Him to an open [‘naked’] shame. They can strip Him naked and leave Him mocked before men- in their behaviour unworthy of His Name, in the schisms amongst them... The new wine, representing the blood of Jesus, gushes / pours out again each time a life fails to respond to \Him in radical change (Mt. 9:17; the same word is found in Lk. 22:20: “This is… my blood which is shed for you"). John seems to purposefully make the point that the Lord was sent [as a one time act in the past] “to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 Jn. 4:10). In His blood covered body, He was the place of propitiation, the blood-sprinkled mercy seat. And yet: “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: for He is [right now, each time we sin] the propitiation for our sins" (1 Jn. 2:1,2). In obtaining forgiveness for us He in some way goes through again the essence of His sacrifice. It is too simplistic to say that we repent, and God forgives. He does, but only on the basis of Christ’s atoning act that must come ever before Him in the granting of forgiveness. The Mosaic offerings of blood “before Yahweh" all pointed forward to this fact. Awful as His actual physical sufferings were 2000 years ago, we should not separate them from the work He came to do- of obtaining our redemption. He worked this work in His life, on the cross, and continues it until this day. The daily morning and evening sacrifice had to be of a first year lamb without blemish- the identical specification for the Passover lamb. His death on the cross at Passover was the same as His daily life of sacrifice.

The risen and exalted Lord is spoken of as being shamed, being crucified afresh, as agonizing in prayer for us just as He did on the cross (Rom. 8:24 cp. Heb. 5:7-9). On the cross, He made intercession for us (Is. 53:11,12); but now He ever liveth to make such intercession (Heb. 7:25). There He bore our sins; and yet now He still bears our sins (Is. 53:4-6. 11). Somehow, the cross is still there. The blood of Jesus cleanses us, in the present tense, from all our sins; the Lord Jesus loves us and frees us from our sins by His blood (1 Jn. 1:7; Rev. 1:5). We are cleansed by an ever 'freshly slain' sacrifice (Heb. 10:20 Gk.). We are to go forth unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach, his ‘having it cast in the teeth’ (Gk.; Heb. 13:13). It's as if He is still there, outside the city gates, and we shoulder our crosses and His reproach as He walked the Via Dolorosa, and go out to be crucified next to Him, as we endure being fools for Christ’s sake in our worldly decisions. It's a rather strange idea, at first consideration. But His sufferings are ongoing. The cross is still there- wherever we go, and however far we fall away from Him. Heb. 9:24,25 speaks of the Lord’s sacrifice as occurring in the Heavenly sanctuary, Heaven itself- as if the cross is an eternally repeated redemptive act. We are bidden carry His cross (Mt. 20:23; Gal. 6:12), and yet also our own cross (Mt. 10:38). In our cross-experiences, those times when there is no other Christian option but to shoulder it... then we know something of the cross of the Lord, and then He is actively aware of that small kindred between His cross and ours. He remembers how it was, and sees the commonality of feeling which we have attained.

And there is something deeper than this. The Lord’s self-crucifixion spirit was seen not only in His life and then finally in His death and subsequent life; but who He was in His mortal life, He will eternally be. He is the same yesterday as today and as for ever. He will dress Himself to serve us, as a servant, in His future Kingdom (Lk. 12:37 NIV), reminiscent of how at the last supper and on the cross He in principle did the same (Phil. 2:7). Thus the spirit of the cross must be a way of life, and this feature of our characters will be seen in the Kingdom too.

This theme is far from merely fascinating in exegetical terms. “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death...knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him" (Rom 6:4,6). Every time someone is baptized, the Lord as it were goes through His death for them again. And yet baptism is an ongoing process, of dying daily. We are in Christ, connected every moment with the life and living out of His cross. We are dying with Him, our old man is crucified with Him because His death is an ongoing one. “It is Christ that died... Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?... As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter" (Rom 8:34-36). According to Isaiah 53, He on the cross was the sheep for the slaughter; but all in Him are all day long counted as sharing His death, as we live out the same self-control, the same spirit of love and self-giving for others, regardless of their response...


(1) William Barclay, The Gospel Of Luke (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1975), p. 122.

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