Devotional Thoughts

Jesus Was No Victim

Stuart Townend calls the day of Jesus’ death “the darkest day.” And it was. It was physically dark, as the very sun refused to shine on the crucifixion of its Maker (Matthew 27:45). And it was morally dark, as a collection of bitter rivals joined to commit history’s most grotesque crime, the murder of the Son of God. Scripture holds Jesus’ murderers guilty for their crime (Acts 2:24, 36; 3:13-15; 4:10, 27). 

And yet, it would be wrong for us to see Jesus as the victim. Jesus had predicted His death long before it happened (Matthew 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:17-19). He had marched toward Jerusalem with relentless resolve (Luke 9:51). He had likely even provoked His murder, intentionally, with His triumphal entry.

When He was arrested, He gave Himself up—though only after scattering the guards like so many bowling pins as a final reminder that He was in charge (John 18:6). He told Peter that He could call on the Father to send legions of angels if rescue had been His desire (Matthew 26:53-54). It wasn’t—though the angels would hardly have been necessary anyway. And when Peter summoned his quickly fading courage to defend Jesus with a sword, Jesus not only stopped him but healed Malchus in a stunning display of power and compassion (John 18:10; Luke 22:50-51). The contrast between Jesus’ kindness and the soldiers’ approaching savagery is stunning. You have to wonder what Malchus thought as he witnessed Jesus’ torture.

When He was tried, He made “no answer,” a point which all four Gospels highlight (Matthew 26:62; 27:12, 14; Mark 14:60-61; 15:4; Luke 23:9; John 19:9). Just days earlier, Jesus had silenced the scheming questions of His enemies, showing wisdom that tied their logic in knots and removed from them the bravado that had tried to entangle Him in His words (Matthew 22:15-46). He surely could have embarrassed His false accusers and talked Himself out of the crucifixion. Pilate practically begged Him to. Yet, He was silent as a lamb, as Isaiah 53:7 predicted He would be, some 800 years earlier.

He could have saved Himself—but not if He would save us.

When He was crucified, He took it without complaint—even praying for His afflicters (Luke 23:34). One particular jeer has always struck me for its sad irony. As Jesus hung on the cross, the crowds cried out, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him” (Matthew 27:42). Of course He could have saved Himself—but not if He would save us.

And even when He died, it was on His terms. He commended His spirit to His Father (Luke 23:46). He “gave up his Spirit,” John says—a final nod to His absolute sovereignty even in death (John 19:30; see Isaiah 53:12).

Jesus was no victim—not of the crowds, and certainly not of the Father. We need to guard against any hint of the idea that Jesus suffered His Father’s wrath unwillingly. They were in perfect harmony, even as our sin required Jesus to be forsaken for a time (Matthew 27:46).

Jesus’ death happened just as He intended. And He told us it would be so. “I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (John 10:17-18).

What power. What love. What grace.

Good Friday Meditations

Meditate on the full propitiatory sacrifice of Jesus this week with these songs.

“His Robes for Mine”

His robes for mine: God’s justice is appeased.
Jesus is crushed, and thus the Father’s pleased.
Christ drank God’s wrath on sin, then cried, “’Tis done!”
Sin’s wage is paid; propitiation won.

“My Jesus, Fair”

My Jesus, pure, was crushed by God,
By God, in judgment just.
The Father grieved, yet turned His rod
On Christ, made sin for us.