Life for the Murderer

Today, we solemnly ponder the trickery, betrayal, and gruesome murder of this Savior. When God gave the Law to His people, the children of Israel, it was clearly written that any who purposefully murdered another, was himself to be put to death. There were to be no exceptions, no buy-backs, no redemption for murderers. (see Numbers 35)  And yet, the Chief Priests and religious rulers of Jesus’ day knew that was exactly what they were doing…when Judas came back to them in remorse because he realized that they were going to kill Jesus, and threw the money he had been paid into the temple, this is what they said to one another, “It wouldn’t be right to put this money in the temple treasury, since it was payment for murder!” These men who knew the law by heart, were choosing the way of murder. Of course, others also participated in the murder plot, some passively, some actively, and some almost unwittingly.

It brings to my mind a song from my childhood that my mom and grams used to sing, “Who killed Jesus?” In it the question is asked concerning each major group that played a role on crucifixion day–the religious leaders, the Jewish mob, Pilot, the Roman soldiers–and incriminating evidence against each is exposed. But at the end the song poignantly asserts, “It [the killer] was really me.”  It is one thing to recognize this doctrinally, as in Jesus’ death was a ransom for me–I am his murderer in the sense that my sins required His death. It is another thing to identify myself among the calculating high priests, the jaded scoffers, or even the fleeing disciples, because as I do, I’m forced to acknowledge the ugliness inside of me, the murderer within.  And God’s law is clear, “No exceptions, no buy-backs, no redemption for murderers.”

Of course, no provision is made within the law, for an offer of redemption from the murder victim, himself. That would not have made any sense, until Jesus. What irony that as he hung on the cross, Jesus begged for recourse, not for himself, but for his murderers! Not three full days later, God made a powerful display of answering that request, bringing the murder victim back to life, and granting Him all “authority in heaven and on earth…” (Matt. 28:19)

Good Friday is only good because of Sunday. Before Sunday, the murderer had no out. His life was forfeit. But on Sunday, life was granted–to the murder victim, who having been given all authority over every single individual responsible for his murder, gives this stunning command, “Go and make disciples of [all those murderers in every nation] and baptize them in my Father’s name….”  The law has been fulfilled. The murder victim has been brought back to life. And the murderer is offered redemption!  I am offered redemption.

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