The Death of Christ -- By: S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 125:497 (Jan 1968)
Article: The Death of Christ
Author: S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.

The Death of Christ

S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.

If there is one thing about the death of Jesus Christ that is prominent, it is this: It was a very strange exodus. In some memorable words Helmut Thielecke has reminded us that Jesus did not die a martyr’s death, as radiant Stephen, under a hail of stones, nor as the noble Socrates in “scornfully superior resignation.” Rather, his dying was with “a helpless despairing cry in the most terrible isolation.”1

How may we explain such a death? Why do Christians revere it and Him so? When referring to his fruitful ministry in their city, Paul reminded the Corinthians: “For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2).2 And, when nearing the end of that sustained spiritual and emotional appeal that is the Epistle to the Galatians, the apostle cried out: “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (6:14). It is evident that Paul regarded the death of Jesus Christ as a matter of the most signal importance. He was followed in this by that eminent Bible man, Martin Luther, who wrote somewhere, “theologia crucis

—theologia lucis.”3 And, not surprisingly, even non-Christians have sensed that the cross of Christ has a certain paramount relevance to the human story. The Unitarian Sir John Bowring, in a hymn we Christians often sing, “In the cross of Christ,” wrote:

“In the cross of Christ I glory,
Towering o’er the wrecks of time;
All the light of sacred story
Gathers round its head sublime.”

A satisfying solution to the enigma of this strange event is to be found in that very helpless, despairing shriek which the Savior uttered upon Mount Golgotha. And it seems likely that the early church also thought this cry of dereliction one of His most trenchant utterances. The evidence for this is to be found in the seven utterances of the dying Lord. Three of the utterances—the first, second, and seventh—are found only in the twenty-third chapter of Luke’s Gospel, while three others—the third, fifth, and sixth—are found only in John’s Gospel. The central utterance, the fourth, the cry of dereliction, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” is found in both Matthew and Mark (cf. Matt 27:46; Mark 15:34

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