As we have seen, on the day that sin took hold of the human race the Creator promised to provide one who would overcome it. He also illustrated by what He did that this would be through the death of one who was innocent of wrongdoing allowing their life to be taken in place of the one who had sinned, thereby providing them with a spiritual covering. This promise was not forthcoming in the short term though, and for four thousand years people had to survive on reminders that it would be fulfilled. If you take the time to read through the Old Testament, you will see throughout that millions of animals lost their lives, many as sacrifices to cover sin. Despite the quantity, they were unable to eliminate the problem of sin for good. None of these sacrifices could bring together justice and mercy in order to rescue people like us from the consequences of our lack of love for our Creator and for those around us.
One thing we can be sure of is that this delay was not without reason. The LORD was waiting for the right time to keep His promise. Over the intervening years He was preparing things so that His solution to our problem would be provided at the best possible moment in history. He continued reminding people that He had promised to send them a Redeemer, one to buy them back to Himself. Often these additional promises provided more details about when and how He would do this, and about the identity of the promised Messiah. There are over such eighty passages in the Old Testament. Throughout this time He was preparing the whole world and one nation in particular for the advent of the One who would overcome sin and death. Surprisingly though, He also warned that this promised One would not be welcomed with open arms. He said His Redeemer would be hated by the religious establishment of the day. Many hoped for a national redeemer. In fact, the timing of His arrival and His radical departure from religious tradition managed to unite both Jewish religious leaders and the might of pagan Imperial Rome in determining His execution.
This was not some great mistake though, as Jesus had made clear before the event. “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” When challenged by His religious opponents, Jesus had repeatedly insisted that everything He did and said during His ministry was exactly what His Father in Heaven had commanded Him - no more, no less. Through this level of obedience, He had demonstrated His complete love for His Father - He had fulfilled the greatest commandment. This is what Adam had failed to do. Christ was aware that being out of step with the rest of mankind would cause the majority to hate Him so much that they would seek to kill him, but He also knew that the worst they could do was to “bruise His heel”. He warned His disciples ahead of time that He would suffer in this way, whilst reminding them (and His enemies) that He was laying down His life of His own choice. His disciples found this hard to understand, and after His resurrection we read of His need to explain to two of them that it was fitting for the Christ “to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory.”
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