Chapter 3 - The Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ
READING: Romans 5; John 12:20-28, 31-33.
I have been meditating upon the place of the death of Christ in the Gospel by John, and I have found that numerous references are made to His death in different ways, and that they are all in connection with something new brought in as the result of it. We will look at some of these.
At the same time I have been reminded with a sense of freshness of how often the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus in the later writings of the New Testament has associated with it the word "new". So often when we read there of the Cross of Christ and its result, the word "new" occurs. You will recall immediately some of the references; Romans 6:4, for example: "We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death: that... we also might walk in newness of life". There is newness of life as the result of Christ's death and resurrection.
Then Paul, in the second letter to the Corinthians speaking of the death of Christ and our union with Him in that death, and then of His resurrection and our being risen in Him, says "If any man is in Christ (Christ risen) there is a new creation: the old things are passed away behold, they are become new".
We could go on reminding ourselves of the occurrences of this word in relation to the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, but we just make mention of the fact now because these references to the Lord's death in John's Gospel all bring something new before us, and it is the new things out from Christ's death, in resurrection, which affect us, and should occupy us, not only now but continuously.
We will run our eye briefly over this Gospel by John, to note some of these things.
A New Man
Chapter 3:14-16: "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth may in him have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life".
If you will look at the context of those words, you will be able to see to what they bring us as related to the death, the Cross of the Lord Jesus, and you will see that there are two sides to that matter here.
There is the side which is represented by verse 14: "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up". Surely that represents the death side of things; and it is perfectly clear, and no one will for a moment dispute the fact, that the Lord Jesus, God's Son, is not placed in that position of correspondence to the serpent lifted up by Moses in the wilderness, on His own account. No one will ever say that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is personally rightly represented by a serpent, for you will remember at once that a serpent is always a symbol of a curse. The first curse that ever came into this creation was pronounced upon the serpent, and all the way through the serpent is the embodiment of a curse. Now it is said that the Son of Man is lifted up like the serpent. Why bring these two things together? Surely they ought to be kept far apart, and never be mentioned in the same breath. Surely there is no correspondence. The Apostle Paul makes perfectly clear what it means, when by the Spirit he writes to the Galatians, "Christ redeemed us from the curse... having become a curse for us" literally, "in our place". Then if in that position, as made a curse, He is crucified, and that as taking our place, surely that is the putting away in death of ourselves representatively. Christ's death, then, was representative of man who lies under God's curse, because he has been led captive in death. God's Son has stepped in, taken our place, been made a curse, received the judgment of God, and has died as us. That is the death side.
If that kind of man is removed out of the way, what have you? You have the way prepared for something new, a new man, and so verse 16 shows the other side. God gave His only begotten Son to take the place of man in sin, under the curse, "that whosoever believeth on him should not perish (He has perished for them, and they believe that He has perished for them in that act), but have eternal life". The death of Christ brings out the basis of a new position for man. Man's own position was that of lying under judgment, reserved unto everlasting death. Christ has stepped into that, taken man's place, been made a curse, judged and separated from God representatively. Now in His resurrection there is provided an escape from that and the ground for a new position for man. What is that? That there man is no longer under a curse, separated from God, under judgment, reserved for death, but in Christ he is risen by faith, accepted by God, and in the place of blessing. That is very simple, and there is a great deal of Gospel packed into that, but you can see that the first reference to the death of Christ in this Gospel brings forth that death as providing a new standing for man before God, and that is a wonderful thing. Man was in death; now he is in life. He was in sin; now he is in Christ's righteousness. He was separated from God; now he is in union with God through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, which he has embraced through faith as being on his behalf. That is what it means to believe on the Lord Jesus; not just to believe the Lord Jesus, but to believe on the Lord Jesus.
A New Sustenance
Chapter 6:53-54: "Jesus therefore said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, ye have not life in yourselves. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day".
When language like that is used the death of Christ is pre-supposed. The Lord Jesus in so speaking is looking on to His death, and bringing His death into view, and the very words presuppose that Christ has died in order that we may eat His flesh and drink His blood in the sense in which He meant this. Eating and drinking simply means inwardly appropriating. We have advanced here to see that we are now on the ground of eternal life, beyond that first presentation and acceptance of the death of Christ. We are now in that position of which the Lord was speaking to Nicodemus, in that very same chapter, "born from above". We may state the position thus: 'I have started, I have come into the new relationship with God, I am saved. My great need is to be maintained and to grow; to be maintained in that position, and yet not just to stay there but to increase in that life, to grow and develop'. That is God's thought for His children. He would not just have them to be those who are born again and stay there, able to say, 'Yes, I am saved', but no more.
If I were to show you one who is a child in dimensions, and were to tell you that this child is forty years old, and is still having to be fed with a bottle, still being carried about in a pram, still having to be nursed, still having everything done for him, I wonder what you would say. You would call it a tragedy. There has not been development mentally or physically. There are a lot of Christians like that, truly born again but never having advanced beyond that. All they are able to say is that they have been saved; but they have never grown up.
The question, then, that arises is that, as children of God through new birth, we have to grow to the full stature of sons of God. For that we must be fed, we must have nourishment; we must be sustained in the life that we have, and we must have that which shall make that life increase. Thus we advance to this second step, and here we see the death of Christ to mean that, with the putting away of the old life in that death, on the one hand, there is brought in, on the other hand, a fulness in Christ risen. It is not just that He gives life, but in giving life He brings fulness for all that that life requires. We have heard so many people say, 'Well, if I start I fear I shall not be able to go on'. What we have said is the answer to that. The Lord Jesus in His risen life is a full provision for keeping us in life and causing us to reach the full measure of God's thought for us as His people. That is what the Lord Jesus means here. He tells us that He is sufficient for all our requirements in this new life, but we have to appropriate Him on the ground that He has died and risen again.
The pre-supposition that Christ has died is in the words "eateth my flesh... drinketh my blood". The blood must be shed; that is, the life must be poured out in order to be available, and we have continually to take of that which Christ has released for us of Himself, His own life, in order to grow up. We shall never fully understand this. These people did not understand. When He said these things some immediately exclaimed: How can this man give us his flesh to eat". To those who are God's children the method may be a mystery, but the fact is no mystery at all. The fact is that some of us have gone on for years in the Lord, in the face of everything that we think could come against us to stop us from so doing. If we could have been held back, if we could have been thwarted, and defeated, and baffled, and broken, and shattered, and destroyed, and put out of this life, we should have been, for all hell has raged against this new life, and all the forces of evil have come in our way to turn us back. It is not because of our sheer force of will and determination that we have gone on, for very often we have reached the point of despair; but we have gone on, and are going on. Why? Because it is a fact that we have trusted in Christ, and when He is trusted He maintains. The resurrection of the Lord Jesus brings not only the life, but all that the life requires to make it full, to make it complete.
A New Relationship
Chapter 10:17-18: "Therefore doth the Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one taketh it away 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 commandment received I from my Father".
Here is another reference to Christ's death. If you look at the context you will see that the Lord is saying, "I am the good shepherd... I know my sheep". Then He says, "Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring... and there shall be one flock, one shepherd". He is referring, in the first place, to the Jewish believers as His sheep. Then when He speaks of "other sheep I have, which are not of this fold", He is thinking of those Gentile believers which are going to come, and He says, "Other sheep... one flock... one shepherd". You will not see a Jewish strain of sheep, and a Gentile strain of sheep. You will not be able to make any such distinction. They will be one flock, two flocks having been brought together into one fold; not two strains of sheep, and not two brandings, as for it to be possible to say, This is a Jewish believer, and that is a Gentile believer; there will be one flock, and it will not be possible to differentiate between the sheep. That is said to be a consequence of Christ's death and resurrection.
Paul will explain that. He will tell you that Christ in His death destroyed the enmity between Jew and Gentile, and in His resurrection He made of the twain - Jew and Gentile - one new man. You cannot imagine one man, a man who is one complete, perfect entity, being two men. That is an absurd thought. Now, one new man means that all that is diverse has been done away, and you have one sort of man, one new man. It is to that the Lord Jesus is pointing in this figurative way in John 10.
All this means that, as the result of death and resurrection, believers from all different types of people here on this earth come to possess a common life, so that in the innermost reality of their being they are one. This is something new. This is what Paul calls the new man. It is a corporate man.
That is true in reality, so that to those of us who really do know the Lord, and are the Lord's, it matters not what nationality we are, it matters not at all what we are in ourselves on this earth, we have something in common. We are living in an altogether different realm. We are one in Christ. If you were to assemble a number of persons of various nationalities into a room, and all were truly born-again children of God, they would all be found to be one in the deepest reality of their being, in perfect fellowship, because of that inner truth, that they shared the one life of Christ. If you deal with such a situation apart from Christ, or the case be that of those who are not in Christ, you will, of course, find that there will be all kinds of diversities, differences, and those differences will begin to operate, and make themselves manifest. But in Christ there is a level where all that are His meet and are one, and there is perfect fellowship in our hearts, in our spirit, and the other things which are of this world, of this earth, take a second place, and must be kept in the second place.
This is one of the new things that come out of the death of Christ: In His death He embraced all nationalities. You must remember that different languages and different tongues are the result of the curse, but in His death Christ took the curse and destroyed it. In risen union with the Lord Jesus we find ourselves in spirit lifted above the curse. The many languages may still present a difficulty on the earth, but in spirit we are one; we have a language which we all understand. We are in Christ. Our fellowship is there. That is a new thing that has come with the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
A New World
Chapter 12:31-32: "Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto myself".
Here you have two things in relation to the death of the Lord Jesus: firstly, the judgment of this world; secondly, the prince of this world cast out.
The judgment of this world took place in the Cross of Christ. What is the judgment of this world? The Word of God will supply the answer. "The whole world lieth in the wicked one"; "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God"; "The wages of sin is death." The Lord Jesus in His Cross took upon Himself the judgment of the world, the judgment of a sinful world; the judgment of the world passed upon Him in His Cross. Then was the judgment of this world. You say, If the world has been judged, why look forward to a judgment in the future? Well, if you accept by faith the judgment of the world, of which you were a part, as having been taken by the Lord Jesus, you have no judgment to look forward to with any fear. Judgment has gone for ever if you have seen that Christ has taken the judgment of the world, to which you belong. If you have not taken that position of faith in Him, then judgment still lies ahead for you, in the judgment of the world. Christ has made it possible for us to escape from this world.
The point is this, that because in Him the world was judged in His Cross, you and I by the resurrection of the Lord Jesus are out of the world; we have escaped from the world in this spiritual sense that we are no longer a part of it to be judged, we are delivered from it. What have we then? A new world! Only children of God understand that language, what that means, but they do understand. You can test whether you have been born again or not, whether you really have come into a living relationship with Christ, by whether you find a clash between your spirit and this world. Do you find you can get on just as easily with ungodly men as ever you could? Do you find that this world is something which sickens you? Do you feel a stranger in it, that you do not belong to it, and in heart are really out of it? Do you find that becomes more and more acute, so that as you move in this world you feel it is an artificial world, that the people in it are all living an artificial life? That is a proof that you are out of it. If you have no sense like that, then it is time you looked seriously into the matter, because one of the first things that comes to a true child of God is the sense of separation from, and conflict with, the world. They go back to business, and without saying anything about it they know, and, strangely enough, without anything being said to the people of the world in it, a sense of conflict arises. Spiritual things speak very loudly, without audible words.
This is the test of whether we belong to the Lord. Do we in our hearts live in this world as strangers? This is not our world, this is not home, and everything here is foreign to us. "Now is the judgment of this world". Ours is a new world, a world which will never be judged. It is the world of Christ risen.
If you look at the part of the record that deals with the period that followed His resurrection, you will see that He never appeared to the world again after His Cross. It was only to His own that He appeared. He was outside of the world then.
A New Lord and Master
"Now shall the prince of this world be cast out". That is something which comes in by the death of Christ. The prince of this world held us in bondage; he was our master, our lord. Not that we ever deliberately and consciously worshipped the Devil, but that does not alter the fact that by nature we are in the evil one. The Apostle John says, "The whole world lieth in the evil one", and by nature we are in the kingdom of Satan and he is our lord. If he is cast out in the Cross of the Lord Jesus, there is a new possibility, namely, of having another Master, another Lord. So that, in the resurrection of Christ, and our faith-union with Him, we have a new Master, a new Lord.
You see what you have in each of these stages in John. In the first place you have a new man, possessing eternal life. Then you have a new provision for that new man, for his sustenance. Then you have a new relationship, in one flock, one Shepherd, and a new relationship with believers. Then you have a new world. Then you have a new Lord and Master. It is all very simple, but all this is related to the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
Those who know it in their own lives and experience will rejoice in being reminded of it, and will seek to adjust themselves to it, and any who are not in the enjoyment of it will know that it is as much open to them as it is to any one.
"God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish (perish with the world, with the accursed thing, with the Devil) but have everlasting life".
This is the new door, the new way to having everything new that is ours in Christ crucified and risen.