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The greatest promise ever made
“For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption” (Psalm 16:10, ESV).
When it comes to raising children, proactive, positive reinforcement and the promise of reward is really the best way to motivate.
That doesn’t mean all children will respond in the same time-frame. That doesn’t mean the threat of loss or pain or punishment has no effect. It just isn’t as successful as a primary tool. However, put these together in proper proportion and you have a good recipe for success.
You might wonder what in the world that has to do with Jesus’ death on the cross.
The following is an approximate quote (I didn’t write it down) that I heard from a preacher years ago, as he related God’s promise to Jesus as part of the plan for man’s salvation: “If you will do this one thing, I promise I’ll bring you back to live with me forever.”
It’s difficult for us to imagine the Father, Son and Spirit having a conversation about something. It’s not as if they must put their heads together and debate until they reach consensus. Yet, they do have consensus in all things (cf. John 5:19,20; John 10:30, 14:10; 1 John 5:7,8).
Jesus’ choice to leave the heavenly realm and take on the apparatus of flesh was not a struggle on par with three children with two suckers trying to decide who isn’t going to get one. I’ve heard people talk as if, when man sinned, there was some mad dash in heaven to search out a solution to the sin problem. There’s even a song that implies there was a “search” committee formed in heaven to solve the problem of man’s redemption.
The Bible tells a different story. The Bible teaches us that every possible scenario about human existence was weighed perfectly, and every potential problem was accounted for and solved by the Godhead before Day 1 of Creation.
It was decided ahead of time that when man sinned, there would be a Father-Son relationship in the Godhead, and the Son would humbly take on a body of flesh (Philippians 2:5-8), live as a man (1 Timothy 2:5), and offer a perfect, voluntary sacrifice on behalf of mankind.
When Jesus finally did arrive, “in the fulness of time” (Galatians 4:4), he was not only Divine, but also human. That means there were many things – most things in fact – that he would have to do without Divine help or privilege.
For example, his obedience was not automatic. The Hebrews writer says he had to “learn” it by the things he suffered in the flesh (Hebrews 5:8-9).
But that was not the only limitation placed upon Jesus. The acknowledgement and implementation of the plan of salvation – particularly death by crucifixion – was a gradual process for Jesus.
- the twelve-year-old Jesus of the Temple is not burdened to agony as he speaks of doing his Father’s work (Luke 2:49).
- thirty-year-old Jesus is not sweating drops of blood as he comes out of the water of baptism to begin his public ministry.
- his crucifixion remains in the shadows in his early ministry.
It is not until about the half-way point of his ministry that Jesus’ tone changes. After Peter’s confession in Caesarea Philippi, Jesus began repeating the ominous prediction of his death (Matthew 16:13-21), and by that time his disciples were so excited for the kingdom to advance and topple Rome that they weren’t really listening.
However, as the time drew nearer the dark cloud over Jesus grew heavier until it nearly crushed him in the Garden. Through prayer, and God’s help, Jesus finally stood and faced the inevitable – not like a disconnected mythological god, not like a distant spectator, but as a man, a participant in the arena, put on display by God for us all, completely resigned to God’s will.
So what sustained him, carrying around the same flesh as us?
The promise. The promise made by a Father to His son.
Perhaps, then, it is the greatest promise ever given, the basis upon which all of God’s other promises stand or fall:
My flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:9-11).
Or, as that preacher said, “If you will do this one thing, I promise to bring you back to live with me forever.”
Unlike the Garden of Gethsemane, there was no ministering angel for Jesus on the cross. As he hung on the cross, helpless as the day he was born, the words that sustained him were the promise of his Father.
“The crowd is wrong. My Father has not abandoned me. That is not why I am here. I must die, but He will not leave me in the grave. He has promised me life and joy with Him forevermore.”
Jesus’ death helps us in the sense that it serves as a sacrifice for the sins of mankind (Hebrews 2:9).
But the way he died helps us envision how precious God’s promises are to all His children (2 Peter 1:3-4), and how wonderful life will be in the Father’s house (John 14:1-3).
(this is the final article in this series)