Not only was Christ sinless in Himself, but He was also able to forgive others’ sins. Once when a paralytic was brought before Him, He told the sick person, “Take courage, child; your sins are forgiven” (Matt. 9:2). The scribes were indignant at His word because they realized that only God could forgive man’s sins, and for Jesus to forgive sins meant that He claimed to be God. He could say such a word because He is indeed God! He has the authority to forgive sins (Matt. 9:6). On another occasion a sinful woman came to Jesus, and Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven” (Luke 7:48). Those who were eating with Him at the same table said among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” (v. 49). Christ could forgive sins because He is the very God.
After thirty-three and a half years on earth, Christ died. His death was an extraordinary death. It was different from the death of any other man on earth. All religious leaders die as men and are buried as men. But Christ died in a way that is different from men. His death was distinct from ordinary human death in six ways:
First, He foretold His death to His disciples before it took place. He showed His disciples that “He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed and on the third day be raised” (Matt. 16:21). He not only foretold His death but also foretold that He would be raised three days after He died. This shows that His death was not an accidental death at the hands of men, but was a preordained death in the hand of God.
Second, His death was an exact fulfillment of the prophecies concerning the Messiah foretold by the prophets hundreds of years before. In the Old Testament, Psalm 22:15-18 describes the scene at Christ’s death: “My strength is dried up like a shard, and my tongue is stuck to my jaws; you have put me in the dust of death. For dogs surround me; a congregation of evildoers encloses me; they pierce my hands and feet. I count all my bones; they look, they stare at me. They divide my garments to themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.” This is a vivid description of the way the Messiah was to die. If we read the record of the Gospels, we find that this was exactly the way Christ died. When Christ was hanging on the cross, His hands and feet were indeed pierced. The dehydration caused by the drainage of blood and water would surely have caused His tongue to stick to His jaws and His bones to stand out. Matthew 27:35 says that when the soldiers had crucified Christ, “they divided His garments among themselves, casting lots,” a literal fulfillment of the words of the Old Testament prophecy.
Third, the time and the way Christ died was foreshadowed hundreds of years before in the types of the Old Testament. In Exodus 12 the record of the Feast of the Passover tells us that a lamb was to be prepared for the feast (vv. 3, 5-6). This lamb was to be without blemish and was to be examined for four days before the Passover. It was to be killed on the fourteenth day of the first month on a wooden stick in the shape of a cross. This is a full portrayal of the way Christ died on the cross. Before He was put on the cross, He was examined by the Jews and the Gentiles six times and was found to be without fault. His death fell also on the fourteenth day of the first month, the day of the Passover (Mark 14:12-17; John 18:28).
Fourth, when Christ died He said, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). When an ordinary human being dies, it is the end of his career. No matter how great a person is, once he leaves the world, his work is over. But the death of Christ was not the end of Christ; rather, it was the capstone to His work. Death signaled not the termination of His career but the very culmination of His achievements. Such a death is surely not an ordinary death, but a death that has great significance and points to great achievements.
Fifth, Christ’s death set off supernatural events, which reflects the supernatural nature of His death. The death of mortals is the death of sinners for their own sins; but the death of Christ is the death of God in humanity for sinners. As such, it was an extraordinary death. When Christ died, darkness fell over all the land at noon. The earth was shaken and the rocks were split. The tombs were opened, and many dead bodies were raised (Matt. 27:45, 51-53). Who in history ever died in such a way? The phenomenon was so dreadful that the centurion and those with him guarding Jesus became greatly frightened and said, “Truly this was the Son of God” (Matt. 27:54). Creation shook in fear and trembling because it was the Creator who had died on the cross.
Sixth, the Bible says that Christ died as the Substitute for all sinners (1 Pet. 3:18) and offered Himself to God as a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world (John 1:29; 1 John 2:2). While Christ was hanging on the cross, God placed the sins of the world on Him and considered Him the unique sinner dying vicariously on behalf of all men (2 Cor. 5:14). No ordinary human being, even if he were sinless, would be qualified to be the substitute for all men and bear the sins of the entire world. Only a man could die for men and for men’s sins, and only God is great enough to embrace all men and bear the enormous weight of the world’s sins. Thus, the One who died for sinners and their sins must be a God-man, the very God mingled with the genuine man. This is Jesus Christ our Savior.
Finally, the eternal efficacy of Christ’s redemptive death is a proof that Christ is God. The efficacy of Christ’s death is eternal, without limit in space or in time. Christ’s efficacious death is applied to every believer, regardless of space and time. Christ’s vicarious death accomplished an eternal redemption for us (Heb. 9:12, 14). If Christ had died as a mere man, the effectiveness of His death would not be eternal. Only God is eternal, and only what is accomplished by God can have an eternal effect. The blood Christ shed on the cross for us was not only the blood of Jesus the man but also the blood of the Son of God (1 John 1:7), even God’s “own blood” (Acts 20:28). Therefore, it can cleanse us from every sin. The limit of its cleansing power is as great as the limit of our sins. The fact that Christ died as a genuine man qualifies Him to shed His blood to redeem us as men, and the fact that Christ is also God secures the eternal effectiveness of His redemption on our behalf. Thus, the eternal efficacy of Christ’s redemptive death is sure proof that He is the very God.
(Christ is God, Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)