By John MacArthur
Hindu holy man named Rao flirted with worldwide fame in 1966. An
eccentric, pompous mystic, Rao became convinced he could walk on water.
He was so confident in his own spiritual power that he announced he
would perform the feat before a live audience-tickets sold for a hundred
dollars apiece. Bombay's elite turned out en masse to behold the
The event was held in a large garden with a deep pool. More than six
hundred of Rao's faithful, along with curiosity seekers, assembled to
watch. The white-bearded yogi appeared in flowing robes and stepped
confidently to the edge of the pool. He paused to pray silently. A
reverent hush fell on the crowd. Rao opened his eyes, looked heavenward
and boldly stepped forward.
With an awkward splash he disappeared beneath the water. Sputtering
and red-faced, the holy man struggled to pull himself out of the water.
Trembling with rage, he shook his finger at the silent, embarrassed
crowd. "One of you," Rao bellowed indignantly, "is an unbeliever!"
All this world's so-called holy men contrast sharply with the One who
really did walk on water. Jesus Christ performed many miracles, but He
never staged them just for show. On the contrary, His greatest display
of spiritual authority was when He died on a cross.
That is hard to comprehend but nevertheless true. Jesus did not fall
victim to anyone or anything. He had come for the specific purpose of
dying to atone for sin (Luke 19:10; John 1:29).
His crucifixion was a vivid display of His authority over
circumstances, people, and even death. Far from being a tragic end to
His earthly ministry, it was the culmination of all He had set out to
That biblical truth, unfortunately, is often overlooked. People have
for centuries argued about who was to blame for killing Jesus. Sadly,
some have even used the issue to justify anti-Semitism, blaming the
entire Jewish race for Jesus' death.
Certainly the Jewish leaders who condemned Him were culpable. They
plotted, concocted false charges against Him, and blackmailed the Roman
governor Pontius Pilate into carrying out their will. They were by no
And the Roman government must share the guilt. Those who represented
Rome in Jerusalem set aside justice to appease an angry crowd. They
executed an innocent man.
But ultimately Jesus was not a victim of either Rome or the Jewish leaders. The apostle Peter says in Acts 2:23
that Jesus was "delivered up by the predetermined plan and
foreknowledge of God." The Jewish leaders and the Roman official who
carried out His crucifixion undeniably bear guilt for the sin of what
they did, but God Himself had foreordained how and when Jesus would die.
Thus Jesus' death was an act of the Son's submissive obedience to the
Father's will. And Jesus Himself was in absolute control. He said, "I
lay down My life that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from
Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it
down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I
received from My Father" (John 10:17-18).
Do not think for a moment that anyone could kill Jesus against His
will. The divine plan could never be short-circuited by human or satanic
plots. Jesus even told Pilate, "You would have no authority over Me,
unless it had been given you from above" (John 19:11). Mobs tried to murder Jesus. They once sought to hurl Him off a cliff (Luke 4:29-30) and repeatedly attempted to stone Him (John 8:59; 10:31). Again and again He simply (and supernaturally) passed through their midst because His time had not yet come (cf. John 7:30; 8:20).
When the hour of Jesus' death finally did come, He knew it (Matt. 26:18).
Fully comprehending all it would entail in terms of the pain and agony
of bearing the punishment for sinners, He nevertheless submitted Himself
willingly. John 18:4
says when the soldiers came to arrest Him in the Garden of Gethsemane,
"Jesus therefore, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went
forth, and said to them 'Whom do you seek?'" (emphasis added). He
willingly surrendered Himself to them. That was His hour, the time
foreordained by God.
says, "When Jesus therefore had received the sour wine, He said, 'It is
finished!'" The Greek expression is only one word-tetelestai. It was
not the groan or curse of a victim; it was the proclamation of a victor.
It was a shout of triumph: "IT IS FINISHED!"
The work of redemption was done. He did all that the law required and
perfectly accomplished all that the Father had given Him to do. He made
full atonement for sins-everything was done; nothing was left. The
ransom was settled. The wages of sin were paid. Divine justice was
satisfied. The work of Christ was fully accomplished. The Lamb of God
had taken away the sins of the world (John 1:29). There was nothing more on earth for Him to do except die so that He might rise again.
Having finished His work, the Lord "bowed His head, and gave up His spirit" (John 19:30).
There was no jerk, no sudden slump. He bowed His head. The Greek word
evokes the picture of gently placing one's head on a pillow. In the
truest sense, no man took Jesus' life from Him-He laid it down of His
own accord (cf. John 10:17-18). He simply and quietly yielded up His spirit, commending Himself into the Father's hands (Luke 23:46).
Only the omnipotent God who is Lord of all could do that. Death could
not claim Jesus apart from His own will. He died in complete control of
all that was happening to Him. Even in His death He was the sovereign
To the human eye Jesus looked like a pathetic casualty, powerless in
the hands of mighty men. But the very opposite was true. He was in
charge. He proved it a few days later when He forever shattered the
bonds of death by rising from the grave (1 Cor. 15:20-57).
And Jesus is still in charge. "For to this end Christ died and lived
again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living" (Rom. 14:9).
This is the gospel. Jesus Christ, who is God incarnate, humbled
Himself to die for our sins. Thus He became the sinless sacrifice to pay
the penalty of our guilt. He rose from the dead to declare with power
that He is Lord over all, and He offers eternal life freely to any
sinner who will surrender to Him in humble, repentant faith.
The gospel promises nothing to the haughty rebel. But for broken,
penitent sinners, it graciously offers everything that pertains to life
and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). That's the good news.