Many Christians have an inadequate view of the death of Jesus. Many think that Jesus’ death is like a loaded gun. There’s a lot of potential, but the shot is not fired, salvation is not actually accomplished for anyone. Individuals, themselves, have to pull the trigger and then, and only then, is the shot is fired and our salvation is accomplished. The trigger is pulled, they contend, when we believe the gospel. Jesus thus potential died for all, but Jesus’ death is only really effective for those who pull the trigger.
Mel Gibson’s movie Passion of the Christ came out in 2004. It was a phenomenal box office success and confounded industry experts. It was one of the fastest money-making movies at the time, only Spiderman and Lord of Rings: Return of King grossed more money. Hollywood has realized that there is market for so-called Christian films – which may be a good or bad thing.
The Passion of the Christ movie again fuelled the big debate: Who killed Jesus? Who was responsible for Jesus’ death and does it actually matter?
All people have a conscience and when we do wrong it bothers us. We instinctively know we have sinned, although most won’t call it sin. Yet, as the Bible teaches us, some people’s consciences have been seared by them constantly violating their conscience and are no longer troubled by their wrong. But in general people have an inner sense of right and wrong, a sense of God, and a sense that in some way we have failed to live up to God’s expectations or standards. This universal instinct is because all people are created in the image of God (Genesis 1-2). Most people would therefore acknowledge that there is a God or a least a “Higher Power” and admit that somehow they don’t quite live up to the standard required.
Andries Tatane’s death and the death of Jesus of Nazareth bear some remarkable similarities and differences.
Both men were 33 years old, guilty of no crime, yet treated with contempt, beaten, and killed by the authorities of the day. Both men’s death was terrible and tragic. Both men’s death also achieved results for their people.
Jesus’ death, however, was voluntary. Andries’ death was involuntary. Andries Tatane did not wake up planning and knowing he would die. On the other hand, from the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus said that he must die and give his life as a ransom for many.
Jesus death was also vicarious. Jesus unambiguously said that he must die for others. He said that the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. Jesus suffered, was abandoned, and died to take upon himself the full wrath of God for the sin of God’s people. Jesus died not for his own sin, but that of others.
Jesus death was also infinitely valuable. Andries Tatane’s death may have some short term service delivery benefits for his community. Jesus’ death however has infinite benefits for people of every generation, every nation, every culture and every age. Through trust in Jesus as Lord and God your eternal salvation is secured, you are adopted in God’s very own family, and your sins are completely, utterly forgiven.
The violence of Andries Tatane’s death has rightly angered the people of South Africa. Let us remember another violent death. And be angered at our sin. And then be driven to the cross, where God’s anger was poured out on Jesus so that we may experience his love.