“Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know – this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.” (Acts 2:22-24).
Jesus had performed countless indisputable miracles, signs, and wonders, which no one could contest and no one did. In fact, Nicodemus, a member of the High Counsel, admitted that the Sanhedrin, Jesus’ fiercest opponents, knew that He was sent from God (Jn. 3:2). The divinity of Jesus’ origin was never a question. The miraculous works he had done publically well attested to His divinity. Yet, He was unjustly hated and wickedly assassinated by the cruelest means possible.
In human terms, Jesus’ crucifixion was an act of unspeakable brutality against an innocent man. Peter noted, however, that Jesus wasn’t simply murdered at the conspiracy of His opponents or by the malevolence of vicious thugs. He was “delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God.”
Was God, then, the author of evil? No, Joseph, when confronting his brothers, encapsulated a theme that runs throughout the Scriptures: “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Gen 50:20). God is able to accomplish His good and perfect purpose, even through the means of the evil that people do.
Jesus’ crucifixion was no afterthought, however. God wasn’t simply making lemonade with the lemons that chance had happened to give Him. He had determined in eternity to give Jesus over to evil collaborators, Jew and Gentile together, in order to fulfill His eternal plan. Jesus’ death, and the manner of it, was exactly according to God’s appointed counsel. “But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief” (Isa. 53:10).
Nor was Jesus’ death simply the gruesome act of a vengeful deity. It was God’s plan from eternity to redeem for Himself a people by grace through faith alone. “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him” (Isa. 53:6). The entire sacrificial system, established after Adam’s fall in Genesis, foreshadowed the coming of One who would take away all the sins of all kinds of people once and for all.
Some people argue that, while God knew what was going to happen, He was powerless to control the events, but Peter ended that argument emphatically. Jesus’ death was purely the result of God’s redemptive decree. It happened when, where, and how it did because God had decided to save His people this way – through Jesus – and for no other reason.
Again, the argument’s made that God’s sovereign predetermination to save some makes Him a monster. That rationale would, by definition, render all police, firemen, EMTs, and other emergency responders monsters. Anyone who saves someone without saving everyone must, by definition, be a hideous beast. Of course, that’s nonsense.
The fact that God would save anyone means that He is gracious, gentle, tender, and merciful beyond all comprehension. When we realize that the whole reason Jesus endured the death He did was because that’s what our sins deserved, it changes our understanding of what took place. He died on a Roman cross, because our sins deserve the cruelest punishment God could pronounce. He was stripped naked, beaten with a scourge, marched through the streets carrying the instrument of His death, nailed to it, and hung up in utter torture and humiliation, after which, His own heavenly Father abandoned Him, because He was made to be sin for us. All the wrath of God for our sins was brought to bear against Him.
We rejoice that that’s not the end of the story. “But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.” (Acts 2:24). Having satisfied the wrath of God, He sat down at the right hand of majesty to administer the grace of God to save all kinds of people, more than anyone could count.
To God be the glory.