“You have been died for! And died for by none other than the Son of God Himself!” I still remember those words ringing out in the Chapel at Ridley (Theological) College in Melbourne, Australia. The preacher was the late Dr Leon Morris, arguably one of the finest New Testament scholars Australia has produced. He had returned to Australia at short notice from a distinguished research position in England to head up Ridley College at a time when the Principal and Vice-Principal had recently resigned. The previous Chapel had been an old Army hut converted (an appropriate word for a theological college) into a place of worship. But these words rang out in the beautiful new Chapel which he had helped design. They were words that gained one’s deepest attention and remain firmly lodged in one’s memory even now almost 50 years later. Leon Morris’ words were based on what the Bible teaches about the events on Good Friday.
In this blog we will look at many of the passages in the Gospels where the death of Jesus is described as being “for us” or “on our behalf” using the preposition “huper”. There are many other passages elsewhere in the New Testament where the preposition (huper) is also used to describe Jesus’ death for us. However we will look at them in a later article. As we look at all these references we need to remember that we are looking solely at verses containing the preposition (huper).
The Death Of Jesus (For = Huper) People In The Gospels
(The occurrences of “for” (huper) are bracketed in (Bold) in the following verses).
- What Jesus Said About His Own Death (For = huper) His People. During His ministry on earth He often spoke about His coming death. The following are some of the passages where this is mentioned.
John 6:51. Jesus described Himself as living bread, “ I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give (for) the life of the world is my flesh.” He was replying to the question in Jn 6:28, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” He told His hearers that they needed to believe in Him. They wanted a sign from Him. They asked whether He could do a sign like the sign of bringing manna from heaven. He told them that He would do a greater sign. He would give bread from heaven that would enable those who ate it, to live forever. Jn 6:49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. Then in words that must have shocked His hearers He added those words from our text, Jn 6:51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give (for) the life of the world is my flesh.” Jesus’ death for sinners who could not have life apart from Him, would bring His life to the world, to those who believed in Him. In brief, in words reminiscent of John 3:16, He died for sinful humans so that they might have eternal life through faith in Him.
John 10:11. Here Jesus described Himself as “the good shepherd.” The good shepherd lays down his life (for) the sheep. He repeated this in Jn 10:15, “… I lay down my life (for) the sheep.” His explanation of this saying followed in verses 27 to 30, My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” His giving of His life (through His death) for lost sheep, would bring eternal life to those who entrusted their lives to Him in faith. Jesus was to die for His sheep, to bring them eternal life.
John 15:13. The same theme of Jesus laying down His life through death occurs in this verse as well. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life (for) his friends. His death would be for His friends. His friends would be those who believed in Him as shown in their willingness to obey Him, 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. Jesus’ death on the cross was not an unforeseen tragedy. Rather it was an expression of the love of God for humans as Jesus willingly died for them.
John 17:19. And (for) their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. Though Jesus does not specifically mention His death in this verse, the context shows that it is implied. His consecrating Himself was to fulfil the will of His Father for Him. God’s will involved Him dying for His friends. Jesus expressed His desire that those who believed in Him would be with Him in glory, Jn 17:24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. His death “for their sake” would make it possible for them to be with Him in glory.
Lk 22:19, 20. The scene is Jesus at the Last Supper. Luke records, And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given (for) you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out (for) you is the new covenant in my blood. Jesus was referring to His imminent death. His body was to be “given” for the sake of His disciples. Peter understood that as Jesus bearing the sins of His people in His body as He was crucified, 1Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
His blood was to be “poured out” for their sake as well. It would inaugurate a new covenant in His blood in which forgiveness would be available through His death for sinners. The writer to the Hebrews understood it in this way. He combined a derivative of the word for “pour out” (ekchéō) with the word for blood (haima) in Hebrews 9:22 to read, Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood (haimatekchusia) there is no forgiveness of sins. Jesus was foreshadowing before His death, that His death would bring about forgiveness of sins for His people. He was to die for them and for their forgiveness.
2. What Others Said About The Death Of Jesus (For = huper) The People
John 11:50. Caiaphas was the High Priest at the time of Jesus’ death. We read in John 11 that Jesus brought Lazarus back from the dead. While some of the Jews then believed in Him, others went to tell the Pharisees what Jesus had done. The chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council. They expressed their fear that many other people would begin to follow Jesus. Their additional fear was that if that were to happen, the Romans might deprive them of their freedom. Caiaphas addressed them, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die (for) the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” Jn 11:49-50. John made the comment in writing the gospel that Caiaphas, did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die (for) the nation. 11:51. John added, and not (for) the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. 11:52. It was as though Caiaphas as the High Priest had given an accurate prophecy about the death of Jesus without realising the real depth of what he was saying.
John 18:14. John, in mentioning Caiaphas once again, recorded that, It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die (for) the people. Caiaphas may have thought he was in control of the situation and that getting rid of Jesus would solve the problem that had arisen with Jesus’ growing popularity. However his lips prophesied what was shortly to happen to Jesus in the plan and purpose of God, even though his heart was filled with evil intent towards Jesus. (God often over-rules in the pronouncements of humans.) Caiapahas was right in what he said. He was wrong in his attitude to Jesus, the Son of God. Jesus was about to die in fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy, and ironically of Caiaphas’ unwitting prophecy. Caiaphas saw that it was “expedient” that the one person, Jesus, should die for the people (lest the Romans destroy their freedom). He didn’t realise that it was not only expedient, but also absolutely necessary for Jesus to die if anyone was ever to be forgiven of any sin.
Good Fridays always bring back to me the memory of those words of Dr Leon Morris as they rang out across the Ridley College Chapel on that particular occasion almost 50 years ago, “You have been died for! And died for by none other than the Son of God Himself!” It is a truth that one cannot escape. It’s no use someone saying, “I’m an atheist. I don’t believe that nonsense!” Jesus’s blood was shed for such a person because no human could ever be forgiven of any sin, were it not for the shed blood of Jesus. It’s no use another person saying, “I belong to another religion so it doesn’t apply to me!” Not one sin of any person ever born could ever be forgiven apart from the death of Jesus. Continuing to reject Him as the only Saviour of the world, means being rejected by Him at the end of time. In His love He has warned us of that dire possibility. But as we live in this world, He wants us to receive Him and to receive all the blessings that are to be found in Him. Such blessings include forgiveness of all sin and a new life in Him. He doesn’t want us to miss out on all He is offering in Himself through His death for (huper) us and through His resurrection.
What an incredible privilege to “have been died for” by someone who loved us. In Australia in a few days’ time on Anzac Day we remember all those men and women who gave their lives in war to protect our freedom. We are so grateful that they were willing to die for us as they served King or Queen and country. But what a mind-blowing thought it is to realise that the Person who died for us almost 2000 years ago to enable us to have forgiveness of sins and eternal life, was “none other than the Son of God Himself.” As we will see in the next article, his death “for us” (huper), logically demands our response, as St Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:15 and he died (for) all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who (for) their sake died and was raised.
“Lord Jesus, I thank You that You came to earth to die for sinners. I confess that I am one of those sinners. Because You died for me on the cross, I see the need to live for You. I receive You into my life as my Saviour from sin and as the Lord and Master of my life from this moment on. I ask You to motivate and empower me by your Spirit, to live for You for the rest of my life. AMEN.
Blog No.147. Jim Holbeck. Posted on Monday 14th April 2014