Jesus walked up to a small table in the synagogue in Nazareth, opened a scroll, and began to read:
"'The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor, he has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor'" (Luke 4:18, 19; quoting Isaiah 61:1, 2).
When He had finished reading, Jesus said, "Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing. I am the one who will do just what Isaiah prophesied" (see verse 21). In that synagogue, Jesus stated His life's purpose—to solve the problem of sin.
Jesus gave the world a taste of that purpose by doing some very good things before He died. However, what looked like a defeat was the greatest spiritual victory in all of history. Jesus' death announced the end of sin to the universe.
Jesus' death ended Satan's reign of selfishness. Satan has a long-standing misconception about God. He thinks that it is God's power that makes God who He is. Consequently, he covets God's power. In fact, it was his attempt to take the place of God that made him Satan, the devil (see Isaiah 14:13,14). In that act of selfishness, in wanting to have the power and privileges of God, he proved that he is an enemy of goodness. That is why sin is in its very nature selfishness.
The selfishness that has infected our world because of Satan's sin could be overcome only by someone with the courage to carry God's infinite love to its ultimate conclusion. Someone who would demonstrate through His life the very opposite of Satan's selfishness. Someone who had everything, who could do anything, yet who voluntarily chose sacrifice.
Jesus, though He was "in very nature God ... humbled himself and became obedient unto death—even death on a cross" (Philippians 2:6-8). By doing the most unselfish thing the world has ever seen, Jesus won a complete victory over the author of selfishness.
Jesus' death paid the price for sin. Though God hates sin, He loves sinners. Because He knows how much unhappiness sin brings, and its terrible consequences, Jesus cannot help but pass sentence on willful sin and unrepentant sinners. So, "the wages of sin is death," say the Holy Scriptures (Romans 6:23). And since "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). You and I face a rather bleak future.
However, there was a way to end sin without destroying sinners. Someone with the highest position and greatest authority in the universe could pay the ransom for everyone else. God sent a member of His own family to pay that price. God's Son "sacrificed for [our] sins once for all when he offered himself" (Hebrews 7:27). As a result, we can claim the eternal life that God offers us as a gift.
Jesus’s resurrection proved that God is more powerful than sin. If the death of God's Son proved God's love and unselfishness, if His death paid the price for our sins, His resurrection showed that God has power to overcome sin.
Death is the worst, most final and most horrible result of sin. It is the most final of all life's passages. And it is the one experience that no one—no matter how rich or wise or powerful—can escape. Except for Jesus. On that Resurrection morning two thousand years ago, death was "'swallowed up in victory.' 'Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?'" Paul could ask in 1 Corinthians 15:55.
Since sin was "the sting of death" (1 Corinthians 15:56), the overcoming of death represents the defeat of all the ways that sin can hurt us. God gives us victory not only over death, but over temptation as well. Ultimately, God will annihilate all the things that cause us unhappiness. Then there will be no more terrorism, no AIDS, no nuclear weapons, no broken families and no depression.
Jesus overcame death. He did it for all who love and accept Him. There can be no greater gift.
This article originally appeared in Signs of the Times magazine, April 2010.