Tim Keller | April 4, 2004
In some ways, the key prayer in Mozart’s requiem is in the “Rex Tremendae,” the king of terrible majesty. It says, “… who saves those who are being saved freely.” In spite of all the talk about judgment day, we get mercy.
Now on what basis do we get mercy? On what basis do we get rest, if we don’t deserve it? When modern people in Western society listen to something like Mozart’s Requiem, there are certain questions that come up right away.
First, did Jesus really die like that? Was he a sacrificial lamb? Was Jesus crucified on the cross? Did that really happen historically, or was that just made up? Second, why did Jesus have to die like that? What’s the whole idea? Why was it even necessary? Third, what difference does it make to us?
1. Did Jesus really die like that?
Yes, Jesus really died that way. The Gospels tell us that Jesus was crucified – a really humiliating way to die – and they even show that Jesus didn’t want to die like that. They also tell us that women, who weren’t highly regarded in society back then, were the first ones to see Him after He rose from the dead. These aren’t things you’d make up if you wanted people to follow you. So, it’s safe to say that the stories of Jesus’ death and resurrection in the Gospels are most likely true.
2. Why did he have to die?
Think about what happens when someone hurts you and you choose to forgive them. You’re basically choosing to take the pain and the hurt, instead of making them pay for what they’ve done. That’s what forgiveness is all about – willingly taking the pain. That’s what Jesus did on the cross. Just like Jesus had to die to forgive us all, we also need to be ready to bear some pain when we forgive.
3. What difference does it make to us?
Believing in what Jesus did for us changes how we see death. Instead of being scared of it, we can look at it as a restful sleep, knowing that we’ll wake up in God’s everlasting love. This is how the early Christians saw it, and it gave them the courage to face all kinds of troubles, like being persecuted and suffering from diseases. This way of seeing things can change our lives too, replacing fear and revenge with bravery and peace.
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In his book Counterfeit Gods, Tim Keller shows us how a proper understanding of the Bible reveals the truth about societal ideals and our own hearts — and that there is only one God who can wholly satisfy our cravings and fulfill our hopes.
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