“For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10:17-18)
When we read the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion, it is easy to think that He was, or could have been, simply a passive participant in everything which occurred during His trial, scourging, humiliation, crucifixion, death and resurrection. John 10:17-18 indicates otherwise.
In this text, Jesus emphatically says three times that he lays down His life. Note the principle of repetition, To lay down (τίθημι; tithemi) literally means to remove or deposit. In this context, it refers to Jesus sacrificially dying on behalf of the elect. It is because of His sacrificial obedience, that the Father has a special love for the Son.
While Jesus states three times in today’s text that He lays down His life, He repeats that He also will take it up again. To take it up again (λαμβάνω; lambano) means to receive, to take hold or to grab. Jesus will sovereignly and actively take back His life at the resurrection which He voluntarily relinquished at the crucifixion. In brief, Jesus was in sovereign control of His circumstances and in perfect submission to His Father.
Dr. R. C. Sproul explains, “In John 10:17, Jesus notes that the Father loves Him because He lays down His life. Here we see a glimpse of the eternal and reciprocal love between the Father and the Son. The Son loves His Father so much that He is willing to accept the charge to surrender His life for His people, and the Father loves the Son so much that He gives Him this charge for the sake of the Son’s final glory (see 8:54; 12:27–32). Commentators also note that we should read John 10:17 as having a purpose clause: Jesus laid down His life in order to take it up again. He died in order to rise again, for without the resurrection, the crucifixion accomplishes nothing. Christ had to rise again for our justification (Rom. 4:23–25).”
Dr. Sproul continues by saying, “The willingness of the Father to send His Son is paralleled by the Son’s willingness to die. Although wicked men certainly played a part in the crucifixion of Jesus (Acts 4:27–28), they did not force death upon Him. He died under His own authority, allowing others to kill Him. At no point in our Lord’s passion was He not in control of its events. His death was no accident of history but was the accomplishment of the divine will.”
John Calvin comments, Christ “does not die by constraint, but offers himself willingly for the salvation of his flock.”
Therefore, as believers in Christ, our lives are to be lived in gratitude for not only who Jesus is, but also for what Jesus historically accomplished on the bloody cross and in the empty tomb.
Soli deo Gloria!