There are many ways in which a mortal creature can surrender life prematurely. A martyr may be killed because of some provocation by others who are determined to kill him. A hero may sacrifice himself for someone else; a criminal may be executed as a penalty for his crime; a person may commit suicide because he cannot deal with life's problems any longer or, as in the case of a terrorist, may destroy himself in an effort to destroy others.
In all of these cases these deaths have one common denominator: they are all just premature in nature because death comes to all men. Furthermore, in each of these examples it is not a matter or question of choosing to die - all men will die sooner or later. This is the main difference between the death of Jesus and death of any other person: "it is appointed for all men to die" (Hebrews 9:27). As mortal creatures we really have no choice.
Romans 5:12 makes it clear that death was never intended to be the lot for mankind, but it entered in because of sin: "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned."
The treatment that Jesus received from others revealed the true nature of man and how evil he can be. The climax of Jesus' mistreatment was the crucifixion. History records that Jesus submitted Himself to death by the hands of evil men, but that is not what really happened. In actual fact, no man took His life. The truth is yes, Jesus did die on the cross, but He did not die because of it. From the human point of view the record in Acts 2:33 states that He was crucified and slain by the hands of wicked men.
But in actual fact He dismissed life itself. He did not surrender it. In the time of His own choosing, Jesus dismissed His life by an act of His will just like a boss would dismiss an employee, a master his slave. In essence He said; "Life...BE Gone!" and in a moment later, the Son of Man was in every sense a dead body hanging on the cross. Yes He died on the cross but He did not die because of the Cross.
This is the fundamental difference between Jesus death and every other person who may have chosen to end their life prematurely. When we die, it is a case of the body overcoming our spirit. In other words our body is no longer able to provide a home for our spirit, and so our spirit departs from what was once its home. In the case of Jesus, the exact opposite occurred. When Jesus died, He dismissed His spirit; He left His body uninhabited and lifeless. This is the complete reversal way in which we die. Jesus' death was the ultimate and supreme triumph of His Spirit over His body. The death of Jesus was absolutely without parallel to the way we die.
The Cross itself, as a stage for Jesus death, also had a special significance. The Romans had several ways of dealing with a criminal. Among these, they might hang him, drown him, impale him, strangle him, poison him, thrust him with a spear or an arrow, or crucify him. In all of these forms of killing, only in crucifixion could there be a possibility that the person could survive the type of killing. It had been known that a crucified person might be able to survive for as long as several days before they actually died. This was the reason why Pilate was so surprised that Jesus had died so soon.
But it wasn't the Cross which killed Jesus. The Cross was merely the stage for Jesus to be brought as a Lamb for the slaughter. Jesus submitted Himself to being brought to the cross, but when the time came, it was by His choice to initiate the offering.
Since the fall of Adam, we are now mortal beings who will be humbled in death, but the difference is that Jesus humbled Himself. Philippians 2:8 says, "And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death - even death on a cross!" Jesus chose to die when He never needed to die, and it is this choice which rendered Jesus' death as substitutionary and vicarious in the absolute sense.
At the time of our death we have no power for the body to retain the spirit, but Jesus body was never subject to death. He died by an act of His will. By the Power of His word whereby Jesus also created all things - the universe, the world and all creation. By the very power of His word He dismissed His Spirit which was a total expression as to Who He was. He was the very Word of God, who was God, and was with God the Father in the very beginning who commanded, "Let there be light," and who by the same authority commanded His spirit to leave His body when He declared: "Father, into thy hands do I commend my Spirit," and in that instant died.
Mankind is not infinite. Only God is infinite. The person who shortens their life, whether as a martyr, hero, criminal or suicide, is not surrendering life itself but rather only surrendering the part of life that still remains, because as mortals our lives are finite and will end. The life of Jesus was not finite but infinite. The difference between what is finite and that which is infinite is this: you can shorten life in a finite person by subtraction, but when you subtract from infinite you still have infinite remaining. The sacrifice of such a life is therefore never premature since it can never be shortened.
If Jesus was simply a mortal man then His death could only have been applied for one person, the principle of an eye for an eye to balance the books. But because Jesus was not subject to death His death truly became a vicarious death in that He need never have had to die.
This is where the whole theory of evolution comes to an end. Because, if man is the result of billions of years whose origin was out of some slimy pit, then he is no better off than any of the other living animals. In other words if man really in his original state was a mere monkey, then man could simply execute a monkey to be his substitute because that is where he came from.
But that is not the way man was designed and biological evolution can never explain the high order of life that belongs to man alone. It really takes a whole lot of fake news to believe that we may have a relative in some far off jungle swinging from a tree who wants to come for afternoon tea and get to know his relatives.
The truth is that God designed and created man to be far above all of the rest of creation, to be in His image and to rule and reign with Him in the ages yet to come.
Unless this is true, then there is no foundation for a vicarious sacrifice that can apply to us; we are simply no better off than the animal world, and there is no hope of salvation for us. The whole purpose of Jesus' incarnation was a total waste of time and energy and there is no hope for anyone beyond the grave. This is all there is and we might as well enjoy it the best we can until our bodies get to the point where they can longer house our spirits, which will then have to look for some other embodiment. We will simply be ghosts looking for a new home.
What a thought! But praise God, that this is not the case. Two thousand years ago God anointed a man by the name of John the Baptist to herald the coming of God's one and only Son, Jesus, who came to the Jordan River and was baptized with the Holy Spirit causing John to declare:
"Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"