Some 2000 years ago, a man named Yeshua of Nazareth was crucified. Yeshua (in the Hebrew)--or Jesus (in the Greek)--was tortured, humiliated, rejected, and disgraced, simply because He made a claim: that He is the Son of God, sent to redeem the world; that He is the Great I AM. Jesus was claiming the title of Mashiach; that He is the Messiah, the Savior sent to exchange our sin for His righteousness and eternal life. Christ clearly conveyed this message, and it’s what got Him crucified:
“But He kept silent and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, ‘Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?’ Jesus said, ‘I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.’ Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy! What do you think?’ And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death.” (Mark 14:61-64).
What do you think? Does such a claim deserve death? Do people not make such crazy claims all the time? Why did Jesus have to die for it, if not for it to be fulfilled? Christ had done nothing wrong; all He did was heal, teach, open blind eyes, open deaf ears, show love to others--and because the religious order at the time believed He was blaspheming, they deemed it worthy of death? But because the Scriptures had to be fulfilled, Christ humbled Himself to the point of death, that out of His love we may live.
“Christ humbled Himself to the point of death, that out of His love we may live.”
1) Christ's suffering | Psalm 22:1-21
Easter serves as a testament of what Jesus did at the cross, and that He gave His life for you and me, rose again on the third day, and now sits at the right hand of the Father. And while we can look back at Christ’s resurrection and celebrate with joy at God’s triumph over evil, the day Christ was tortured and crucified was anything but joyous. Above all, it was a time of darkness and suffering; when the Light of the world gave up His life. We see the display of this in Luke 23:44, that “there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.” That is what took place this last Friday; that Christ was mocked, scourged, and crucified (Matthew 20:19). The pure brutality of the Roman method of capital punishment--the crucifixion--was one of the paramount mechanisms in the realm of torture.
Medical Point of View on Christ's Crucifixion:
And while we can understand the physical pain and suffering to a degree, we have no idea what kind of hell it must have been for Jesus to take on all of humanity’s sin. The image of the crucifixion provides us with an illustration that we can understand: the physical and mental torture endured by Jesus. And though we can make speculations on what exactly Christ went through spiritually when He was on that cross, and what He might’ve felt when He was taking all sin upon Himself; it would all fall unfathomably short--there is no way we can comprehend that amount of suffering.
To put the burden that Christ carried in perspective, we have to take a look at who God is and why Christ’s sacrifice is so significant. God is completely different. He alone is holy and His glory can be shared with no one and nothing else, for there is nothing else that can compare to Him (1 Samuel 2:2). His love is so great, and His light so powerful, that anything else is less than a shadow (1 Timothy 6:15-16). This Being that created all things and has authority over all that is, is the same Being who--out of love--came down from Heaven and dwelt among us in the flesh. A God that is entirely good and pure, took upon Himself the evil of our sins--something that is entirely opposite and incompatible with God’s good nature.
If God is entirely holy as He says He is--and knowing that God is an infinite and all-powerful God--then that would mean Christ had to infinitely corrupt His nature in order to take our sin upon Himself. A Being that is infinitely righteous and is choosing to become sin requires that, if said Being is going to take upon itself any sin at all (even the smallest, most insignificant wrongdoing), then the infinite nature of this Being’s holiness must then be compromised. For Christ, the Son of the Living God, to overcome the sin of the world, He had to become our sin itself.
This reality is beyond our ability to fully comprehend because, number one: we are not immortal beings with infinite power; and number two: we have no idea what it means to be completely holy of our own accord. Yet, for God to reach us so that we might abide in Him and know Him, He gave up both. We see this in Christ’s reference to Psalm 22 when He is on the cross: “About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’” (Matthew 27:46). In this instance, God has turned away from Himself--Jesus, being fully God, was forsaken by God.
A totally crazy concept to think about, but there can be no other way of salvation than the cross--and God knew this. Even before Adam committed the first sin, God knew He would have to provide a way for us to be saved. Since God alone is holy, there could be no other solution to our deliverance except through God’s own personal holiness. And it is in Christ that we see God’s master plan: that He became our sin, put on our transgressions, took the crucifixion that we deserve, and paid our debt by His own death. “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” (Phillipians 2:8). God, the ultimate, holiest, and mightiest being, humbled Himself to the point of death for each of us.
“And it is in Christ that we see God’s master plan: that He became our sin, put on our transgressions, took the crucifixion that we deserve, and paid our debt by His own death.”
Like I wrote about in last week's article, just as Moses lifted up the snake on the pole to heal the Israelites, so too has Christ been lifted up to heal the world. And just as the pole displayed the snake, being a representation of the peoples’ sins, so too did Christ become our sins on the cross. Like Psalm 22, Isaiah 53 provides a powerful picture of what Christ went through:
“Surely He took on our infirmities and carried our sorrows; yet we considered Him stricken by God, struck down and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. We all like sheep have gone astray, each one has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid upon Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:4-6).
God has laid the burden upon Christ so that we could walk away free. We all went astray and turned our own way; it can only be God’s way that is true, and it can only be by His hand that we are delivered. And while Christ did die for us and took on our sin so that we could be healed, the story does not end there.
2) Christ's Resurrection | Psalm 22:22-31
If Christ died and did not rise from the dead, He would have just been someone who came close and made a claim that He could not follow up on. But the greatest news of this life--the gospel--is that Christ is alive. Not only did Jesus go to the cross and give up His life, but He came and took it back. In doing so, Jesus the Christ defeated sin and death, and by believing in His name we can have eternal life. And, just as Christ became our sin, so too can we become His righteousness. By believing in the name of Jesus, we are given power through the Holy Spirit; God’s own Spirit that equips us to live the life we couldn’t on our own.
We couldn’t please God with our works or with our own righteousness, so Christ came down and did it for us. There is no requirement; there is no prerequisite; there is no credential you need to meet; there is no standard you have to make; there is no performance on our part; “let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” (Revelation 22:17). It’s solely found in Jesus that we can walk God’s way, both in our hearts and in our lives. Christ’s sacrifice was and is for everyone, and by believing in what He did we can find life, and life abundantly.
Without the resurrection, Christianity would mean nothing; it would not exist. Without the power of God, there could be no gospel, and there would be no salvation. It is by Christ’s wounds that we are healed, and it is by His life that we can live in God’s love. Without Christ’s resurrection, then there is no “good news”. Thankfully, however, God is very much alive and is actively working. If the gospel were the doing of man, it would fail. But like the Pharisee Gamaliel told the Sanhedrin/Jewish council when they were going to put the Apostles to death:
“‘Men of Israel,’ he said, ‘consider carefully what you are about to do to these men. Some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men joined him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and drew away people after him. He too perished, and all his followers were scattered.
‘So in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone. Let them go! For if their purpose or endeavor is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God.’” (Acts 5:35-39)
By all accounts, Christianity should not have been able to survive, much less thrive, in the way that it has. If the gospel was an endeavor of man, then truly it would fail; it would require that a single person succeed in all accounts of prophecy, miracles, and resurrection--much less, having to start a movement that persists for over 2000 years. But Jesus Christ has done this (Psalm 22:31), and what He did on the cross continues to change lives to this day. How can that be so? How can one Man’s name be so powerful? How is the name of Jesus still freeing people to this day? It is because the power of God is still at work, and because He is still alive--Jesus is alive.
Ain't No Grave / Alive Forever Amen -- Travis Cottrell and Elicia Brown
This is the impossible truth of the reality we live in, and that we must permit our hearts to believe: the Almighty God loves you with such a fierce and passionate love, that He was--and is--infinitely willing to die and take on your sins for you. He loves you. This is the truth of the gospel. God loves you and has already provided the way that you need to overcome any sin, difficulty, trial, and temptation that may come your way. It was paid for at the cross by Jesus Christ. And by believing in His name, we can enter into a relationship with the Living God and walk as He calls us to.
“This is the impossible truth of the reality we live in, and that we must permit our hearts to believe: the Almighty God loves you with such a fierce and passionate love, that He was--and is--infinitely willing to die and take on your sins for you.”
There is no trial too great, or sin too wicked, that this God of love cannot overcome. The glory and power that we celebrate on Easter is that the tomb of Jesus is empty. He is alive. And so long as He lives, the powers of darkness cannot prevail. There is hope in the name of Jesus, and we will always have a home to go back to in Christ. If we can humble ourselves before God and repent, then Christ’s payment will wash us clean and our sins against God will be forgiven. “But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; He has risen, just as He said!’” (Matthew 28:5-6). Jesus is alive, and I pray you meet Him this Easter if you don’t know Him already. Amen.