The day we now call “Good Friday” refers to that unique moment in history where the Lord of all creation paid an excruciating price to save His creation from the horror of their own sin for the sake of love. As I think about this, I find myself asking the question:
Do I really understand this whole ‘Jesus died on a cross for my sins’ thing?
Many of Jesus’ disciples were expecting their Christ, whom they had given up everything to follow, to establish His physical kingdom and rule right then and there with them at His side (Luke 22:24; Acts 1:6), and they could never understand why He would tell them He had to die first. What kind of King is this who initiates His rule by dying on a cross? What kind of God is this who takes on our form, so that He could bleed for His rebellious creation?
“From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” (Matt. 16:21)
The Scriptures clearly prophesy about the Messiah ruling and reigning from Jerusalem as as the earth’s eternal and righteous king (Isa. 9:6-7), but not even those who vigorously studied those prophecies recognized or understood that He would come first as a suffering servant (Isa. 42-53). You see, Jesus not only died for our sins, but He suffered for our sins. That changes things.
“Then Paul…explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead…” (Acts 17:2-3)
When you actually take time to research the brutality of a Roman crucifixion, you are left wondering why such price had to be paid. I mean, it’s one thing to take a bullet for someone, but to give yourself over to be horrifically crucified for someone else’s crimes? God could have came through Christ when capital punishment was quick and relatively humane, but instead He chose to come at a time when the death penalty involved tremendous suffering and humiliation. I feel that I speak for more than myself when I say that I all too often take the cross of Christ for granted. We have such a low view of sin, lacking true conviction for our crimes, that this whole cross thing doesn’t compute for us. If sin has so calloused and twisted the human condition that Jesus had to suffer a savage death in order to reverse the curse we invited on ourselves, then we better take it seriously.
Jesus was not only tormented physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. He experienced full on rejection, betrayal and mockery by the ones He loved, and ultimately He experienced the greatest punishment of all, the feeling of being abandoned by His Father (Matt. 27:46; Ps. 22:1). Though fully God, He chose to put on a full and true humanity so that He could suffer for you. The debt of our sins was so great that only God could pay it off, yet the transaction could not take place unless God took on our flesh to genuinely experience the punishment we deserve. All at once God in Himself felt what it was like to crush His only Son and be forsaken by His Father. His open wounds opened up the door for us that we could never open on our own, and He will forever be acquainted with our grief.
Though the final cause of death when being crucified was supposed to be suffocation, the blood and water that poured out of Jesus’ spear-pierced side revealed that heart failure was the actual cause of death in His situation (Jn. 19:34). His heart literally broke for you in hopes that one day you would look upon His sacrifice and believe in Him for salvation, knowing that you are loved by God.
Summary: God had to come in the flesh through Christ Jesus, so that He could justly redeem all who would believe in Him (Rom. 3:26). The One who brought redemption had to be God because only God could offer a sinless sacrifice and bare the full weight of punishment (2 Cor. 5:18-19). He had to become fully human because He had to actually shed blood in order to atone for our sins (1 Pet. 1:19; Heb. 2:9). Christ had to suffer 1) to fully pay for our sins that we might be reconciled with God 2) to sympathize with us and become our High Priest 3) to demonstrate His love and 4) to serve as an example for those who are persecuted or mistreated for the sake of doing the will of God.
…and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. (Heb. 9:22)
If Christ has won your heart, or if you want to know more about Him, then I implore you to find a local church to connect and celebrate with this Sunday.