On the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, Kenny Washington takes us through Mark 15.
On the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, Kenny Washington takes us through Mark 15.
Dear Lord Jesus,
You said during the time of your ministry, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Little did your disciples know at the time how that would happen or how it would look.
Now, having been accused, tried and sentenced, we see what you went through for us. The humiliation, the pain and the suffering were all to pay the price for our sins. You paid this ransom so that we could walk free.
You refused to come down from the cross. You endured the abandonment of your disciples, which was tragic, but also of the very Father who sent you, at your greatest moment of need. Such grief is thankfully beyond our experience.
How fitting that those who passed by derided you, illustrating how badly we all needed the work your were completing at that moment. How perfect also was the darkness that descended, dimming the view of the worst of your suffering from those present, and likewise from the rest of us who would read of it later, And you died among thieves, like the worst of common criminals.
All of this you did for us. We thank you for bearing our sin. We thank you for paying the price for our salvation. We thank you for the humility you expressed so that we might be glorified with you someday, and will know that glorified state for all eternity.
This is how we know what love is.
Thank you Jesus.
Last week we looked at Gethsemane. Today we see Jesus die on the cross. This is when he felt the weight of our sin upon him. And it felt like being completely forsaken by God. Let’s read about that hopeless, helpless moment.
33 And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35 And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” 36 And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”
Crucifixion was cruel, but it wasn’t unusual. People died this way all the time. The day Jesus died, there were two robbers executed with him, one on each side. What made Christ’s death any different from theirs?
The weight of our sin.
We really cannot say what that felt like. I have compared it with the feeling of guilt. Guilt is worse than pain because it has a psychological and/or spiritual component that physical pain makes worse, but cannot compare to. When physical pain is gone, guilt can continue. It can sap a person’t energy and deplete a person’t life. Guilt, even without physical suffering can push a person to end his own life.
And Jesus publicly and shamefully bore the sin, the guilt, of the world.
If there was ever a place that was truly God-forsaken, it was Christ’s cross that day on Golgotha. “The Father turned his face away,” says the hymn. Jesus was alone as he died, even though there were bystanders all around him. None of them could understand what he was enduring. Numbing the pain would never alleviate the suffering of substitutionary atonement.
As Christ died, the curtain in the temple tore from top to bottom and the way was opened for us to come into the very presence of God. Christ was separated from the Father so that we might be joined with them both inseparably and forever. No one saw it or said it better than the centurion.
39 And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”
The battle Christ won on the cross was, in a way, first won in the garden. It was there Christ obediently determined to follow through with his plan in complete submission to his Father’s will. After Gethsemane there would be no turning back.
32 And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. 34 And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” 35 And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” 37 And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? 38 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. 41 And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”
Christ knew exactly what was coming. Going to the cross would be horrible, but many had done this before. Two others, in fact, were crucified the same day with Jesus. What made Christ’s death any different?
The difference was in his carrying the weight of our sin.
It is impossible to know what that is like, but we can imagine at least a little. It might feel a lot like guilt. For example, sometimes we get into trouble and, while our circumstances annoy us, the thing that truly tortures us is knowing that it is our own fault. How much better would everything be if this had all been avoided? Sometimes we do something wrong and have no one to blame but ourselves. Knowing that the consequences are of our own making makes them worse.
Now let’s think further. It is bad enough dealing with the consequences of our own sin. That much guilt is usually enough for any of us. What if we had to bear the sins of the world on our shoulders while dying that slow, painful death?
By all available accounts, Christ’s time on the cross was less than many who died in that same manner. Sometimes it took a few days for the crucified victim to expire. Christ died in a matter of hours. But no one before or since has had to bear more than their own sin. The physical torture was bad enough, but the psychological and spiritual anguish was much, much worse. Yet Christ was determined to walk it through to the end. And he did that out of love for us.
It was there in Gethsemane that the prayer, “Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will,” was answered. It was answered when the Father simply said no. Jesus was okay with that. He understood what was necessary for us to be saved. He knew the cross was only the first step toward resurrection. He knew that if he shared in our death, and shared in our sin, we would share in his life forever more.
Thank you that out of love for us you sent your Son, who willingly died in our place. Thank you for allowing him to take the punishment that our sin deserved.
We thank you for having him endure the false accusations from his enemies, the abandonment of his friends and the pain and suffering that were naturally a part of the cross.
We also thank you for placing upon Jesus the unendurable grief caused by our sin. The guilt and the shame built up over the history of the human race was placed on his shoulders.
This tragic death is not a defeat, but the most wonderful victory ever won. And he did it because he loved us.
Thank you in Christ’s name,
I recently read a blog post by a self-professed atheist in which the author mocked Jesus using a fair amount of vulgar language. Looking back, I should have stopped halfway through, but for some reason kept going all the way to the end. To save you the experience I will not link to it or invite you to read it yourself. Sure, no problem. You’re welcome. Jesus is used to this sort of thing, I guess. Consider this passage from Matthew 27.
27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters and they gathered the whole battalion[e] before him.28 And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.
Let’s keep in mind it only got worse after this. Matthew goes from here to the crucifixion. The Bible explains Christ’s motivation for his suffering as love. One of several verses that point us in this direction is 1 John 3:16.
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
It’s good to just keep this in mind. If we ever need evidence of God’s love or Christ’s commitment to show it, we just need to look at the cross. That was the punishment that we deserved and he took it on our behalf. Being fully God and fully man, the price he paid was of infinite value, enough to easily pay for the sins of us all.
Any sacrifice we make for others is nothing more than following his example and responding to his love. Any criticism or demeaning comments from others we endure for our faith only draws us closer to his example. Meditating on his love for us will make our potential sacrifice easier to bear.
Thank you Jesus!