by Jon Gaus
The CROSS…How can a cruel instrument of torture and excruciating death, be seen by some as wonderful and beautiful?”
The future of everything and everyone who ever existed, hinges on what happened that day on the hill outside of Jerusalem called Golgotha …God’s perfect justice AND God’s prefect mercy met in JESUS on the cross. If the human race was ever going to be free from the curse of our sins & death, if we were ever going to escape the God’s righteous wrath against our sins…it had to be JESUS on that cross!
JESUS is the “Only One!” The “Only One” uniquely qualified to restore our relationship with God the Father, and to save us from a just, eternal punishment in Hell. JESUS IS the perfect & awesome mediator!
2 Timothy 2 proclaims…“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the MAN Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all”
While we were still His enemies…Christ suffered and died for us IN LOVE!
1 John 4:10 T”his is love, not that we have loved God…but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.“
Ephesians 2:4–5 “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the GREAT LOVE with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.”
As one N.T. scholar has stated, “The One from whom we needed to be saved, is the One who saved us!…Now that’s GRACE & LOVE!
JESUS IS…the only one qualified to redeem mankind and all of creation, because He is the only one who is fully God and fully man! Since, sin was committed by man, therefore sin must be atoned for by “a man.” Only a “prefect human being” can be a substitute for other human beings! But, as God’s Word states…”For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God!”
We DESPERATELY needed a divine rescue….we DESPERATELY needed a qualified Savior! And the Father, whom we rejected, we offended and we rebelled against… He sent us JESUS…fully God and fully man, who was tempted just as we are tempted… but remained without sin.
JESUS would let NOTHING STOP HIM in His mission to rescue you and me from sin, death and eternity in Hell! MANY forces tried to stop him from making it to the cross!
Shortly after His birth, the blood-thirsty King, Herod tried to murder Jesus and stop God’s plan of redemption…but The Father sent His ministering angels to rescue Joseph, Mary and Jesus.
As Jesus began His earthly ministry, SATAN came at Him Full–Force in the wilderness to tempt Him with the “All the Kingdoms of this World” and to stop Him short of the cross, but Jesus used the power of the Word to continue toward Calvary.
After feeding the 5000, the crowd, wanting an earthly King, (not realizing they desperately needed a “crucified Savior”) tried to stop Jesus from going to the cross, but, in love for sinners…He kept traveling straight toward Calvary!
Even one of those closest to Him…tried to keep Jesus from the cross! Matthew 16 reports it this way…
“Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and be killed… and on the third day be raised. PETER took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord!” This Shall NEVER happen to you. But Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get behind me Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
JESUS, authoritative, fearless, in total control, face set on Calvary…BUT the moment we get to “Garden of Gethsemane”, it radically changes! Jesus knows what’s in store for Him. It’s been a planned “covenant” between He, the Father and the Spirit since eternity past. Jesus has been warning His disciples for months…YET as he forges ahead to the cross, the Gospel of Matthew tells us he began to “be gripped by a shuddering terror” that sent him falling on his face.
Jesus made it clear to His disciples he had the power to stop this at any time, but as the Jonathan Edwards has stated, “you and I were hanging over the “flames of hell” by a thin thread…and Jesus willingly came to our rescue!
So horrific is the burden on Jesus, of what lies ahead, he cannot even remain upright, and he turns to Peter and John and says “My soul is sorrowful even to death…” He actually “draws near to dying” in His human experience in the garden.
THEN, THE CROSS…a place of excruciating suffering and death for common criminals!
Within the first hour of being nailed to the cross the criminal experiences the inability to push himself upward to breathe. Air can be drawn into the lungs but not exhaled. He fights to raise himself in order to get even one small breath. Finally, “carbon dioxide” builds up in the lungs and in the blood stream.
Certainly not a quick death…crucifixion is hours of limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending dislocations, growing asphyxiation, searing pain as tissue is torn from his lacerated back as he moves up and down against the rough wood of the cross.
Then, a “greater agony” begins: a deep, crushing pain in the chest as the pericardium (the sack that surrounds the heart) slowly fills with serum and begins to compress the heart.
After hours of this torture…its almost over — the compressed heart is struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood into the tissues — the tortured lungs are making a frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air. He can feel the “chill of death” creeping through his tissues. Finally…after hours of excruciating torture…the body succumbs to physical death.
As “unthinkable” as it is that the “CREATOR himself…JESUS” would “willing” suffer such a torturous, shameful death by those He creates…on a tree that He created…the historic truth is, “thousands of men” were executed by crucifixion before Jesus…and “thousands” died by crucifixion after Jesus.
NO, “Christ’s suffering” goes much, much deeper than that! Beyond the physical torture of crucifixion…Jesus is bearing three “much greater” agonies on the cross:
First, God the Son, who for eternity has existed in “full divine glory” and “full divine holiness”, is about to have the vile, evil, putrid sins of the whole world, including yours and mine, cast upon Him FULLY!
As 2 Corinthians 5:21 describes, “He became sin who knew no sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God!”
Jesus was also in the “deepest agony” because He knew He was about to have the Father’s full, righteous wrath against all sin poured out fully onto Him…..the wrath of God against sin that had been stored up since Adam’s fall, extending past the cross to your sins and mine, all the way to the end of human history…a torment “infinitely” beyond the pain of physical suffering!
Because Jesus knew He was about to drink fully, of the cup of the Father’s righteous wrath against sin…He prayed to the Father to “take away the cup of wrath…if possible”, if there was any other way!
God’s Word clearly teaches that JESUS was laying down His life willingly, He “had the power” to stop the crucifixion at any time…but out of a “covenant obedience & love to the Father” and out of “perfect, merciful love” for you and I, He ENDURED to the end. As one theologian has described it: “In love, Jesus looks down from the cross at you and me and whispers our name and says, “I drain this cup fully for you, for you who have lived in defiance of me, for you who have hated me, for you who have opposed Me, I drink it all…for you!”
The third horrific torment Jesus knew was coming, was that for the first time in all eternity, He would be separated from the perfect, unity and fellowship of the Trinity! Our finite minds cannot fathom what it was like for God the Son, to have God the Father forsake Him and turn his gaze away from him for those hours on the cross bearing our sin!
The infinite unity and fellowship of the Trinity (that has eternally existed) has to be broken by the Father, because in His perfect holiness, the Father cannot look upon the most obscene mass of sin in the history of the world…resting on one man…His own Son!
So why do some see the cross as WONDERFUL and BEAUTIFUL?
Because Jesus willing went to the cross to experience the Father’s full wrath against our sins… so we will never have to!
Because Jesus, for the first time in eternity was totally alone and forsaken… so we will never have to be!
This is why followers of JESUS…look upon the cross, a cruel instrument of torture and excruciating death, and see it as eternally wonderful and beautiful?”