Pretty gold crosses dangling on shiny chains have a narcotic effect on our thoughts about the Cross. So do two thousand years of time’s passage and five thousand miles of distance. Our sanitized crosses fall far short of the gut-wrenching realities of crucifixion. What the Gospels say in four icy words, “and they crucified Him” (Mark 15:25), would have been emotionally devastating to behold, much less endure.
Of all the big deals in theology, the biggest deal is the Cross of Christ and all it means. So Jesus gathered his ragtag followers and turned a Passover meal into an endless commemoration of that dark day soon to dawn.
Jesus is into commemorating because we are into forgetting. “Never forget,” he said.
As we move from Good Friday, into Easter, it’s crucial we re-calibrate our hearts to this mother of all theological messages.
Scripture contemplates the Cross in five little words: “Christ died for our sins.” Christ died — that’s history; we could have seen it with our eyes had we been there. For our sins — that’s theology. It requires a revelation of God. Let’s open our hearts this season to the brutal realities of these words.
Christ Died (History)
Medical experts have reconstructed the physiological effects of this horrific Roman death by torture. Though they don’t all agree on the various details, they all affirm agonies beyond comprehension.
Scourging. “So Pilate too Jesus and scourged him,” the Bible simply says (John 19:1). To scourge means to skin alive with a whip. The beating was made worse by bones or weights embedded in the whips tail. Deep bruising, rib fractures, and open lacerations would result.
The Crown of Thorns. Most likely, the crown of thorns would have been shaped more like a cap than a circlet, and would have covered the whole head. Matthew explains that soldiers “took the reed and struck Him on the head” (Matthew 27:30), in effect hammering the spikes into Christ’s scalp. Excruciating pain would have followed.
Never forget the price Jesus paid.
Nails. The spikes were made of iron and about four to five inches long. The force used in driving the nails would have caused searing pain throughout his body. Given what Jesus had already endured, shock was inevitable. As soon as the body’s full weight transferred to the nails through his hands and feet, Christ’s already horrific pain would have been magnified to levels beyond words.
Death. The two little words, “Christ died,” pack enough punch to send the devil tumbling head over heels across the cosmos forever. Christ died because his work was finished. He paid the price. He satisfied justice. He died the death we deserved.
In all this, He was nobody’s victim.
The next time you partake of the Communion cup and bread, stop and take a breath. Bring your mind back to that awful day. Block everything out long enough to remember the Lord’s brutal death.
This is the fountainhead of all grace. This is the Cross. This is what God did for you when Jesus died.
Yet, none of his physical sufferings compared to the pains about to come.
For Our Sins (Theology)
What could be more painful than the tortures, the beatings, the crown of thorns, and the nails through his hands and feet?
When our sins were laid upon him, that’s when Jesus cried out.
About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46)
For Jesus, no physical suffering compared to being forsaken by God—a black-box mystery, a breach in the eternal fellowship between Christ on the cross and his Father in heaven. This is impenetrable darkness. Bow in wonder and keep silent.
Why did God forsake him?
Because God was judging him for the sin of the world. Damning him. Condemning him. Christ died for our sins. For my sins. For yours.
By the blood of His Cross, you’ve been redeemed (1 Peter 1:18–19), reconciled (Colossians 1:20), forgiven (Ephesians 1:7), brought near to God (Ephesians 2:13), cleansed in conscience (Hebrews 9:14), been made satisfactory to God (by propitiation, Romans 3:25), and declared good enough for God forever (by justification, Romans 5:9).
It was his death—not his life, not his teachings, not his miracles, not his love—that shoved darkness into a bottomless pit and rescued your sorry soul forever. Yes, these wonders of the life of Christ dazzle angels and demons, yet they were nothing if not a prelude to his death.
Let’s not rush through Good Friday. Let’s not forget the Ground Zero of our salvation — the birthplace of grace, and the foundation of the church.
Christ died for our sins.
[adapted from Grace Intervention]