"Tim, I can't believe you're downplaying the cross! We just celebrated EASTER!!!"
Indeed we did. What I hope to accomplish in this short writing is to explain how we can diminish the cross if we merely focus on the nails and the tree. A crucifixion is a horrible thing. It's exorbitantly violent, bloody and agonizing. Jesus endured all the shame and horror of a real human crucifixion. That should not be dismissed.
The questions I want you to ask yourself and help you answer are these: Was the cross the worst part of that day? Could Jesus pay our debt by being externally tortured by men?
Matthew 20:28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”Let's consider the word ransom here. It's essentially a price to be paid to release someone from bondage.
Who needs released?
We do. All sinners need released from bondage. For all have sinned...
What/who are we enslaved to?
Romans 6:5-7We are freed from sin. Christ paid the ransom to free us from our sin. We weren't enslaved to Satan. The ransom wasn't paid to Satan. In chapter 4 of RC Sproul's book "The Truth of the Cross" he states that the ransom couldn't have been paid to Satan because if the captor gets the payment he requests, then he is the one who wins. Satan obviously did not win. We see that even in Genesis 3 where God tells the serpent that the serpent's head will be crushed while the Servant's heel is bruised. And it's made clearer when Jesus makes triumphant declarations immediately after the cross. The ransom, therefore, is paid to God. God wins. Jesus wins. And our eternal salvation is a byproduct of their collaborative victory.
5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed from sin.
What is the just penalty for our sins? Where did people who die in their sins go?
How long are they there?
So if Jesus actually atoned for our sins and paid the full debt we owed to God, what did He do?
He suffered the wrath of God owed to us. If what I owed God was an eternity in Hell, and Jesus took my place, then Jesus suffered the eternal wrath of God on the cross.
How that works out logistically is for another post. We don't need to know how Jesus effectively paid for the just punishment of the sins of every man and woman who enter Heaven in one day, we just need to know He actually did.
He didn't get tortured by some Roman soldiers and voila my sins are no more. He took the just penalty for my sinful life and put it upon His shoulders. He didn't satisfy the wrath of men, He satisfied the wrath of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.God can't look upon sin. He can't stand it. For Jesus to become sin was for Jesus to be forsaken by God. Is this something we can remotely comprehend? No, but let's try our best.
Imagine loving your spouse with every fiber of your being and your spouse loving you like that in return. You live together in perfect harmony for decades. It's love. True love. Then your spouse suddenly despises you, rejects you, and turns his/her back on you. Can you imagine how anguished you would be? Wouldn't you rather face physical torment? That's not even a fair comparison. There is no comparison. There's a separation that occurred that we cannot possibly fathom. There was perfect relationship between God the Father and God the Son and then Jesus took sin upon Himself for us. He became the very thing God hates on our behalf!
Was Jesus Christ more anguished by the nails, the whips and the thorns hurting His flesh and bones or by bearing our sins inside His body (1 Peter 2:24)?
There's an incredible spiritual aspect to the cross we must consider. It's something so deep and dark we have no real words to describe it. The depths of that anguish are left entirely to speculation. Take special consideration of what happened that day. I challenge you to think of the cross as more than a bunch of bad Jews and Gentiles killing an innocent man. Think of it as it actually was:
10 But the Lord was pleased
To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
He will see His offspring,
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.
11 As a result of the anguish of His soul,
He will see it and be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One,
My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities.