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The Shock of the Cross

He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned--every one--to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:3-6)

I sat in the theater with tears threatening to spill. At the time, me crying over a movie was unheard of. I was still in my "strong one" mindset (read more of my testimony HERE), and I just didn't cry over shows. Period. 

Except as I sat watching Mel Gibson's "The Passion," I was moved to tears. The portrayal of Christ's death was brutal and beyond what I could physically tolerate. As the credits rolled, my mind circled in on one key thought..."I did that." 

In hashing through that thought with another person, I was challenged with: "How? You weren't there!" I shrugged that off as naive. The more I've grown however, the more I realized neither of us were entirely right or entirely wrong.

On the one hand, my sin...OUR sin...was the reason behind the cross (1 John 2:2). In that way--the "all have sinned and fall short of God's glory" way--I played a part in the crucifixion of Christ. We all did. But sin didn't kill my savior. The Father did. And the Son was willing! 

I know that's shocking! It has to be! It ought to be! In that way, Jesus' death was a willing substitution. I didn't choose it. He did. Praise God!

I've been thinking on this: As the Church, we just celebrated Palm Sunday...Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. And then, just five days, FIVE DAYS, later, the crowd called for Jesus' blood. Oh, not everyone screamed "crucify him," but Christ died very much alone. And this Plan...the fickleness of those five days...wasn't an accident. The Plan of Christ's terrible, brutal death was a Plan of ages past. It wasn't a surprise to God the Father, God the Son, or God the Spirit. So while humanity wrestled through misguided expectations of Jesus, the Plan of eternity did not surprise the sovereign. 

Writer Tim Challies, in his article called "Sin didn't kill Jesus--God did", an adaptation of John MacArthur's book "The Gospel according to God," says this: 

"The reality of Christ’s vicarious, substitutionary death on our behalf is the heart of the gospel according to God—the central theme of Isaiah 53.
"We must remember, however, that sin did not kill Jesus; God did. The suffering servant’s death was nothing less than a punishment administered by God for sins others had committed. That is what we mean when we speak of penal substitutionary atonement. Again, if the idea seems shocking and disturbing, it is meant to be. Unless you recoil from the thought, you probably haven’t grasped it yet."
The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) and SOMEONE had to pay the price. God cannot forgo justice and sweep the unrighteous, unholy acts of humanity under the rug. That's not how it works. Sin will be paid for, either by Christ and the cross or by the human perpetrator.

But here lies the good news! Right smack dab in the shocking substitution of the cross lies grace. In Romans, Paul emphasizes that grace is not based on our works (ie Romans 3:20-31; 9:16; 11:6). Grace is based on Christ's completion of His Father's will! 

Challies writes: 
"Despite the unsettling overtones in that message, it is good news. In fact, there is no more glorious good news. It explains why God 'does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities' (Ps. 103:10). He has not compromised his own righteousness. He does not merely overlook our transgressions. Rather, he fully satisfied justice and put away our sin forever through the death of his Son. 'As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us' (Ps. 103:12). Now, grace can truly reign through righteousness (Rom. 5:21). And God can be both 'just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus' (Rom. 3:26)."

This whole beautiful, shocking Plan of redemption...a Plan that came about "while we were still weak...while we were still sinners"(Romans 5:6-8)...a Plan that unfolded "at the right time"(Romans 5:6)...a Plan of God to sacrifice His Son (Romans 5:8)...is fully, completely, mercifully grace-filled. 

This Easter, I want to remember the tension between my sin, the cross and my God. I want to remember that God gives love to the undeserving...to those without strength, to the ungodly, to the sinners (Romans 5:6-8). 

I want to remember that the reasons for God's love are found IN HIM, not in me. (David Guzik, Blue Letter Bible)

Christ died instead of the ungodly. Christ died instead of me! "There is no greater proof of God's love than the work of Jesus on the cross!" (Guzik, BLB)  

Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:9-11)

Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed!

For more Easter reading, consider:
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  1. I love the quote "if you haven't recoiled from the thought of it, you probably haven't fully grasped it yet". That's so true in the case of the cross: it's hard to swallow, but it is also something to rejoice over because it displays God's love for us.

    1. Yes, that quote!!! It is a gut-puncher. I just keep going back to Paul in Romans where he says that "while we were still sinners, Christ died." It has nothing to do with our "goodness," and everything to do with HIS! Definitely something to celebrate!

  2. THIS...THIS...SO MUCH THIS!!!! we have nothing to offer him...we are saved by grace AND THAT NOT OF OURSELVES! it is the GIFT OF GOD...not only did he send his son to die for us when we didn't even care...he sent us a gift so that we would care...and turn to HIM!!! I'll be sharing this in Holy Saturday post!

    1. AMEN! I'm so thankful for the gift so that we would care, as you so beautifully said!

  3. JUST BEAUTIFUL !! A treasure. Thank you.

    1. I appreciate your words Tammy! We definitely have a treasure in Christ!


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