A guest blog by Erin Johnson. Erin is graduating this spring with an master’s of arts degree in biblical studies from Epic Bible College and Graduate School. She is married, mother of two, and an Air Force veteran.
I’ve been thinking about the cross of Christ. It seemed timely with the recent surge of colorful blossoms and sunshine. Those things mean Spring and Spring means Easter, right? This is, of course, when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Christ. However, we cannot appropriately celebrate his resurrection if we do not first reflect on his death. I must understand what he did, why he did it, and what it cost him, otherwise Easter is just ham and hard-boiled eggs.
Did you know that crucifixion is likely the cruelest form of execution ever invented? Or that it was originally intended as punishment only for extreme cases of treason and terrorism? As I read through the Gospel accounts of the last week of Jesus’ earthly life, I paused several times when I came to Matthew 27:30 (NIV). “They spit on him and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again.” I read it again in Mark 15:19. It took my breath away. This was only one of the humiliating moments He endured during his last torturous day. I thought of his mother watching nearby and imagined watching my own son endure just this one moment.
My daughter plays volleyball. Recently at a tournament, our team was doing very well. In fact, the team won their division that day. However, within range of my hearing, a parent from our own team made negative comments about my daughter’s performance again and again. I did not turn away, nor did I remain silent. Every witness told me I was justified in confronting her. Later, as I prayed about the event and explained to God how wrong she was to mess with my kid, he showed me a little something about his own Daddy heart.
I sat with that for a while and wondered how he was able to set aside his divine nature so resolutely and allow them (indeed allow us) to treat him so dreadfully when he had all of the power and authority to completely obliterate them. It could only be absolute, divine, perfect love. In his book, The Cross of Christ, John Stott writes, “Thus God took his own loving initiative to appease his own righteous anger by bearing it his own self in his own Son when he took our place and died for us.”
Jesus’ agony in Gethsemane and His hesitation in drinking that bitter cup was not so much about the excruciating pain and shocking humiliation he was about to suffer, but rather, the impending separation from his Father in Heaven and the shame of becoming sin for us (2 Cor 5:21). Over the last several days, as I read the gospel accounts of the last week of Christ’s ministry and meditated on the significance, the brutality, and tremendous cost of the cross of Christ, I discovered that I have been appallingly casual about the most important moment in the history of humanity. The realization that he was broken so that I could be made whole simultaneously breaks my heart and heals it.
The prophet Isaiah wrote, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5-6 NIV). Let us not be inoculated to this passage because it is quoted every April. It is right for us to sit with it for a moment. Perhaps we ought to ask the Father to illustrate for us once more the immense cost of our ransom so that we can mourn for just a moment and our joy in the Resurrection can become ever greater for having grieved.