The crucifixion of Jesus Christ is the heart of the Gospel. The Old Testament symbolized the death of Christ and in many ways all of the predictions found fulfillment on that day when Jesus hung for six hours on the cross. The events leading up to Christ's death are all filled with emotion, but it is when the Lamb of God becomes the substitute for man that we stand speechless before the infinite grace of God. God "shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died." We were so far from being good, so far from God's expectations of us, that nothing in us offered any inducement to such a sacrifice as our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We were not worthy of God sending His Son to die for our sins. And therefore, we must realize that we have not earned the love of God. We have not deserved the sacrifice. Yet, it is because of that unmerited quality that we glory in the cross.
If we are honest with ourselves, we have to acknowledge that Christ did for us what we would never do for one another. We barely have time for each other much less carry another's burden; take on someone else's sins. We are into ourselves, our feelings, our concerns. As horrendous as it is to say, killing has become commonplace in our society and world. We are not shocked by it anymore - we do not grieve or groan over it anymore. We accept it, digest it as bad tasting medicine and go on with our lives.
But in Jesus Christ, we encounter a man who was more than a man. We see in His cross the manifestation of a goodness which transcends all human standards. And, if His death declared a love that is more than human, we can only conclude that this is a revelation of what the love of God must be. Everything that we have learned, all that tribulation and its related experiences have taught us rests on the assured conviction that the love of God supports our lives.
It is this love that God has poured into our hearts. Moreover, the joy which this creates is not simply one of satisfaction; it strengthens the will so that we can resist sin and defeat it. God's love becomes the central motive in our lives. There is no way possible for us to fully understand the height and depth, length and breadth of God's love for us. Even if we could perfectly grasp what God has disclosed in Christ's death, we are still left hanging groping for a suitable way to articulate what we have discovered. The best we can do is utter Paul's words, "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8.
While men and women were yet sinners, they learned that they could come to Him and in coming they found forgiveness and a new life. The publicans and the harlots heard that they had a better chance of entering God's kingdom than some whose prestige and respectability was above suspicion. They heard the good news from Jesus, who taught them what friendship and compassion and restoration really meant.
When we look at Jesus, we still see the love at God at work. Jesus was crucified on Passover day. He had eaten the last supper with His disciples the night before. He had prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, was arrested and before 9:00 a.m. the next morning He had been tried 6 times; 3 times before a Jewish group and 3 times before a Roman court. When He refused to speak in His own behalf, false witnesses were hired to testify against Him. They placed on Him a crown of thorns and spit upon Him. At His crucifixion they gambled for His clothes. They put Him on a cross and crucified Him between 2 thieves. People walked by and laughed at Him, mocked Him, made fun of Him, cursed Him. And yet, in the midst of all this humiliating and dehumanizing treatment, God was at work. That which the satanic forces of evil did in an attempt to eliminate Jesus of Nazareth was the one act that God used to bring redemption to the world.
Yes, Jesus was a man but more than a man. Those who knew Him in the flesh testified concerning His true nature. At Caesarea Philippi, Simon Peter called Him, "the Christ, the son of the living God." John the Baptist testified, "Behold the Lamb of God which takes away the sins of the world." After the resurrection, Thomas exclaimed, "My Lord and my God."
It is on Calvary at the death of Jesus that we see the heart of God as no other place in the Bible. When Jesus died on the cross, God put all the suffering every sinner deserved, past, present and future, on the back of Jesus.
For Christians everywhere, in the cross of Christ we glory. We can never forget that we are redeemed through the blood. The same blood that washed us from our sins signed us up to a life-long commitment to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Every time we think of Calvary we should remember anew that it is not through works of our own, but God's love and mercy that we are children of the living God. Because while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
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