I wrote several weeks ago but am delayed in getting it posted here. I don’t think anyone reads this anyway, so it’s no biggie! If anyone does, just pretend that you read it at the beginning of the Lenten season! 🙂
“I can’t understand why you Christians make such a big deal about the cross. It bothers me that your religion centers around someone’s gruesome, bloody, violent death. I don’t understand why that had to happen.” My friend posed the question to me as we discussed the upcoming Easter season. Yes, the cross is a “big deal.” It represents a tortuous and painful death sentence to the bearer of it. And upon it 2000 years ago, a man died. Not just any man, but Jesus Christ, died positioned between two thieves. My friend has a good point. I don’t understand why it had to happen either. But when I look at what Jesus’ death truly means, I am humbled and thankful.
Though there is much that is difficult to understand about why death on a cross “had to happen,” several things are clear. Jesus was a Jew. His faith, stemming back from ancient days, I would even say the ancient day, required a sacrifice in order to show God that you repented and turned away from sin. Sacrifices ritually acknowledged the holiness and sovereignty of God and sought to draw their offerers near to God, however keenly aware of sin they were. In other words, sacrifices meant that a person knew that God was perfect and worthy of the best, but also meant that the person offering the sacrifice knew that he or she was neither perfect nor worthy.
“I know I’m not perfect, but have I done something so bad that someone had to shed his blood for me? That’s what you Christians say, but it doesn’t make sense.” My friend still sought to understand the injustice of Christ dying on the cross. Why did Christ have to shed his blood for me? What is so significant about blood? Well, blood represents life. Without blood, a person will die. The offering of blood is better viewed as the offering and enabling of life, not death. Let me say that again: the offering of blood is better viewed as the offering and enabling of life, not death. When Christ offers his life for us, we are exchanging the death that we are naturally born into for the “abundant life” that relationship with him can bring. The “life” that we have apart from relationship with God appears to be life, but truly it is death. Maybe it seems that we haven’t done anything so bad that we need someone to die for us, but we must understand that God is holy. This means that he is perfect and pure and righteous. Nothing with any blemish can be in his presence. In the sacrificial system, the priests required that the animal sacrifices be flawless. No animal with any defect was considered worthy of being sacrificed to God. This tells us two things: first of all, God requires holiness, as mentioned before, but second of all, it tells us that the sacrifice that would be required must be blameless. Nothing on earth fits that bill. There was not an animal that could be sacrificed that could permanently stop the need for sacrifices. Furthermore, there was not a person who was righteous to meet that requirement of blood. Therefore, God had to use the only thing that would meet His requirement of perfection: Himself. Sending Jesus to earth in human form was the ultimate act of God’s love for humanity. It was through this that God was able to receive the perfect sacrifice. Jesus, like the animals, shed his blood, only his blood eradicated the need for further blood to be shed. Humanity was deemed worthy of the presence of God and was enabled to draw near to God through this blood.
Yes, it does seem gruesome and drastic, but the truth is that our sin, no matter how insignificant it seems is enough to disallow us from the presence of God. We cannot do anything in order to be able to bridge the gap between our sinfulness and God’s holiness. God had to do it for us by sending a part of himself, his son, to do what we could not do for ourselves. Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice of his life paid the debt that we owed as a result of our sin. Yes, it is horrific, but that is part of the beauty of the cross. The cross becomes a beautiful sight rather than ugly. If God can redeem an instrument used for death, he can certainly redeem sinful humanity.
As we’re preparing for the time of year when we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, let us not forget that what came before Easter morning was Good Friday. A day only called “good” because through the horrible death of Christ, we are able to be reconciled to God and redeemed from what was certain death for us as well. If that’s not good, I don’t know what is.