The heart and soul of Christianity is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Gospel writers gave proportionally more time to the final week of Christ’s life than any other topic while the Apostle Paul made it the central core of his preaching and teaching. Prove the resurrection didn’t happen and Christianity doesn’t exist, and we are left with a simple moralistic and a self-delusionary rule of faith.
With so much riding on the death and resurrection of Jesus why do we spend so little time contemplating and reflecting upon these two great and interlocking events? Maybe because of the gore and splatter surrounding the cross we feel a bit uneasy about the actual event itself. After all Jesus was put through enormous pain and suffering in the hours leading up to the actual crucifixion and then an agonizing torturous death on the cross. I wear a shiny silver cross around my neck but it is a long way from depicting the actual crucifixion.
As a new Christian I read Frank Morrison’s book, Who Moved the Stone that was the true story of Frank’s search as a lawyer to disprove the resurrection but after sifting the evidence he ended up a believer. The same was true of Lee Strobel, an investigative journalist from the Chicago Tribune, who spent months trying to disprove the resurrection from a fact based study in order to convince his wife that her new found faith was foolishness. The end result for Lee was accepting Jesus. There is a great movie showing right now in theatres after his experience called The Case for Christ based upon his experience of discovering the reliability of the evidence for the death and resurrection.
Warner Wallace was a homicide detective and a skeptic. He decided to put investigative techniques to use to see if the theory of Christianity was plausible or a hoax. He wrote an interesting and informative book, with the clever title, Cold Case Christianity, that reveals the evidence as if conducting a homicide investigation into the facts of the case. He concluded the death and resurrection of Jesus happened and he also became a believer.
The point isn’t whether or not the death and resurrection of Jesus has affected others but have we really gotten a hold of the magnitude of the sacrifice? I think we all know and understand the theological understanding of the atonement carried out at Calvary. Through Jesus’ death we were freed from the power of sin, death, and Satan’s power and offered the promise of eternal life for all who believe.
But, what about the suffering? Have you sat down and thought about what it cost in real flesh and blood? It isn’t pleasant and seems a bit morbid and leaves us very uncomfortable but it is the cornerstone of Christianity that makes redemption possible.
This suffering, beatings, and crucifixion didn’t come unawares to Jesus. It wasn’t as if He was surprised by the turn of events that led Him to the cross. Luke reminds us, “But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.” (17:25) And Mark writes, “For He was teaching His disciples and telling them, ‘The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later’” (9:31). Jesus, God of the Universe, knew what He was to face and met the challenge head on.
Christianity teaches that Jesus is God, second person of the Trinity, who created all that is. This God, instead of calling for ten thousand angels to rush to His rescue, allowed Himself to be abused, misused, and tortured at the hands of humanity. Why? The answer—love for us. Skeptics rightfully say that anyone can claim they are God but what skeptics cannot answer is what man is beaten till his back is simply hanging flesh, internal organs revealed, then hung on a cross until dead, (there is not one record of anyone surviving a Roman crucifixion and they did thousands) was buried and then rose again after three days?
Paul is right. The heart of our faith isn’t moralism or “works of the law,” or even attending church each week (regardless of how good that is), it is the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He says to the church at Corinth, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” 1 Corinthians 2:2
To understand the cross is to understand the suffering that was voluntarily poured out for us there. I won’t go into the medical analysis concerning scourging and crucifixion but I would recommend you look some of this information up (there are plenty of articles on line from doctors and in medical journals) to ever remove any doubt about how much Jesus loves you to suffer like that.
This Easter weekend please remember what the cross and the empty tomb cost. Remember the enormous amount of suffering Jesus endured for you. Unfortunately we have sanitized the cross, and by doing that we have robbed it of its power to convict and amaze us concerning the absolute love of God. It is one thing to know Jesus forgives our sins but it is another whole thing to understand the cost of forgiving those sins. Without that understanding it is easy to become discouraged and give up when things go bad in life. But when we remember every step in that crucifixion day was filled with suffering, torture, pain, and agony we can’t help but remember how much we are loved and that makes all the difference in facing life.
Also there was the psychological torment of crucifixion for Jesus. His sense of separation from the Father, the abandonment of His closest friends and disciples, the mental stress of trials, mocking, lack of sleep, walking over two and a half miles between court cases, and the sheer physical exhaustion of knowing what was riding on the crucifixion would have affected Him.
I know how easy it is to read about the crucifixion and resurrection on the pages of the Bible but it is only when we understand what was involved in them that we find our confidence, assurance, and faith building spilling out in absolute thankfulness and acceptance. One of the great paradoxes of Christianity is that we find such joy in our faith when it was purchased for us at such cost.
5 “The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.
6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.
7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him. Now I have told you.’” Matthew 28:5-7