Meditations on the Crucifixion

Sacrifices and Perspective

We live in a country, that despite some of the economic difficulties we face, is currently one of the most affluent in history. Most of us live in luxury when compared to the world population, but, as great as we have things, Jesus comes from a better place. John describes, in humanly terms, the realms Jesus comes from in Revelation 21. Jesus came – not as a king, but as a servant – to a humble town in northern Israel, to a family that wouldn’t understand Him, to a population that would murder Him physically.

Philippians 2:4 begins describing the mind and attitude Christ demonstrates in His sacrifice for this world. Paul speaks of Jesus emptying Himself and leaving His spiritual blessings behind to live among humanity. What will we give up for Christ’s cause in the face of His sacrifices? How can we compare the things we feel we give up to that which Christ gave up? Jesus came to us to die. In Matthew 16, Jesus even begins to preach to His disciples that His death is necessary.

The Blood of the Lamb

His blood is shed in the context of Passover – the blood of God’s Spotless lamb shed when the Israelite’s are commemorating their own salvation from the angel of death by the blood of a sacrificed lamb. Christ’s blood frees us from the death and captivity of sin. He brings us out of bondage to salvation and justification and saves us from the Lake of fire in Revelation 20:14.

In Leviticus 16:16, Moses describes how the High Priest had to atone themselves and the Holy Place before making atonement for the people. Jesus becomes the sin offering that atones for sin. He cleanses all people in His humiliation, and Hebrews 9:11 describes Jesus as a High Priest of a more perfect tabernacle, offering more perfect blood through His own spotless sacrifice, establishing a more perfect covenant between God and His people. Jesus went into death, entering the most holy place to offer His blood, and returned to us in resurrection, fulfilling the role of High Priest.

The church of the living God is a place where w make sacrifices to God. Our sacrifices are not in the form of bulls and goats, but we sacrifice of ourselves. We sing how Jesus has given of himself. “I gave, I gave myself to thee…” What do we give in return? How do we honor His sacrifice in our service and personal sacrifices?

The Death on the Cross

We have studied time and again the technical aspects of the crucifixion. We have studied the verses and know them academically, but have we connected these fact to our hearts. The psalmist speaks of holding God’s word in his heart, of longing after His laws. John 6 describes the multitudes who followed Jesus, but they fell away when the teaching became hard. When hearts are convicted, when emotions become charged, we want to turn away from being challenged so. Five days prior to His crucifixion, Jesus is adored by crowds throwing down palm leaves and shouting “Hosanna.” After the garden, even His closest apostles flee.

The Jewish officials of the time give Him a mock trial, and the Roman governor Pilate even does not stand up for Him. The crowds choose freedom for Barabbas over releasing Jesus. He is condemned to death, but first He is beaten. He is tortured, but the mob shouts for more, crying out for His blood, even accepting guilt for the death of an innocent man. He is hung from a cross that he had carried Himself and mocked by those for whom He was giving Himself. He is taken outside the city, as the scapegoat would be during the observance of Atonement. He is offered no comfort, but He pleads forgiveness for those who are so cruel to Him.

The people tempt Him to exercise His miraculous powers to save Himself, but He endures. Like the thief on the cross, we are justly brought under condemnation for the sins in our lives, but Jesus was blameless. In this, He bore the consequences for our iniquities so we won’t have to. He died so we can live. In the darkness of the sixth hour, Jesus was truly alone as His people and His disciples have turned their backs on Him, as God Himself forsakes Jesus. Jesus stood truly alone with our sins, relieving us of the burden of standing before God under the burdens of our sins. His blood and life drained out of Him, purchasing a hope of eternal life for every one of us.

It Is Finished

In the end, Jesus softly announces that God’s plan has been fulfilled. The old has given way for the new. Prophecies have been fulfilled. The gospel is available to all. In this, we must come in contact with the blood of the new covenant. In Romans 6, Paul describes that our submission to baptism joins ourselves in death with Christ and gives us access to His blood of purification. As He died to destroy sin, we too die to sin, resurrected to a newness of life, blameless before our God and Father.

lesson by Herbert Smelser, Jr.

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