Because of the historical event of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we know there is life beyond the grave. That is what sets the Christian faith apart from all other faiths. You can go to the tomb of their prophets or their gurus and can pay your respects. But if you go to the tomb of Jesus Christ, you will find that it is empty, because He is alive.
But why did Jesus have to face such a cruel death? At the cross the righteous demands of God were met. God plays by his own rules: “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4 NKJV), and “without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22 NIV).
Those Old Testament sacrifices were for a reason. They were pointing to something that was yet to come, and that something was actually a someone: Christ himself. John the Baptist put it the most clearly when he said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John1:29 NKJV). Calvary shows how far men will go in their sin and how far God will go for man’s salvation.
The crucifixion did not come as a shock or a surprise to our Lord. From the very moment of his birth in Bethlehem to the day he died, he lived in the shadow of the cross. And He spoke of it often. In fact, he would break it down in great detail for his disciples, telling them that he would be betrayed, crucified and would rise again on the third day.
They thought He was speaking metaphorically or symbolically, and it went right over their heads. So when it happened, it blew their minds. It shouldn’t have surprised them, but indeed it did. But it certainly didn’t surprise Jesus. The cross wasn’t a mistake. It wasn’t merely a tragic turn of events. It was God’s plan from the very beginning.
Crucifixion is not what might be called an efficient death. There were far more effective and simple ways to kill a man than crucifying him. But crucifixion was not designed to merely bring about a man’s death; it was designed to bring about his humiliation. It was a form of slow torture. The Romans would line their streets on both sides with crucified men to serve as a warning: Don’t mess with Rome.
And by the way, those crosses were at eye level. You could be walking down a Roman road, and there would be men hanging on crosses with whom you could make eye contact. Men would live for days on crosses. Crucified men were everywhere in any Roman province. And so it was designed to bring pain and torture and humiliation. It was part of God’s plan. The Bible says that “it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief” (Isaiah 53:10 NKJV).
But how was God pleased by the death of his Son? He wasn’t pleased by what Jesus went through. It broke the heart of the Father to see his Son suffer. However, God the Father was pleased by what was accomplished at the cross. He was pleased by the fact that his eternal plan of salvation was fulfilled. He was pleased by the sacrifice of his son, who died so that others might have eternal life. So for all the evil in the crucifixion, it brought about an infinite good. There probably has never been anything harsher that has been done to a person than what happened to Jesus. Yet it brought about the greatest gift of all time: the salvation of countless souls, including yours and mine.
Jesus knew what was coming, and he made his way voluntarily to the cross.
Why this kind of death? Because it was prophesied in the Old Testament: “And one will say to him, ‘What are these wounds between your arms?’ Then he will answer, ‘Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.’ (Zechariah 13:6 NKJV).
Probably the most well-known passage that speaks of the crucifixion is Psalm 22, where we read, “They pierced My hands and My feet” (verse 16). What is worth noting is that this psalm was written 1,000 years before the first crucifixion even took place.
No one has experienced loneliness on the level that Jesus experienced. He had been abandoned. Judas had betrayed him. His other disciples had largely turned their backs on him, with the exception of John. And at least for a few moments, even God the Father would turn his back on his son. Why? Because as Jesus bore the sin of the world, the Father, who is too pure to look on iniquity, turned his face away. That was Christ’s most painful moment.
He felt forsaken of God because that is the consequence of sin. For a person to be forsaken of God, the penalty that follows is separation from God because of their sin. But Jesus was forsaken of God so that we don’t have to be. Jesus entered the darkness so we can walk in the light. Jesus was forsaken for a time so that we might enjoy his presence forever. And because of what Jesus went through, you never will be forsaken of God.
Jesus himself said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). He already faced abandonment in our place at the cross of Calvary. As he hung there, he was bearing the sins of the world, dying as a substitute for others. He was suffering the punishment for those sins on our behalf, and the very essence of that punishment was the outpouring of God’s wrath against sinners.
He stood in our place. He faced it for us. “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 NIV).
What is the cross to you? Is it a place of redemption? Look at it. Consider it. Contemplate it. Because when Jesus died there at Calvary, he was thinking of you.