OUT ON A LIMB

Goin’ out on a limb here, but I don’t think the greatest pain endured by Christ had anything to do with the scourging, the crown of thorns or the nails. Not to take anything away from what He endured physically, I don’t believe it is what ought to compel us.

Yet we are fascinated by what Christ suffered physically. We want to make documentaries/movies about the practice of beatings in the first century, the design of whips used by the Romans, the size of thorns that grow in Judea and the exact position of the spikes driven into His body. We consult medical experts to detail the physiological effects of a Roman crucifixion on victims.

We think somehow the brutality of what Christ suffered physically ought to compel people to repent.

I am sorry, but it is perhaps more of a turn off than a turn on. (Oh sure, it works occasionally, but apart from its true backdrop (the spiritual one), it is senseless brutality by a God who is suppose to be a loving Heavenly Father.) Does a loving God physically abuse His one and only Son? It’s a hard concept for folks to accept without the bigger picture.

Yet we aren’t quite as drawn to the bigger picture. Nobody is making movies about the bigger picture.

Hebrews 12 tells us “he scorned the shame” – treated His treatment with contempt, dismissed it as having little or no effect. He is silent, never once mentioning his pain. It is almost as if out of spite – not really His style – He would not let either His accusers nor His executioners get any satisfaction from His reaction to the pain they inflicted upon Him. He asks for their forgiveness to show Himself exceedingly more noble than them. It’s the glory of “turning the other cheek” thereby leaving your attacker embarrassed in His lack of self-control. He demeans himself in striking somebody of such character.

Christ’s greatest anguish in The Passion is being alienated from His Father, the holy Lamb of God bearing the sins of the world. On the cross, He screams “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” not “My God, this really hurts!”

For the first time in His eternal existence He is separated from His Father….for us.

What He wouldn’t do for us?!

That is what ought to bring us to our knees.

I believe that in our almost morbid interest in the details of His physical suffering, we lose sight of the great war being waged in spiritual realms. (It might be easier for us; the Christian version of a horror movie.) When we understand the horrific nature of sin and its devastating impact on humanity along with what all was required of God to redeem the whole sorry mess, then the Cross takes on its true significance.

Therein lies both the horror and the beauty of the Cross. The great brutality required of Redemption is exacted of God’s Son to secure salvation for those He loves so much He’d die for them.

The Gospel is not about going to heaven when we die as has seemed such a popular appeal in the past 50 years or so. The Gospel is about being rescued from the sin that separates us from God for an eternity. The Gospel is about pushing us out of the way from God’s oncoming wrath. But for Christ and Christ alone, our Divine Substitute, we don’t stand a chance. We are ruined. We are doomed. It is truly a terrible thing to fall into the hands of an angry God when He defends His glory.

The Gospel is the great news of a rescue from our sin through the atonement offered by Jesus Christ. Period.

Heaven is but the cherry on top. To make eternity the great offer of the Gospel is to cheapen it all and call “Christians” to self-centered “spiritual lives.” People who are rescued from terribly dire predicaments (drowning, burning, falling, sure death) tend to never be the same again…certainly not toward the person who rescued them.

That is Gospel. That is 1 Corinthians 15.

Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.

That is what I want to fascinate me about Easter. Not one more documentary describing the physiological effects of a Roman execution. Jesus was not the only man to endure such maltreatment. Crucifixion does not separate Him from the others. Carrying the sins of the world and not being deterred from it regardless of what men might do to Him is what makes Christ different from all the rest.

There is nothing compared to the injury my sin has inflicted on the glory of a Holy God.

“God demonstrated His love for us in this (watch carefully, it is not about physical torture) WHILE WE WERE YET SINNERS, CHRIST DIED FOR US.” (Romans 5:8)