But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped
so we could be healed.
2000 years ago, He was killed. Some might say it was without cause. Unjust. Cruel. Unfair. Some, myself included, tend to glare at those Pharisees... what were they thinking? What could have possessed them to hate and brutally torture a perfect, holy, innocent man?
I glare for a while before it finally hits me that I'm simply staring into a mirror. By accusing them of being despicable monsters and killing Jesus, I am just as hypocritical and self-righteous as I hate them for being. Every person who has ever had a heartbeat nailed Jesus to that cross. This is a fact, and is plainly stated in Romans chapter 3.
The other night, as is tradition, I watched Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. I've seen it three times now, and it just gets harder to watch every year. It's because every year, something new strikes me. With every blow of the whip, the clear love message becomes clearer and so much more obvious.
As I sat in church this Easter Sunday, I realized how strange we are. It made me excited, actually. As we took communion, I tried to place myself in the shoes of a complete stranger to Christianity, hearing for the first time people talk about 'Drinking Jesus' blood' and 'eating his body' to 'remember and share in His death.' We wear torture instruments around our necks! How is a cross any less brutal than a guillotine, or any stranger than wearing an electric chair as a pendent on a necklace?
I sing common church choruses almost without feeling, as the words are habitual- I don't remember when I first learned them. Only today did I suddenly notice how peculiar those words were. "Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?" "Show me the tomb where Thou wast laid." If these words can have such a distinct impact on an unbeliever, what kind of message does it send when we sing those words as numbly as we sing The Alphabet Song? We sing about the shedding of Christ's flesh, His crucifixion, the nails in His hands and feet, His blood pouring out over us... and we sing it like the most boring tune on the planet.
And yet, those same words are what we are told to be the greatest message every! Those words are the Gospel! They are good news! The sacrifice that God made is so often lost- drowned by a flood of Easter eggs and barbecues, rest and relaxation. But that sacrifice is literally the most impossibly beautiful gift that could ever be given- abounding in love and mercy.
Think of every sin you've ever committed. The mere thought is overwhelming, I know. Every impure thought, every rude comment, every grin at the expense of someone else's pain... I can't count the number of times these appear in my own life's story. Now, as a rough estimate, say that there has been approximately 100 billion people on earth. Ever. 100 billion people have breathed this air, and had life. And every one of those 100 billion people have sinned. Imagine every sin you've committed once more, and multiply that by 100 billion.
Now think of a baby. Maybe yours or your neice's or nephew's or a friend's. The most innocent, pure looking creature on the planet. So fragile and meek. Just think for a moment what would happen if every single one of your sins were suddenly piled onto that baby. Even the weight of just one person's sins would be unbearable for someone as innocent as an infant. Now imagine the accumulated sins of 100 billion people, all taken off of their shoulders, and placed on one, tiny, beautiful baby.
No doubt, the pressure of the evil would kill the baby instantly. There is no way any human can stand such an atrocity.
That is the sacrifice that Jesus gave for us. Not only was he crushed for our sins, he was crushed by them. Without the power of the Most High strengthening Him for the trial and the crucifixion, the insurmountable weight of all the sin would have broken Him. He was all God, and He was all man. He had every murder, rape, theft, lie, kidnapping, abuse, slander, and sin of every one that had ever lived, everyone that was living, and everyone that would live in the future. (That'd be you and me.)
The weight of such sin is so heavy, the burden of it is meant to be dragged down to hell. But out of love so amazing, so divine, Jesus bore that sin and endured even more torture, all so that we could spend eternity in paradise.
It amazes me when I read about the Pharisees, and it haunts me to realize how much we have in common. They refused to see the evidence that Jesus Christ was, indeed, the Messiah, and without realizing it, they were the Devil's mouthpiece.
Without Jesus' death and resurrection, there would be no forgiveness of sins! All the way through His life, Jesus was tempted by Satan to give up. We think that Satan only tempted Jesus three times, out in the desert? Oh, no. Right up until Jesus breathed His last, Satan was there, coaxing the Messiah to let go of the burden of sins, and abandon His people.
In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him, "He saved others," they said, "but he can't save himself! He's the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.
These Pharisees believed they were ridding the world of an evil man. They thought they were pleasing God. Now, their words are on display to us today, and we can see that they were only voicing the Devil's commands. They wanted a miracle for themselves. They wanted a specific miracle. They wanted Jesus to deliver them from the Romans. The prophecies of the Old Testament had helped them create a Messiah that would perform and act a specific way. When Jesus didn't measure up to those standards, they concluded that He was not from God.
As Jesus was suffering and nearing His end, they were desperate for Him to show them. They thought they were giving Him one last chance to prove to the world that He was God. I just want to grab their shoulders and shake them: "Don't you realize that you are asking for God to abandon you? Don't you realize that without His death you are not cleansed?"
If Jesus had complied with their pleadings and mockery, if He had succumbed to the temptation of being free of pain and of suffering... our faith would be dead. We would be following a God who cares only for Himself, and not for His creation. There would be no point to life, because there would be no hope for sinners.
This is why we sing of the blood. The power in the blood. This is why we shout that He has risen, indeed! Hallelujah is our song, and we will continue to sing for all of eternity! We are not morbid, creepy, sinister people. Yes, we sing of ancient torture and talk joyfully about this innocent man's cruel death. But even more importantly, we know what happens next. We sing because this death and resurrection has given us an undying hope, a hope that can never be worn down.
Since our God has conquered death, we have no need to fear it. This is why we carry our crosses. As He died, we die to our sins. As He lived again, so we live for Him. He paid our debt- a debt He did not owe.