BY JORDAN MAYER
“But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”
During this Holy Week, I've found myself thinking back to the Advent season we celebrated just a few months ago. Christmas marks the coming of Emmanuel, God With Us. Though many in the world secularize Christmas enough to remove any mention of "Christ", others are still content to leave the manger scene as a cutesy story and holiday tradition. A miraculous baby boy, a quaint little stable with lovable farm animals, angels heralding peace and goodwill, and shepherds passing on the good news. On the surface, it sounds like a peaceful bedtime story, and many try to keep it that way. But eventually this baby boy grows into a man, and eventually this man goes on to suffer and die.
There is no sugarcoating the Easter story. Christ's suffering was brutal and horrific. It was undignified and humiliating. His body, bruised and beaten, and blood trickling from His many wounds, is a startling and disturbing sight to envision. Yet, what is more disturbing is not the manner in which He suffered, but the fact that He suffered at all. In a world obsessed with justice, there is no greater injustice than an innocent man suffering a wrongful death. How much more than the perfect Son of God? Though He committed no crime, He was nailed to a criminal's cross. Though He spoke of only truth, He was condemned as a liar (Mark 14:64). He was despised and rejected (Isaiah 53:3), oppressed and afflicted (Isaiah 53:7).
Yet, Jesus willingly suffered. Though He was fully God, enjoying perfect fellowship within the Trinity, he emptied Himself and became a man. The Creator entered into His own creation, humbling Himself and even allowing Himself to be put to death on a cross (Philippians 2:6-8), Though the people mocked and jeered, it was within His power and ability to come off of the cross or to summon legions of angels to rise to His defense. But instead, He submitted Himself to His Father's will. "Shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?", Jesus says to Peter in the garden of Gethsemane (John 18:11). Or, as Isaiah prophesied several hundred years prior, it was the Father's will to crush Him (Isaiah 53:10).
Why would someone, why would anyone, choose to suffer and die when they did nothing wrong?
He was pierced for my transgressions. He was crushed for my iniquities. The chastisement He bore and the wounds he suffered, He endured on my behalf. Jesus' sacrifice was necessary because it is what my sin demanded. A just and holy God demands wages to be paid for sin, and the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Jesus paid what I could not. As the nails pierced His hands, they also pierced the record of debt that stood against me (Colossians 2:14).
He died because He loved me, because He loved you. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). And yet, the Bible says that even while we were still enemies of God, Christ died for us (Romans 5:10). While God’s wrath was poured out on Him, Christ’s love was being poured out on us.
The story does not end with our sin. Oh the depth of our sin, but oh how much greater the depth of His love! If I begin as Paul does, "Oh wretched man that I am. Who can deliver me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:24), I can also end as Paul ends, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25). For it was on that cursed tree that our Savior declared, "It is finished!" (John 19:30)
If I may offer an encouragement this week, as much for myself as for you, do not be too quick to pass over the pain and anguish of the cross on your way to the empty tomb. Ponder the sacrifice that was made on your behalf. Dwell on the suffering He endured. For as Christ was crucified, our old selves were crucified with Him (Romans 6:6). Boast in the cross and the crucified Savior (Galatians 6:14). For the word of the cross is the power of God to those who are saved (1 Corinthians 1:18). Carry with you the death of Jesus knowing that in Him is also life (2 Corinthians 4:10).
But then rejoice that He did not stay in that grave. For if Christ didn't rise from the dead, we truly are a people to be pitied and we remain in our sin (1 Corinthians 15:17-19). But just as He conquered sin on the cross, He conquered death in the tomb!
He is risen, He is risen indeed!