As I sit down to write this blog, I find myself in somewhat of an odd, yet undistorted position.
In 2007, fresh out of high school I decided to join the Army. I figured my grades weren’t good enough, and my mother didn’t have money to send me to college. I was not athletic or talented enough for a scholarship but that’s a different story.
To my surprise when I took the ASVAB I scored high enough to land a job as an Imagery analyst. During my time in advanced individual training (AIT), the training held after basic specifically to teach you how to do your MOS/job, I realized just how important the visualization aspect of something can be. You can write a multi-page report, describing everything in great detail and it still would not have the same effect on someone as showing them an image or video of what you reported on. In fact, your brain actually processes an image 60,000 times faster than it would if you were reading.
In many instances I view the Bible the same way. I have read how the red sea parted hundreds of times, especially as a kid; but it always tends to hit home more-so when I’m at the beach visualizing the length, width and the depth of the body of water. I have read the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead, but attending a funeral always puts this story into viewpoint. Every Easter (Resurrection Sunday for the church crowd) I have heard the story about Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. I have seen church’s production ministry put on plays about Christ’s death, and later washing out red food coloring from the stage for the next few months. I have seen documentaries about how much strain is placed on the body when one is crucified, I’ve read books... But there really isn’t something comprehendible that we can see today, that will truly give us the perspective of what actually occurred during those dark yet glorious hours Jesus hung on the cross. Maybe that is why the cross is fading from public consciousness. It’s not reality to us… but to the Jews in Jesus’ time, this was something they saw everyday.
In Jesus’s time there was nothing worse than for someone to be crucified. Only the most wretched and despised people would be hung up for all to see, so they could be ridiculed and spit at. This is after the beating, violating, and torturing of a person. It was such a gruesome and humiliating act, the Jews believed that someone had to be cursed to endure this type of death… the type of death Jesus went through for you and me.
As Christians we’re taught that Christ is the answer to a complicated problem (much like all math). On one side, we have God. God who is holy, perfect, and perfectly loving. On the other side lies us. The problem with this is that God longs to be in fellowship with his creation, but our sinful ways are what keeps God on the other side. Because God is holy, sin is incompatible with Him and His nature. God is perfectly opposed to sin, yet he is passionately in love with us despite our sinful nature which we all have fallen into (Romans 3:23). The solution to this problem is atonement. Christ would bear our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. In other words, Christ took the punishment that was meant for you upon himself. It was a debt that we surely could not have paid. And on that cross, Christ bridged the divide.
“When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (Romans 5:6-8).
In my mind I always ask myself... Why God? Why did Christ’s punishment have to be so fierce? Why’d he have to die, in order for my sins to be repaid? John Piper once said, “There is nothing more fearful in reality or in imagination than the prospect of everlasting, never-ending, omnipotent, unimpeachably just and righteous divine wrath and fury. And that is the consequence of our sin”. Real forgiveness is costly, damages must be paid by someone. However, forgiveness is also refusing to make someone pay for what they did. You see God did not inflict pain on someone else for you, and instead of bringing down the consequences of your sins upon you, God absorbed the pain himself. God did not demand your blood, but offered his. So why did Jesus have to die? So we wouldn’t have to.
"Jesus was not an innocent “third party” that God punished in place of us. Rather, Jesus is Himself God as well as man. He is not only the one judged for the crime; He is the one against whom the crime is committed, and the one who passes out the sentence for the crime." - Greg Boyd