There’s a very important concept the crucifiers of Jesus didn’t understand. It never occurred to me until today while we were singing The Power of the Cross (Getty/Townend) near the end of Easter morning worship at Dawson Memorial Baptist Church.
“Tried by sinful men, torn and beaten, then nailed to a cross of wood” we sang in stanza one. The associated visual for me – while acutely sad, as it always is – suddenly presented an entirely new and powerful insight.
What the crucifers didn’t understand was that they were striking, hating, whipping, punishing… sin. Their long-pent-up, senseless, uncontrolled mob and individual violence wasn’t against that man Jesus for himself, in spite of his perplexing claims about having a kingdom not of this world. Their violence spewed forth upon a scapegoat – the holy, blemishless Scapegoat that God conceived and that God required.
In this vein we can see Jesus representing greed, theft, abuse, cruelty, manipulation, wastefulness, selfishness, cowardice, bullying, abduction, murder, gossip, slander, lying, adultery – and people are so rightly incensed against those. We are perfectly justified in hating that these human actions happen, that one person wrongs another in every corner of the earth, daily, hourly, in secret and in public, causing unthinkable pain, sorrow, fear, and despair. And that others sin by not caring until some of it hits home.
The crucifiers did beat, hate, despise and kill Jesus with the same vengeance, the same quest and thirst for justice that God feels toward sin because sin has so devastatingly hurt the people God made and loves.
If this view of the hours leading up to Golgotha is not unsound, then the period of time when Jesus became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21) did not begin when he was hanging on the cross and the sky went dark as God turned away. It began earlier. Is it possible our Lord’s unbearable agony in the Garden of Gethsemane was in part because God’s plan for Jesus to personify your sins and mine was already in motion, and therefore God was inaccessible to Jesus’ plea, “Let this cup pass from me?”
For God’s ear, God’s heart to be inaccessible is not bearable for us, and that is why He made a plan to change the way things were. Do we love Him, thank Him, worship Him for this accordingly?
Unthinkable sin deserves commensurate punishment. Jesus bore that unthinkable punishment. Oh, what a “debt of love”* we owe our Lamb!
*Isaac Watts, Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed, 1907