This a a response to a blog post written by dear friend, where he asks a very valid question.
I started off responding, then it got too long for a comment (lol), so I decided to simply post it here. There are a host of Scriptures and passages that illustrate what is said, that I would be happy to provide upon request. In the short term, however, John 3:16, 17 and Galatians 13 is a pretty good start.
Rather than answering each point in sequence, I’m going to address the over-arching question in hopes that a whole answer encompasses all of the smaller ones.
What is the Crucifixion about?
In a nutshell? The death of Jesus.
Okay, so then what is the death of Jesus about?
The Fall of Man.
The Fall of Man
We all know the Eden story… God made Adam, pulled Eve from Adam, the snake seduced Eve, Eve offered her succumbing temptation to Adam, Adam partook, God wasn’t happy, God kicked everybody out of His garden.
There’s a deeper layer here though- pivotal information that paves the way for Jesus by necessity.
God is perfect. Fully good. Without flaw or error. Never does anything wrong. Incapable of doing wrong or evil. Perfect God then, made imperfect man. Imperfect man then did what imperfect man will inevitably do… He sinned. Nothing overwhelmingly horrid in and of itself, BUT sin separates from God by nature. God is perfect- sin is the fulfillment of imperfection. They cannot co-exist. How could they? The sin gulf would either have to be bridged, or the sin itself fully expunged. And it is from there that the law was derived… it began as basic sacrifices (animals) to remove, as it were, the sin from one’s life.
God laid out a plan, culminating in the Ten Commandments, for man to follow that would rid him of sin and allow him to fellowship with God.
This is the Law.
But all laws come with a curse- the curse of any law is that man is doomed to be smitten by it. Think of law as a box and mankind as springs- this is our same relationship with God’s law. However, God’s law affects spirituality. Failing to abide by God’s law is sin, sin is corrupting and so leads to death. The curse of the law is death. God is perfect- the summation of all Good. He is the standard. The bar by which all is measured. By sinning we fall short of that standard and so earn the punishment for being sinful. The law helped, but the law could not save.
The Necessity of Jesus
Going back to the beginning- the gap that sin creates between man and God must either be bridged or the sin itself expunged. Overcome the divide or remove the offense, in essence. What the law did was overcome the divide, but God’s desire for relationship with every human being could not ever be satisfied under the conditions of the law alone. We were destined to fall under it and so, at some point or another, earn our death. (this would be where “the demands of eternal justice” comes into play… Justice is merely the consequence for failing to be good) Bridging was a start, but it was not enough.
Sacrifices were God’s method of blotting out sin. “Blood for blood” you might say. However, with the sacrifices (animals) being less than man in nature and man prone to sin (thus eliminating him as suitable for sacrifice), the process could only be temporary. Like a child getting away with taking an extra cookie before dinner, only to be caught and punished for secretly trying to throw his veggies away ten minutes later. ALL of this interfered with God’s desire for relationship with man.
So… a plan emerged…
Man was going to sin and so earn what justice (recompense for falling beneath perfection) had coming for him (death)… God wanted to be in relationship with man… the law could bridge gaps, but not expunge sin… sin can only be expunged through sacrifice… so there needed to be a perfect sacrifice that could expunge sin for all men for all time… if sin were eliminated then the law could evolve to be expressions of love… but no man could ever fulfill this sacrifice… because only God was perfect… Conclusion?
God must sacrifice Himself. He was the only one worthy. The only one who could pay the price. The onlyone who could receive the brunt of His own unbridled wrath and it be accepted as suitable penance. Sin angers God. It’s not a pretty statement or a fluffy reality- but it is true.
Imagine you had a beautiful six year old daughter, whose eyes favored her mother’s… now imagine that daughter got raped repeatedly by a stranger in your own home… our instinct is to say we would hate the rapist, but that’s not actually true- we hate RAPE. But we want to make the man who did the raping PAY.
Sin is like that– God hates the SIN (though He fervently loves the sinner), but His inherent goodness breeds a righteous anger that demands punishment be paid upon the sinner.
So He took on human form (becoming Jesus), lived a perfect life, and then fulfilled His ultimate mission and died on the Cross. In essence… He became the curse of the law and took its punishment all in one move. (The Cross was cultural by the way. That was the greatest form of death amongst the Romans. If Jesus were American today, He probably would’ve been sentenced to the electric chair)
At that point the power of sin was broken. Humans were freed from the curse of the law because we no longer needed the law to be in relationship with God. Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself expunged sin for anybody who would embrace Him because He lived as a perfect human- it was permanent in magnitude because He was God. That left just one tiny thread… death. No matter how great a feat had just been accomplished- Jesus was dead.
That meant that a physical ailment had dominance over spiritual authority. How wack is that? So no, death is not a game- it is an opponent. Jesus rose from the dead conquering the ultimate opponent of expiring humanity- death. This is reason number one why Christians need not fear death at all- Jesus (our leader, our conquering hero, the source of our salvation) already beat it. So even if we are taken by it, it is not a bad thing because we are in His hands and not death’s.
The only way for us to have a shot at life, and being in relationship with God was for a perfect sacrifice to be made on our behalf. To take the weight of righteousness off of our incapable shoulders and replace it with the lighter yoke of following Jesus. To put the focus back on living a life of love, because that’s who God is and who He ultimately wants us to be. It is the ultimate offer of best interest. We can choose whether or not to accept… and will receive the end game of either choice.