We’ve just looked in depth at the death and resurrection of Jesus. We know a little bit about how terrible the pain must have been – to undergo a Roman flogging, carry a cross through a city, and then be hung to die upon the same cross.
Yet the worst part of his suffering was not the physical trauma of torture, or even the emotional pain of being rejected by the world and deserted by his friends, but it was the spiritual agony of being cut off from his Father for us—as he carried our sins, all those sins that build up a barrier between us and God. Jesus took that barrier on himself and right before his death experienced the utter and total devastation of being separated from God. “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” Jesus cried out before he breathed his last. He was most like us in that moment – most human – as he experienced death and separation from God.
The results of his death, though are so marvelous that it can be hard to describe and so I want to leave you briefly with three images, three ways of thinking about Jesus death on the cross before you break for discussion.
The first image is that of the temple. In the Old Testament, very careful laws were laid down as to how sins should be dealt with. There was a whole system of sacrifices to show how serious sin was—typically the sinner would take an animal and the animal would be as near to perfect as possible and then inside the temple they would lay their hands on the animal and confess their sins—thus the sins were transferred to the animal and then the animal was killed.
The New Testament is clear however, that “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” (Hebrews 10:1) and the writer of the letter to the Hebrews says that this sacrificial system was a foreshadowing of Jesus death—pointing us towards it. Only the death of Jesus, the one perfect life, can be our subsitute.
The second image is from the market place. Who here has a visa card? We all know about debt and it was a problem 2000 years ago as well. In the ancient world, if someone had serious debts they might be forced to sell themselves into slavery in order to pay them off. So imagine if you will that someone was standing in the market place offering himself as a slave, and another person had pity on them and asked “how much do you owe ?” and the debtor replied “5,000” and suppose the man offers to pay the 5000 and then lets him go. In doing so, he would be redeeming him by paying the ransom, the blood money if you will.
In a similar way for us, redemption came by Jesus Christ and by his death on the cross he paid the ransom price and set us free from the power of sin. This is true freedom. It is does not mean that we will never sin again, but it means that sin’s ultimate hold over us has been broken.
The third and final image comes from the law court. We read in the Bible that through the death of Jesus we have been justified. Justification is a legal term and if you were to go to court and be acquitted you would be justified.
Imagine two people who grew up together went to the same school and developed a close relationship but lost touch afterwards. Life went on and one of them became a high court judge while the other man ended up living a life of crime. One day the criminal appeared before the judge who had been his old friend and he committed a crime to which he pleaded guilty. The judge recognized his old friend and faced a dilemma. He was a judge so he had to be just, he couldn’t let the man off. On the other hand he didn’t want to punish him because he loved him. So he told his friend that he would fine him the correct amount for his offence. That is justice. Then he would come down from his position as judge and he wrote a cheque for the amount of the fine. He gave it to his friend, saying that he would pay the penalty for him. That is love.
This is an illustration of what God has done for us. In his justice, he judges us that we are guilty, but then in his love, he came down in the person of Jesus and paid the penalty for us. In effect God is handing us a cheque and saying that we have a choice: do we want Jesus to pay the penalty for us or are we willing to face the judgement of God ourselves for our own wrongdoing ? The choice is ours.
God loves each of one us so much and longs to be in relationship with us, just as a human parent longs to be close with each of their children. The death of Jesus is personal, it’s not just for other people, religious types, its for each of us as individuals. The peace, the hope, the fulfillment that can flow from a knowledge of the forgiveness of our sins is utterly transformational.
Question: Which image (temple, marketplace, courtroom) is most helpful for you? Why?
Read John 19 and reflect – What price did Jesus pay here? Was it for himself, or for others? How can you tell?