Made to Be Sin
This Monday, my wife and I went to the big city (Bismarck ND, population 58,333, 2nd largest city in the state!) to take care of some business and do some shopping. Traveling, which I don’t often do, is one of the few times I listen to the radio. The ride home usually brings some interesting listening.
On this occasion, we were assaulted by a “sermon” that did little more than describe, in graphic detail, the beating and crucifixion of Christ. It was the radio version of The Passion of the Christ (which I have intentionally never seen), I suppose. I would say it was a fairly accurate description, avoiding the exaggeration that often accompanies such things, and containing relatively little of the typical speculation about “what scholars think that might possibly conceivably maybe have meant.” It was pretty much just the gruesome facts of what a Roman crucifixion entailed. Unfortunately, that was all it was, and as such, it was pretty useless.
The message of the cross is not primarily about the physical suffering of Christ. His physical suffering is not even the greatest part of what he suffered. The most horrific agony of the cross was not the brutal scourging or the crown of thorns. It was not the nails in his hands and feet. It was not the excruciating pain of hanging from those nails. It was not any of the consequential medical complications that preachers love to expertly describe to spice up the Good Friday sermon.
Christ’s anguish, which began in Gethsemane, was not essentially physical. It was an anguish that can never be communicated through pictures or movies. It was, first and foremost, spiritual. It was the torture of being separated from the Father and bearing my sin that was the essence of his suffering.
And this is the heart of the Gospel. I am not saved because Christ suffered the pain of crucifixion. I am saved because he died bearing my sins. Jesus took the guilt of my sins upon himself and bore the full force of the Father’s holy wrath poured out upon him. He, the only begotten son of God, became the most loathsome creature in the Father’s eyes when my sins were laid on him. The most eloquent preacher cannot adequately describe the horror, so I know I can’t even come close.
As we approach Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, let us not become focused on the cross as an instrument of torture. Let us focus on Christ as the bearer of sin—my sin, and yours, if you believe in him.
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
—2 Corinthian 5:21.