This post is from the Christ Fellowship Easter Devotion, "We Have Seen His Glory." To download the entire devotional, click here.
Just hours before Jesus was to be betrayed by one of his very own disciples, he went into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. He took with him Peter, James, and John. The burden of what was about to take place was heavy upon him. And he went to the only place that seemed natural to him – his Heavenly Father. It was there in the garden that he prayed the most difficult prayer of his life: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will,” (Matthew 26:39). Three times he pleaded with the Father to let the cup of wrath pass. And three time he submitted to the Father’s perfect will. Jesus’ praying was so intense that he began to sweat droplets of blood. The weight of all the world was now upon his shoulders. His life purpose was no unfolding. The very thing that he had been sent for was about to happen. The hour of his death had come.
Jesus’ death was one of the most brutal ways to die. He had already been beaten many times by the time that he arrive at the feet of Pilate. But his suffering would not end there. Jesus was flogged with the Cat o’ Nine tails, which would have left his back a mangled mess of flesh. A crown of thorns was forced upon his head as he was beaten even more. Nails were driven through his wrists and ankles as he was hung on the cross. It would have been very difficult to even recognize Jesus at this point.
But that wasn’t the end of his suffering. Death by crucifixion came by suffocation. The position in which criminals were hung made it very difficult for them to breathe. They would have to push themselves up on the nails in order to take a breath. This would happen for hours until the person simply had no strength left. This is why they would often break the legs of the criminals – to speed up the process. Jesus suffered for hours in this way. With every breath he took he felt the bitter sting of pain and death. But his suffering did not end there. It was no accident that Jesus was killed on a cross. In fact, there is an incredible amount of significance with his dying on a tree. We are told in the law that any person who is hung on a tree is cursed by God (Deuteronomy 21:23). We see of picture of this in Joshua as he kills five pagan kings and hangs their bodies in the trees. These men were cursed by God. And anyone walking by would have know it. The fact that Jesus was killed on a tree shows us that not only did he suffer under the hands of men, but he suffered under the almighty wrath of God. As he hung on the cross he bore the entire weight of the wrath of God toward the sins of his people. He was cursed by God. I heard it said once before that in six hours on the cross Jesus spent an eternity in hell for every person he would save. He starred the fullness of our punishment in the face. And he bore it on the tree.
And this is at the heart of our faith. Paul puts it like this: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God,” (2 Corinthians 5:21). The life that we could not live, Jesus lived for us. The death that we deserved to die, Jesus died for us. At the cross we see the most beautiful of exchanges: Jesus takes our sin; we take his righteousness. At the cross we find the greatest display of justice and mercy: Jesus, the righteous One pays the penalty; guilty sinners go free. At the cross we see most triumphal of victories: Jesus dies; death is defeated. And at the cross we see the most amazing affirmations of love: we were sinners; Christ died for us.