The Standard March 25, 2021
In the day of Jesus, crucifixion was a brutal form of capital punishment inflicted by Rome, often to send a clear message that dissent and insurgence would not be tolerated. The word “excruciating” reflects the suffering caused by this manner of execution on a cross. Often, criminals or slaves who were part of an insurrection or rebellion against the Roman Empire were crucified and their bodies left hanging as a public deterrent. Unlike today, any reference to or imagery of a cross evoked feelings of deep shame.
Jewish law actually forbade crucifixion because it was deemed to be torture. After the chief priests, scribes and elders had Jesus arrested, they took him to the high priest and then to Pontius Pilate, the Governor of the Roman province of Judea. The Pharisees and Jewish leaders hated Jesus because he claimed to be God, believing this to be blasphemy. Their complaint against him was religious, but they handed him over to Pilate with a civil complaint by saying that Jesus claimed to be king and loudly objecting to his words as a threat to Caesar.
During all of this and since forever before, Jesus knew that his mission on earth was to bring glory to his Father and to proclaim the good yet often unwelcome news that the Messiah had come to earth to procure the way to God. No longer would continual sacrifices have to be made for people to be reconciled to or made right with God. Our forgiveness would be secured through the sacrifice of God’s only Son who knowingly and willingly allowed himself to be subjected to the torture and humiliation of death on a cross.
While in a prison in Rome, the Apostle Paul described so beautifully the reconciliation that Jesus accomplished for us by dying on the cross.
“For he [the Father] has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation – if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.” (Colossians 1:13-23a)
“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-15)