Jesus on the CrossEdward Wallant concludes his book, Children at the Gate, with these words: "Let me tell you the worst dream of all for me. I dream like I'm God, up on top of everything with nothing higher. All I have to do is wave my hand and I got what I want. I got no pains, no problems. Hungry? I wave my hand and there's roast beef. Everything. Nobody can insult me or beat me up or anything. I'm never cold or hot or sick… but you know, it's the worst, worst feeling I ever had. It's so lonely not to suffer, so lonely."

The god of this dream is not the God of holy scripture. We do not worship a an obese Buddha who sits in peaceful serenity above the miseries of this world. "We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are" (Hebrews 4:15). "Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested" (Hebrews 2:18).

Matthew and Mark tell us that the soldiers offered Jesus a drink of wine mixed with myrrh as a narcotic to alleviate his suffering before they drove the nails through his hands and feet, but he refused it (Matthew 27:34; Mark 15:23). No chemical substance would dull the pain that Jesus felt that awful day. No matter what you may suffer in this life, Jesus experienced something just as bad. He suffered the torture of crucifixion without so much as an aspirin. Many of you carry burdens of secret sorrows which others do not know. You struggle with physical or emotional pain. It hard for you to get out of bed and go on with life. You wonder if it is worth it. Corrie Ten Boom discovered in a Nazi prison during World War II, "There is no pit so deep that [God] is not deeper still." (The Hiding Place).

He understands and knows what you are going through. Only a fool would say to his wife in the last painful moments of childbirth, "Honey, I know how you feel." Those words are a great comfort when they come from someone who has gone through what you are going through, but they are an insult coming from anyone else.

Jesus says, "I know how you feel." And he really does. He comes to you, calls you by name, and says, "I know how you feel." Are you a baby in wet diapers living in a world where everyone is bigger and stronger and smarter than you are? Jesus says, "I know how you feel." Are you a teenager whose best friends deserted you when you needed them most? Jesus says, "I know how you feel." Are you homeless and hungry? Jesus says, "I know how you feel." Are you weak and in great pain? Jesus says, "I know how you feel."

Seven hundred years before Jesus was born the prophet Isaiah said he would be "a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief" (Isaiah 53:3). "Acquainted" indeed! He knew all there was to know about our woes. He knew our pain and problems not because he read a book about them, but because he experienced them himself.

Early in Church history there was an heretical sect that so emphasized the deity of Christ they denied his humanity--that he could actually suffer and die like us. Of course, they had great difficulty trying to explain what happened on the cross.

It was from members of this sect that the prophet Mohammed received his knowledge of Christianity. In the Koran, Chapter 4, verse 156 we find this statement: "And for their saying, 'Verily we have slain the Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary, an Apostle of God.' Yet they slew him not, and they crucified him not, but they had only his likeness. And they who differed about him were in doubt concerning him: no sure knowledge had they about him, but followed only an opinion, and they did not really slay him, but God took him up to himself." A footnote says the one they crucified by mistake was Simon of Cyrene! The poor guy was just trying to help out when they nailed him to the cross by accident. Believe it or not!

I choose not to believe it.

Instead, I believe the reliable gospel records which tell us Christ was both fully human and fully divine. He was not just God-like. He was God. He gave proof of his deity in that he spoke with divine wisdom, acted with divine holiness, exhibited divine power, and displayed divine love. He read minds, moved hearts and compelled wills. When he was pleased to exert his power, all nature was subject to his bidding. A word from him and disease fled, a storm was stilled, the devil left him and the dead were raised to life. So truly was he God in human flesh he could say, "He who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9).

Truly God? Yes! And also truly human (1 Timothy 2:5)! So fully human was he that he endured all the limitations common to our humanity. He entered this world as a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes. As a child he increased in wisdom and stature (Luke 2:52). As a boy he asked questions of his teachers in the temple (Luke 2:46). As a man he was weary (John 4:6), he slept (Matthew 8:24), he hungered (Matthew 21:18), he was tempted (Hebrews 2:18: 4:15), he cried (John 11:35), and on the cross he thirsted. God doesn't thirst. Neither do angels. But Christ, the God-man, could. And did. Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried.

Many people have suffered and died for me. Brave soldiers at Valley Forge under General George Washington suffered and died for me. I live in a free and prosperous land because of their sacrifice. Thousands of courageous soldiers have given their lives for me. But Christ's death for me was unique. It was different from all other deaths in three ways.

First, his death was vicarious. By that I mean he died in my place. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, "He was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5).

"It was his love for me that nailed him to the tree 
    to die in agony for all my sin.
For my guilt and blame, the great Redeemer came 
    willing to bear the shame of all my sin"
(Norman J. Clayton).

Becky Pippert tells of counseling a woman grieving over having an abortion. Nothing anyone said could relieve her guilt that she was responsible for taking the life of a human being. Finally, Becky shocked her into new reality saying, "That baby was not the first life you took."
"What do you mean?"
"Jesus died for your sins."

Second, his death was propitiatory. By that I mean it appeased God's wrath by satisfying divine justice (Romans 3:25-26). That's a concept that's hard to understand. Think of it this way. Whoever placed a bomb in the garage of the U S Trade center in New York caused such destruction and death that even after they are caught, tried and convicted, no punishment can be imposed proportionate to the crime to satisfy the claims of justice. The doctrine of propitiation means that Christ's death satisfied the claims of justice not only for terrorist bombers, but for every sinner on earth—including me (1 John 4:10).

"When I was sinking down
Beneath God's righteous frown
Christ laid aside his crown
For my soul" (American Folk Hymn)

Third, his death was reconciling. By that I mean that it turned those who were God's enemies into his friends. "When anyone is joined to Christ, he is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come. All this is done by God, who through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends and gave us the task of making others his friends also" (2 Corinthians 5:18-19 TEV).

Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried. What does that mean to you personally? What difference does it make in your life here and now?

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