We can hardly imagine the horrors of crucifixion. Our depictions of his death during Holy Week will fall woefully short even when realism is our agenda. It is a form of death that even the Jewish and Roman citizens of the day considered cruel and barbaric. Trying to comprehend the cross in our Easter observances takes us to a place of mystery and wonder. About all we can do to fathom this kind of death is spend some time in our search engines probing the 33,600,000 study possibilities that appear in .55 seconds. Human curiosity and spiritual fervor have driven Bible scholars, historians, medical professionals, and even a many skeptics to study the cross and the physical, emotional, and spiritual challenges of Christ's death. One brilliantly researched and written article by David Terasaka, M.D., was especially revealing. It can be viewed by clicking here.
Scripture affirms that Jesus certainly knew what he was facing when he predicted his betrayal, arrest, scourging, crucifixion, and eventual resurrection. The beloved disciple John wrote, "'Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?”" (John 18:4, ESV). Moments later he asked Simon Peter, "... shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (John 18:11, ESV). The Synoptic Gospels portray Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane sweating drops of blood in anticipation of his being nailed to the cross. While there he prayed earnestly
"Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42, ESV). Evidently Jesus was completely aware of what his arrest, scourging, and crucifixion would mean.
And, then, his accusers and tormentors dared him to come down from the cross.
And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who would
destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God,
come down from the cross.”
Matthew 27: 39-40, ESV
"He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now
from the cross, and we will believe in him."
Matthew 27: 42, ESV
Similar taunts were recorded in the Gospel of Mark. His accusers, knowing the brutality of this punishment, dared him to save himself by coming down from the cross.
Of course he did not come down from the cross. But, his atoning and sacrificial death did give evidence of a downward dynamic that defined his entire life and was clearly visible in death. Take note---
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13, ESV
For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh
the dividing wall of hostility.
Ephesians 2:14, ESV
He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds
the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at
the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the
name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
Hebrews 1: 3-4, ESV
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives
for the brothers.
1 John 3:16, ESV
He laid down his life. He broke down the dividing wall of hostility. After his death he sat down at the right hand of God in glory. He gave us the example of laying down his life.
There is more. Writing to the church at Philippi the Apostle Paul Explained that even his coming was an act of humility and downward movement for Christ.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in
the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied
himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being
found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Philippians 2: 5-8, ESV
His whole life was about humility, the heart of a servant, obedience even to the point of death, all the downward character of self denial. And, the cross, where he was lifted up, was the ultimate expression of this character, laying down his life.
The Easter lesson for me is to acknowledge his example and live a life of self denial and humility. Scripture affirms that direction for each of us----
For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.
John 13:15, ESV
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an
example, so that you might follow in his steps.
1 Peter 2: 21, ESV
That old rugged cross, on a hill far away, beckons me from the egocentric ways of the world, to the Christocentric way of a cruciform life. And, it's as close as a word of prayer and a change of heart.
He invites me down. Be blessed during Passion Week.