Having watched “The Passion of the Christ” last night, I was struck again by the brutality of Jesus’ death on the cross. It is all too easy to become over familiar with the account of Jesus’ sacrifice for us, and there is a danger that we can lose the awe and wonder at the pain and suffering that was endured on our behalf.
We sanitise the crucifixion account for our young children, but sometimes we carry this cartoon depiction into adulthood. Jesus’ death was not a neat and tidy affair. His beatings were horrific and torturous and his trial was fixed and biased to the extreme. The taunts, denials and abuse he received were piercing – and all these things before he even got to the cross!
The cross is the symbol of Christianity but it is almost always produced in shiny metal to be hung on a neck chain, or carefully crafted by a carpenter, planed and varnished to be mounted at perfect right-angles at the front of a church. Whilst it is good to have the cross as a reminder of what Jesus achieved for us, it is important to remember that Jesus died on a rough piece of wood,that had probably been used for previous crucifixions. It would have been heavy, bloodstained, covered in splinters and hideously uncomfortable. The nails that held him to the cross would have been thick and rusty; the rope that bound him, rough and chaffing; the crown of thorns, razor sharp; the hill at Golgotha was dusty, hot and hostile.
If you think this is all a bit graphic and gruesome, you’re right! That’s exactly what it is! Jesus death was unimaginably terrible, but why do we need to know about the gory details? It helps us to understand what Christ endured for our sake. It shows us that Jesus suffered and identifies with our suffering. It removes any illusion that the Easter account is a fairy story for children. It reminds us that although Jesus had the power to silence the Sanhedrin, and to climb down from the cross, he humbled himself and volunteered to walk this path.
All of this brings us to our knees in gratitude to our father in heaven, who gave his son as a sacrifice to release us from the consequences of our sin – death and separation from God. Jesus resurrection three days later is even more miraculous when understood in the light of the brutality and apparent finality of his death.
This Easter, spend some time thinking about the reality of the cross and ask God to renew the wonder and awe at how costly Jesus death was.