I was doing my usual research for our teaching this week and came across some differing views about policies of capital punishment in the Roman Empire (yes…I’m that boring), which led me to investigate historical evidences of crucifixion, which led me down a very long path of looking at all the various ways in which the crucifixion of Christ has been represented in the arts. (None of this, by the by, made the cut for my teaching…but it was fascinating for me)
What struck me was how much the crucifixion of one Middle Eastern man two millennia in the past has persistently and relentlessly invaded the imagination of humans right up until this present day. That cross emanates something we vaguely intuit. There is a key there and we can’t shake it.
The New Testament has the crucifixion of Jesus as a central theme from which the hope of the gospel flows out. While a robust theology of this event was still in it’s primitive stages in the minds of the NT writers – one thing is crystalline clear: Something VERY important happened in relation to the human condition and the future of the world when Jesus died on the cross. That much they unflinchingly declared.
This Sunday we’ll be reading the account of Jesus’ crucifixion in our ongoing study of Matthew – we’ll be reading Matthew 27:32-66.
Over and over again the NT tells us that Jesus died for sinners – for us. The picture they present is that Jesus, as our substitute, the righteous for the unrighteous, took the consequence of our sins onto himself in that death.
As we consider him, hanging naked and surrounded by enemies who mock him, we see him bear our shame. In what ways does that effect us now? How can Jesus bearing our shame help us in understanding ourselves in relation to God. How does it effect our understanding of God’s view of us?
Jesus quoted Psalm 22 from the cross – most likely wanting to connect himself with the suffering servant of God from that lament. On the cross he takes our forsakeness – our despairing aloneness and separation from the Divine onto himself. Not just to identify with us – but to take that away. What do you think that looks like in your life experiences? How can we apply this to times when we do feel alone or forgotten by God?
I love the image of the curtain which separated the holy of holies being torn from top to bottom. What significance, if any, do you see in the direction of that tear? Christ’s sacrificial death has now cleansed us and re-united us with God. What implications does this carry for us, especially in light of understanding who we are in relation to God?
As you read over the passage – what other consequence of sin, if any, do we see Jesus bearing in our place?
This, again, is a brutal yet beautiful passage – a window into the heart of God towards you and I. Hope you can be there this Sunday!