THE CONTINUOUS DEBT OF LOVE (PART 1 OF 3)
I was reading Philippians 2 the other day, a passage that I’ve read on multiple occasions. On this particular day, however, a certain verse made me do a double take. The section I’m referring to is Philippians 2: 5-8, which reads:
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
The particular verse that I want to reference is verse 8. The part which reads
“ And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
Christianity 101 teaches us that Jesus Christ, though sinless, died for our sins. That we may have the opportunity to have everlating life. If we believe in Him. The same Christianity 101 tells us the manner in which He died. He was crucified.
The symbol of the cross has been associated with Christianity since the crucifixion of Christ. Yet, how many of us really think of what that cross symbolizes? Those of us who have young children, or even teenagers, how many of them realize the symbolism of the cross? It has become a fashion statement for the most part. Blinged out crucifix pendants on gold, silver and diamond necklaces, Rosaries worn as necklaces, as opposed to being used as prayer beads as they were intended. Or a “religious” prop. People holding crosses as a symbol of stature and association. I do also believe that to many it is indeed a symbol of their faith. But what does it MEAN to you? What does it DO to you? What does it STIR in you?
A crucial question that we’ll ask ourselves here is, why crucifixion? We know that in order for our sins to be forgiven, there had to be a blood sacrifice. A blameless sacrifice. So, yes. Christ had to die. But, why did he have to be crucified?
Before we answer that question, let’s take a look at what the practice of crucifixion really is.
Crucifixion is a practice of executing a person who has been convicted of a crime by binding or nailing them to a cross. It was usually preceeded by a brutal flogging of the convicted individual. On bare skin. Done in public for all to see. It was also customary that the condemned would carry his own cross to the site where he was to be crucified. The carrying of the cross would be done after the brutal flogging.The individual would be alive when impaled onto the cross, then, he would then be left there to die.
In order for the cross to support the weight of an adult, the cross would, quite logically, have to be larger and heavier that the adult that was impaled upon it. Which implies that the flogged, bleeding individual was made to carry a large, heav cross to his crucifixion site. It is important to add that the punishment of crucifixion was not sentenced to those who committed petty crimes and misdemeanors. It was reserved for those who were considered grievious offenders. Criminals. The guilty. Those who deserved capital punishment. Those with whom the convictors wanted to make an example of to others.
As I stated earlier, the condemned individual would be tied or nailed to the cross. For the sake of examining what was done to Jesus, we’ll focus on the practice of nailing an individual to the cross. The nails were either driven through the palms or the wrist. Due to the fragile nature of the palms, and the fact that weight and gravity could cause one’s hands to eventually run right through the nails, special thick nail like things were used. To ensure that there was no chance of that. Nails were also driven through the individual’s feet or ankles to secure the lower body to the cross. Another common practice was to break the legs of the individual to hasten death. (Though the bible assures us in John 19:36 that this was not done to Jesus) The crucified person was usually naked. With only their genitals covered by a piece of linen. This too was done to humiliate the person.
In summary, crucifxion, or death on a cross, was an inhumane, gruesome, humiliating, slow, and agonizingly painful way to die. It was also the way that Jesus Christ, an innocent man, died for our transgressions.
Those light, sparkly, bloodless, beautiful crosses that we wear around our necks. This is what they represent.
Many a time, when we hear of someone’s death either at the hands of illness, accidents, gunshots, stabbings, or even natural death, we are always mindful of a very important detail. So, we usually ask “did they suffer”? When the answer is “no”, we are usually relieved. It pains us when our loved ones, or people we know, in general “Suffer” at the point of death. The opposite is also true. When we hear of a murderer, or a rapist, or a child molester, or an otherwise “bad” person dying or being killed, the feeling is usually “I hope they suffered”. That feeling usually comes from the justification of “if they caused others to suffer, then, they deserve a painful death as well.”
Now, based on that analogy, picture Jesus. He committed no sin. He committed no crime. Yet, those who hated him, incited the people against Him, then, they opted to have a murdering robber released, and asked that Jesus be crucified instead. Jesus, an innocent man, who should not have suffered in death, was condemned to suffer a gruesome death that was reserved for condemned criminals. He accepted this sentence. Because His dying was not payment for His sins. It was payment for my sins. For your sins. So that we don’t have to pay the ultimate price, of death, for our sins.
There has become a “routine” with which we Christians acknowledge the message of salvation. Christ was born; Christ died; Christ rose from the dead. I believe, because I too am guilty of the same, that we gloss over the detals, the visual, the truth of how he really died. The truth of how what the process was really like. The truth of how much he SUFFERED!
We hear news of celebrities dying. People who we don’t even know personally, and we feel sad. We even shed tears! Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong about showing compassion. But, how many times have you as a Christian, wept over the death of Christ? Over His agony? Over His suffering? How many times have we put ourselves in His place and actually envisioned that being us? Will we say that we are not deserving? Will we say that we are without sin? Will we say that we have not, do not, disobey the Almighty God? Have we envisioned the scourging on bare skin with a rawhide whip amplified with sharp objects? The carrying of the heavy cross on a scourged, cut, and mangled body? Have we envisioned the driving of thick, sharp nails, through the delicate skin of soft hands and bony feet, into a wooden cross? Have we envisioned the bodyweight of an adult male, being suspended onto a cross, with the only support coming from the points of contact, where nail meets flesh and bone, meets wood, and these points of contact already being inflamed with pain? Do we envision this at all? If we do, why aren’t we wracked with guillt daily? Where are our tears? Where are is our anguish over the fact that at the point of death, he “suffered”? A suffering that we inflicted upon Him. Where is our sorrow? We cry for strangers who have done nothing for us. Yet, we fail to weep for a Savior who gave up everything for us.
So, why Crucifixion? Why, as Philippians 2:8 states it, “even death on a cross?” Why did Christ make this sacrifice for us? Why did The Almighty God make this sacrifice for us?
Well, the answer is as simple as it is complicated.
He did it because He loves us.
Christ gave His life for us.
God sacrificed His only begotten Son for us.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
It was done in love. It was done for us.
Because God is Love, in the ultimate gesture of love, He, with Himself, claimed us from the death sententence of sin, with love.
Christ had to die. He had to SUFFER, so that the debt for sin could be paid in full.
A debt that God paid with His love.
So, for all who understand the significance of this sacrifice: of this offering; of this gift, we should all also understand the significance of the debt that we owe Him.
The debt of His Love.
Please, come back next week for the continuation of this profound journey into the heart of God.
Now unto Him who is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy. To the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever, Amen.
As always, share your thoughts, that you might encourage your brethren.
The handmaid at His feet.