There is an old country gospel song that starts off “I should have been crucified; I should have suffered and died.” I could have hung on an old Roman cross from the day of my birth in 1963 till today, and while blood would have been shed and I would have suffered pain beyond measure, in the eyes of eternity it would not have changed one thing about my future and not one sin would have been paid for.
This same song also says “Jesus, God’s Son, took my place.” Now we are getting somewhere. The crux of why Jesus came, to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10) and in obedience to the Father, suffered the humiliation of the cross looking forward to the joy that was set before Him. (C.f. John 3:16, Hebrews 12:2) What was this joy? Let us look at what Matthew Henry says:
He had something in view under all his sufferings, which was pleasant to him; he rejoiced to see that by his sufferings he should make satisfaction to the injured justice of God and give security to his honour and government, that he should make peace between God and man, that he should seal the covenant of grace and be the Mediator of it, that he should open a way of salvation to the chief of sinners, and that he should effectually save all those whom the Father had given him, and himself be the first-born among many brethren. This was the joy that was set before him.[i]
Think on that for a moment. When He was on the cross, we were really on His mind, those that would come to God by trusting Jesus as their Saviour was His joy at that time of His greatest suffering!
- He paid a debt He did not owe. I had a sin debt to God. I could have hung on a cross for eternity or spent an eternity in Hell suffering but it would not reduce my sin debt on iota. God is Holy and cannot be in the presence of sin. Jesus’ blood is the one perfect, atoning sacrifice that can eradicate my sin debt.
Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
- This debt was rooted in the law.
And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
A Roman prisoner would be held in a cell and his transgressions listed and posted. When that man was crucified, that would go on his cross to identify his transgressions to the world. Pilate had written on Jesus’ cross JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin (c.f. John 19:19) so all around no matter what language they spoke would know who Jesus is, but God had written there every sin (and sin is the transgression of the law, 1 John 3:4) that I would ever commit and wrote it there so I could be forgiven.
Where God’s holiness demanded judgment, God’s love gave mercy and the met at they cross where Jesus hung. And guess what, not just for me but for whosoever will. That means you, me, and anybody who wants to can come and take of the water of life freely.
And that is not just something to think about that is something to celebrate. Not because He suffered but because it is finished. He will never suffer like that again, and the next thing is the rapture where He will come to get His own, will you be there?
[i] Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Bible, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers) 1997.