He was stripped naked. Hands that healed and raised the dead were pinned impotent by nails. Feet that walked paths of peace and prayer were crippled by Roman justice. He was lifted high above a blood thirsty crowd without religious pomp or eloquent message, only naked, bruised and beaten. Trapped between heaven’s wrath and man’s hate, alone in a realm of darkness as black as the beast within the heart of man. In a place where a loving Father becomes an Eternal Judge, pouring out punishment from jealous anger.
The sky blackened and the earth shook with great violence. All creation groaned under the weight of the cross. The veil in the temple rent from top to bottom, Heaven’s floodgates of wrath broke open. Jesus became sin. Sick sin done in secret; sexual perversion, hatred, disobedience and rebellion of every kind. He became murderer, child molester, liar and thief. Like a poisoned sword, sin divided the Trinity. Jesus cried out; ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Mark 15:34) God turned His back to His one loyal Son so that He may turn His forgiveness to all His rebellious children.
When Christ hung His head, He spoke three words that shook the foundations of hell; ‘It is finished’. Enough pain, enough rejection, enough punishment—it is finished.
Jesus died. His body was buried in a tomb. He spent three days preaching in hell (1 Pet 3:19). On the third day, God exerted mighty power and broke once for all the curse of sin and death. Jesus becomes the embodiment of Resurrection Power. Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the Glory of God the Father (Phil 2:9–11).
The first Adam's act of treason was paid for by the Second Adam. The path to Eden was paved by the blood of Jesus. The Serpent's head was bruised. Death died. The power of sin was broken. Any man, woman or child who would look to Jesus for salvation would enter into a New Kingdom. Man would receive a new nature, a holy appetite that would desire only the fruit of heaven.
BAD HAIR DAY IN HELL
Satan entered Judas. For thirty pieces of silver, he led the Roman soldiers to Jesus' secret sanctuary of prayer. Lucifer identifies his Mortal Enemy with a kiss of death. Disciples flee like a frightened flock of birds and Jesus stands alone. He is dragged away, stripped of His dignity, and nailed to a cross. This spiritual Untouchable, this Anarchist who spoke words of treason and led a rebellion against the kingdom of darkness is dead. There is great celebration—Satan's kingdom is safe from the interference of a distant God in heaven. A huge rock was rolled over His grave and sealed. Roman soldiers stood guard. Death won over life. Darkness defeated light. Ten thousand demons danced in victory upon His grave. Defiantly, Satan shook his fist at heaven; ‘You dared to send your prophets into my kingdom and I killed them. You dared to send your own Son and I defeated Him. This is my kingdom! This is my world!’
In the midst of his ranting there is a discernible shift in the spiritual realms. Dancing ceases and a silence falls over the face of the earth. Satan rages with an angry voice; ‘who has opened the door to the abyss without my permission, for I alone hold the keys of death and hell’. In heaven, all the angelic hosts are summoned. In the silence a great outpouring of power comes forth from the throne of God. Smashing through the door of the abyss, plunging into the darkness of death comes; Resurrection Power! Satan screams in horror; ‘I have been tricked!’ From that dark door comes forth the Son of God cloaked in victory, the Firstborn among the dead. The ramification of what had just occurred detonates in Satan's mind. Jesus approaches and demands the keys of hell and death. Satan bows before His new Master because God has given Him a new Name that is above every Name. He is a King of Kings; He is a Lord of Lords. He has been exalted to the highest place, a Ruler over death, a Conqueror of hell, the Bearer of sin. Obediently Satan submits his keys with a trembling hand, humble defeat smashing into a proud kiss of victory. Death, which had been such a powerful tool in Satan's world, has turned against him. Death to sin. Death to his temptations and lies. Death to the sinful nature in man's heart. Death, giving birth to life!
One bright day we are all going discover that it had nothing to do with how good we’ve been or how hard we tried. Such a discovery will be less a disappointment than overwhelming sigh of relief followed by a profound sense of rest and peace. I think God will smile at the sound of millions upon millions of saints sighing one last time. A sigh that will mark an end and new beginning.
It is only at the cross that a human soul can find freedom. Freedom from trying to live up to something beyond ourselves. Freedom from the constant background noise of guilt and shame. Freedom from the condemning inner voice. Freedom to dance to a new grace and hope. But most of all, freedom to stand before a holy God and have the confidence to receive His love.
After 25 years of faith, I still often forget. I hear it in church every Sunday, read about it every morning before work. But there I am, same old filthy rags thinking, dead striving based in fear and guilt. I should know by now that when the joy and peace fads I need to sit down and think again about the cross. About Jesus dying, forgiving, loving at a cost to Himself, this I will never plumb.
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of Glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the cross of Christ my God.
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.
See, from His head, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Where the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small.
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
Isaac Watts 1707
If you do not know Jesus read: How Can I Receive Eternal Life?