(Photo: Harvest Ministries)
The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ-next to His arrival in Bethlehem, these are, without question, the most important events in history.
It was here that God and man were reconciled once again. Here at the cross, God's righteous demands were satisfied. Here, what was lost in the garden was regained again. Here, a crippling and decisive blow was dealt against Satan and his minions. It was here at the cross that our salvation was purchased.
We can never talk about it too much or contemplate it too often. Because of these historical events, we know there is truly life beyond the grave. This is what sets our faith apart from all others-Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and all the rest. You can go to the tombs of their prophets and gurus and pay your respects, but if you go to the tomb of Jesus, you will find it empty! He is alive!
But the question begs to be answered: Why did Jesus have to die? Why did He have to be beaten, and suffer, and die such a cruel death? Because there was no other way to satisfy the righteous demands of God. God plays by His own rules, and He said, "The soul that sins shall surely die," and "Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins." In the Old Testament, all those animal sacrifices only foreshadowed something to come-someone to come. That someone was Jesus.
Calvary shows how far men will go in sin and how far God will go for man's salvation. Jesus knew He was going to die from the very beginning and spoke of it often. In fact, technically, no one took His life from Him. He laid it down of His own accord. He lived in the shadow of the cross from the moment He entered our world.
For some, the cross seems like an aberration, a mistake, a tragic turn of events. That is how it must have seemed for the disciples as Jesus was arrested and murdered. How could this be a part of any plan? How could something so senseless, so cruel, have any purpose?
Answer: It was to have the ultimate purpose and meaning. God was the Master of Ceremonies at the cross: "It was the will of the Lord to crush Him; He has put Him to grief" (Isaiah 53:10 ESV). God "did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all" (Romans 8:32 NKJV). God put Christ forward "by His blood, to be received by faith" (Romans 3:25 ESV).
In the New King James Version, Isaiah 53:10 says, "Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him." In what sense was God the Father "pleased" by the death of God the Son? He was pleased by the redemption that was accomplished. He was pleased by the plan of salvation that was fulfilled. He was pleased by the sacrifice of His Son, who died so others might have eternal life.
For all the evil in the crucifixion, it brought about an infinite good. In fact, here was the most evil act ever perpetrated by sinful hearts-the sinless Son of God, tortured, slaughtered, heartlessly murdered in cold blood-and yet, from it came the greatest good of all time: the salvation of countless souls. Your salvation and mine.