“We are, of course, removed some distance from Golgotha and its horrors. From our vantage point there’s always a danger of ornamenting Christ’s death into a mere abstraction. We give earnest assent to the idea of His passing, but rarely see or feel its visceral drama. The cross is such a dissected, familiar theological category. We celebrate it in the comfortable and dignified confines of a sanctuary. It’s hard to really touch the wrenching brutality of that event.” (Steven Mosley)
The excruciating pain. The sheer agony resonating from a tortured body. And what’s worse – the man hanging on the cross has taken our place. The Son of God, the promised Messiah, is willingly enduring the most wicked form of human suffering. It is a scene that tugs our conscience. Am I worth this suffering? Did Christ really have to suffer for me?
We read of war-time heroes who sacrifice themselves for the sake of their buddies. Jumping on a live grenade. Carrying a wounded brother while bullets whistle all around. Those acts of bravery and courage are what make ordinary men heroes and deservedly so. What prompted these actions? Love. Service. Loyalty. As Scriptures says, “No greater love than this when a man lays down his life for a friend.”
But to be executed in the most horrific way? To know and have read the script written by prophets long ago that this was the plan, the purpose, the only way to rescue mankind from eternal death – that is too hard to imagine. Too difficult to comprehend. Like the disciples, I would have tried to reason Jesus away from the path of suffering and his answer would have been the same — “Get behind me Satan!” My ways are not God’s ways. My hopes and dreams are typically not God’s plan for me. And when I place Jesus as my “bread king” – to supply me with all my earthly desires just as the Jews were expecting from a promised Messiah – I have to consciously and systematically place my desires, hopes, dreams at the foot of the cross. Only when I put to death my own grand design for my life, can I truly live.
So, there I stand by Golgotha staring at the cross with a mixture of emotions. Incredible sadness in that I should be there instead of him. Amazing thankfulness that I should be there instead of him. It is in that stark horror of recognizing why Jesus is hanging on the cross, suffering and dying a horrific death, that I rush forward with Peter on that Eastern morning when I hear those words, “The rock has been pulled away. The grave is empty.” The cross does not just become a theological truth, but a living drama within my heart and soul that comes to a most satisfying conclusion.