Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Crucifixion

The Crucifixion

The Sensibility of the Cross
Modern man, when willing to look objectively at the story of the crucifixion of Jesus, almost always meet it with a blank stare. The story seems to be incomprehensible and without reason. Only the fact that history records Jesus rising from the dead three days later allows the story regarding the cross itself to remain free from being lost in the distant memory of those that were with Him during those days.  Why is the meaning of the brutal trial and crucifixion beyond mankind’s peering intellect? 
The Lord God, in His infinitely surpassing wisdom, made it so.  Long before Jesus arrived on earth, Isaiah recorded that God would shock and amaze the world, and He would purposely hide the logic of this event. We read in Isaiah:
Isaiah 29:14  So once again I will do things that shock and amaze them, and I will destroy the wisdom of those who claim to know and understand."

We know that Isaiah was talking about the cross, because Paul specifically quoted him in his teachings to the Corinthian people.
1 Corinthians 1:18-19  The message about the cross doesn't make any sense to lost people. But for those of us who are being saved, it is God's power at work. (19) As God says in the Scriptures, "I will destroy the wisdom of all who claim to be wise. I will confuse those who think they know so much."

It is clear that the normal everyday mind of man cannot understand this event. The Bible says it, and experience confirms it. The understanding of the cross is as far from the natural mind as the ends of the universe are from each other.  Yet, the story of the cross and the subsequent resurrection record the pinnacle of Christian doctrine and the most important event in the history of mankind. The Bible records that Jesus died on a cross to bring everlasting salvation, both earthly and eternal, to mankind, as the following scriptures indicate:
Galatians 3:13  Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:

1 Peter 2:24  Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

These are astonishing statements. The importance and relevance to our eternal existence is beyond calculation.  Every man, woman and child on earth should hear and understand this message before making decisions about what it means.

The Way to Understanding The Cross
How then, is mankind to cross the gulf and come to an understanding of the cross, and lay hold of the everlasting salvation God brought through it. How are they to understand what it means to them?  John tells us in the scripture below, that God’s Holy Spirit will come to us, and then we will be witnesses, which means, of course, that being witnesses, we have seen and understood.
Acts 1:8  But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

What this means is that the Holy Spirit of God will give understanding to man, and will illuminate the meanings of things that cannot be understood with the natural understanding of mankind.  Paul also tells us this in the following scripture:
1 Corinthians 2:7-9  We speak of God's hidden and mysterious wisdom that God decided to use for our glory long before the world began.  (8)  The rulers of this world didn't know anything about this wisdom. If they had known about it, they would not have nailed the glorious Lord to a cross.  (9)  But it is just as the Scriptures say, "What God has planned for people who love him is more than eyes have seen or ears have heard. It has never even entered our minds!"

Again, we read that there is nothing that we ourselves can do to gain this understanding, but rather, it will come from the Holy Spirit to us.
John 6:63  The Spirit is the one who gives life! Human strength can do nothing. The words that I have spoken to you are from that life-giving Spirit.

Laying Hold of the Understanding of the Cross

So how are we to lay hold of this understanding? Once again, the Bible shows the way:
1 Corinthians 1:21-23  God was wise and decided not to let the people of this world use their wisdom to learn about him. Instead, God chose to save only those who believe the foolish message we preach.  (22)  Jews ask for miracles, and Greeks want something that sounds wise.  (23)  But we preach that Christ was nailed to a cross. Most Jews have problems with this, and most Gentiles think it is foolish.

Here we are told the secret. We must believe this “foolish” message that we don’t understand, and a large part of that message is that Christ was nailed to a cross.  It is through believing that Jesus was nailed to a cross, and that He was resurrected three days later that we will come to understand what this means.  For our belief, and our subsequent confession of our belief will please God, bring about His acceptance of us, and bring His salvation to us.
Romans 10:8-13  All who are acceptable because of their faith simply say, "The message is as near as your mouth or your heart." And this is the same message we preach about faith.  (9)  So you will be saved, if you honestly say, "Jesus is Lord," and if you believe with all your heart that God raised him from death.  (10)  God will accept you and save you, if you truly believe this and tell it to others.  (11)  The Scriptures say that no one who has faith will be disappointed,  (12)  no matter if that person is a Jew or a Gentile. There is only one Lord, and he is generous to everyone who asks for his help.  (13)  All who call out to the Lord will be saved.

These words from Paul are precise and to the point, and illustrate exactly what faith is. He is saying that if we want to understand the cross, and it’s implications for our salvation, we must first believe that Jesus died on the cross, was resurrected, and is Lord of everything that is created.  And tell that to others. 

How Do I Believe?

 Is God asking mankind to believe that Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected on the third day blindly?  Does God help us to believe?  I believe that God has told mankind for thousands of years about the cross and the resurrection of Jesus.  In fact, Jesus Himself told us in the Biblical record about His death and resurrection many times. John wrote about this:
John 13:19  I am telling you this before it all happens. Then when it does happen, you will believe who I am.

God, through His Old Testament prophets, spanning thousands of years, gave mankind over three hundred predictions regarding the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  He did this so that we might believe that Jesus was who He said He was. This is truly amazing and without precedent. Statistically, the chances of that many predictions actually coming to pass by chance are literally incalculable.  God gave us this record so that we might believe. This record gives us strength to take that first step of belief.  If time is taken to study and think about the prophetic record of the then future life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the weight of that record literally must be believed based strictly on the evidence. But still, you must take that initial step, and believe it.
John 20:30-31  And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:  (31)  But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

Just a couple of the scriptures from the Old Testament that speak directly about the death and resurrection of Jesus are listed below:
Here we read that Jesus, upon His death, will not be left in hell, nor will He see corruption. This is a clear reference to His resurrection:
Psalms 16:10-11  I am your chosen one. You won't leave me in the grave or let my body decay.  (11)  You have shown me the path to life, and you make me glad by being near to me. Sitting at your right side, I will always be joyful.

Here we read the Psalmist words foreseeing the brutal trial and crucifixion of Jesus:
Psalms 22:6-8  But I am merely a worm, far less than human, and I am hated and rejected by people everywhere.  (7)  Everyone who sees me makes fun and sneers. They shake their heads,  (8)  and say, "Trust the LORD! If you are his favorite, let him protect you and keep you safe."

And again, we read about Jesus, clearly a prediction of the cross, and the explanation that Jesus willing subjected to this because of, and for mankind’s salvation.
Isaiah 53:3-8  He was hated and rejected; his life was filled with sorrow and terrible suffering. No one wanted to look at him. We despised him and said, "He is a nobody!"  (4)  He suffered and endured great pain for us, but we thought his suffering was punishment from God.  (5)  He was wounded and crushed because of our sins; by taking our punishment, he made us completely well.  (6)  All of us were like sheep that had wandered off. We had each gone our own way, but the LORD gave him the punishment we deserved.  (7)  He was painfully abused, but he did not complain. He was silent like a lamb being led to the butcher, as quiet as a sheep having its wool cut off.  (8)  He was condemned to death without a fair trial. Who could have imagined what would happen to him? His life was taken away because of the sinful things my people had done.

There are hundreds of additional predictions that tell the story of Jesus. Many speak directly to the cross and the salvation that was brought to mankind through the sacrifice of Jesus on it. Reading these predictions, and realizing that these were written long before the event, we can come to a belief that the events occurred.  If we believe that Jesus went to the cross, died there, and was raised to life three days later, and we can say that to others.

The Cross is for You
What will you do with this information?  For the price of belief, eternal and earthly salvation is yours! This is a free gift, there is no charge. John makes this clear:
John 3:16-18  God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die.  (17)  God did not send his Son into the world to condemn its people. He sent him to save them!  (18)  No one who has faith in God's Son will be condemned. But everyone who doesn't have faith in him has already been condemned for not having faith in God's only Son.

The choice is yours, I encourage you to take that first step, and believe.

The Life of Christ – Term Paper
Stan Feldsine

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