Complete this quiz:
- Easter is about Jesus:
- Jesus death and resurrection
- According to the Bible, Easter's main message is:
- The great example of Jesus' love
- The brutality of Roman crucifixion and the physical pain of Jesus
- That Jesus might give His life as a ransom for many and win victory over sin and death
I noticed something again this Easter.
As Christians celebrated Easter, I noticed again a missing link in the meaning of the season. The message from pulpits and online articles suggested Easter's focus was the physical agony of Jesus dying on the cross.
Yes, crucifixion was a horrendous torture. Breathing is an active process. The position of crucifixion puts the breathing muscles at a huge mechanical disadvantage. You need to be able to elevate your thorax somehow to breath in. So you rely on legs (until they fatigue) then arms (till they fatigue then arms dislocate). Then you're physically unable to elevate, to lift yourself to breath and asphyxiate. After severe flogging with a metal and bone laced whip, as was the practice, the lungs would be damaged which would speed up the process. If you want to get a feel, find some monkey bars at the local park and hang arms wide crucifixion style. Notice how this makes breathing harder! This is the physical torture Jesus went through. And He did it for us.
But is this physical experience the main focus of Easter? When you read the account of Jesus death in the Gospel books what is the main message God wants us to hear?
Don't feel sorry for Jesus. Feel sorry for our sin
The point of Jesus death is not to feel sorry for Jesus and his physical pain. The point is to feel sorry for the sin that put Him there and the punishment He endured on our behalf. That is what the Passion is about.
The punishment was far more than just physical torment and mocking by the crowds. It was, to use Jesus words, being forsaken by God (Psalm 22:1, Mark 15:34). Having God's love turned away from Jesus and the just judgement of God for OUR sin placed onto Jesus. This is the message of Easter Friday. It is the message foreseen by Isaiah the prophet when He said, "But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace and with his wounds we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5).
The "S" word
Adam and Eve set the template for sin by actively ignoring God. The pattern is the same today as we all fall short of God's standards. And these "transgressions" and "iniquities" earns a wage which is separation from God (death). But while we were still sinners Jesus died for us: A suffering far worse than physical pain. He took this punishment and gave us peace with God. Easter starts with this central sacrifice and ends with the great victory over this death in the resurrection.
This is important because our churches drift. We, as the church, struggle to explain what sin is. Therefore, we struggle with why Jesus had to die. So our Easter message is about how brave Jesus is to handle this torture. But we need to focus on what matters. The focus on the gospel's Passion story is about this central idea of Jesus death as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). This is a call for us all to ask, "what really matters?"
In the end, 1000's died by crucifixion like Jesus. But only Jesus was able to take our punishment for sin and set us free from the curse of sin and death. That's salvation!
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Jeremy Dover is a former sports scientist and Pastor
Jeremy Dover's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/jeremy-dover.html