by Rich Maffeo
He suffered, died, and was buried
From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised (Matthew 16:21)
It began with flogging. Roman soldiers on either side of Christ swung whips embedded with metal and bone against his back. Every blow ripped open new strips of skin until his muscles and tendons quivered in a mass of bleeding flesh. Most prisoners died of shock long before they were nailed to the cross.
After the beating, the soldiers forced Jesus to drag his cross to Calvary where they laid it on the ground and threw Him down onto it. Soldiers mocked the Lord of Glory as they hammered spikes through His wrists and feet, tearing through flesh, blood vessels, and nerves.
As He hung between heaven and earth, breathing became an all-consuming struggle. Gravity restricted His respiratory muscles, forcing Him to push against his feet and flex His arms just to breathe. But that intensified the strain on the ravaged nerves in his wrists, and each breath forced His swollen back against the splintered wood. Every moment, every moment on the cross, inflamed His physical torment.
But that was not all Christ endured. He also suffered immeasurable spiritual loneliness. "My God, my God," Jesus cried aloud. "Why hast thou forsaken me?" In that brief moment (what a moment it must have been for the eternal Son of God), when He, "who did not know sin," became Sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21), the Father turned His back on His Son for the first time in eternity.
Why did Jesus do it? Why did Almighty god empty Himself of infinite glory, clothe Himself in inglorious flesh, and permit vicious men to beat Him, spit on Him, pull out His beard, and nail Him to a cross? Why did He become "sin for us"?
The Creed reminds us why. He did it for our sake. If Jesus had not taken our sins to the cross, then we - you and I - would suffer the eternal consequences our sins deserve. If not for Christ's redemptive death that paid the penalty our sins required from a holy god, then we would be the ones to eventually and inevitably - hear at judgment, "Depart form me, you evildoers" (Matthew 7:23).
If I say the Creed too quickly, I run the risk of missing the depth of significance Jesus "suffering means for me. I risk brushing past the gravity of my sin when I fail to contemplate the magnitude of my mutiny against God's authority. When I recite the Creed, and look at the crucifix above the altar, I remind myself that the Lord Jesus would not have suffered Calvary's agony if there'd been another way to purchase my salvation.
But there was no other way. The thrice-holy God of the prophet Isaiah's vision (Isaiah 6) demands my holiness. Nothing short of death could satisfy God's judgment of my sin. And nothing short of Christ's sacrificial atonement could satisfy God's mercy to pardon my sin.
Why did Jesus suffer for our sake? Because - and we can't hear this too many times - because He loves us. He immeasurably, unfathomably, undeservedly loves us.
Prayer: Lord, I do not understand the full weight of my sin. Holy Spirit, please, I beg You, reveal to my heart the magnitude of my rebellion that I might love Christ the more for dying in my place. Amen.
These meditations are compiled in Richard Maffeo's book, "We Believe: Forty Meditations on the Nicene Creed." The book is available through bookstores and his website
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