Posted By Ryan Moore
A few nights ago I came home from a long day at work and collapsed onto the couch. I was really looking forward to a few hours of rest and mindless channel surfing. I sat down to drift away into another episode of Sportscenter, but was enticed instead to watch a documentary on crucifixion. What I didn’t realize is that this documentary, and the events that were about to unfold would not be my average night on the couch. What was about to take place would shape not only my evening, but I feel, the rest of my life and every aspect of my ministry.
The purpose of this documentary was to walk the viewer through each step in the crucifixion process of ancient Rome. It was said that the Romans obvious goal was to execute people who rebelled against the state, but it wasn’t just about killing them, it was about terrorizing all others who may think of rebelling as well. It was a device they used to not only carry out punishment, but also strike fear into the hearts of any who witnessed its brutality. As one would suspect, much of the focus was on Christ and the details of his crucifixion. He is obviously the most well known case of execution the world has ever seen and having heard the story so many times, it is shamefully easy to allow the gruesome reality of what happened slip away.
Scene by scene, minute by minute, this documentary grew in intensity. Even for TV, this was at times shockingly graphic. There is something indescribably powerful about seeing something as opposed to reading about it. I think we can all agree that reading about someone being crucified is a stomach churning thought, but to see the hammer and nails that would actually be used, puts the thoughts into a new frame of mind.
As the narrator described the pain that Christ would have experienced just to pull himself up for another breath as he lay spread across two beams of wood, it was simply more than I could handle. I struggled to see the screen as I wiped tears from my eyes. Motionless, I thought about what that would have felt like to have his back ripped open with pieces of metal tied to the end of a whip. I thought about the thorns that pierced his scalp and the blood that ran down into his eyes. I thought about the pain that would have shot through his body as metal spikes were driven through his wrists and feet. I tried my best to understand what he was feeling and somehow make sense of the whole situation in my mind. Sadly, I could not. I could not even begin to experience the pain that he felt on that day. My mind could never come up with an imagination that would scrape the surface of the reality that is dying the death of crucifixion. The suffocation, the broken bones, the nail pierced wrists, the shredded back, and the complete helplessness of being naked and having ones arms spread open and waiting to die, is beyond anything I could ever fathom.
On top of this horror, there is the ever-present fact that Christ chose this. In Philippians chapter two, Paul states that Jesus chose to give up his seat in Heaven in order to come to earth to suffer and die on a cross for our sins. His love for us was so great, that he willingly chose the cross in order to save us. In the garden when he was being arrested, by simply saying, “I am he,” all the guards were thrown to the ground. He possessed the power to avoid this death, but instead, he humbly allowed these men to take his life. Stepping back to take that all in is overwhelming. What kind of love would ever do that? This is the type of love that is impossible to describe or measure. He gave it all. He was seated at the right hand of the Father, in a place with no tears, no pain, and streets paved with gold. He left his position and power and lowered himself to nothing, so that, he could one day reign with us in Heaven. His love is what moved him. His love for you and I moved him from a place of comfort to a place of sacrifice. His love for you and I moved him from a throne in heaven to a cross on a hill. His love for you and I is so great that nothing can ever separate us from him.
Never before has anyone loved so great and paid so much.
What an opportunity we have this week to reflect back on the greatest act of love in the history of the world. As we approach this symbolic day of Easter, let us do so with a heart of gratitude and thankfulness for a love that isn’t earned, but graciously received. For it was he who first loved us and paid for all we owe. Every ounce of pain was worth it for him. Why, because you were worth it. You. Everything that you are was worth it to him. The thought of being separated from you for eternity was more than he could stand. He chose the cross for you. He chose love in its grandest form. Every drop of blood, every agonizing scream of pain, and every second on that cross… He chose, because you were worth it.