By Clarence L. Haynes Jr., Crosswalk.com
As believers it’s always a special time of the year when we move into the Easter season. It laser-focuses our attention on the most essential moment in the history of mankind – the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Easter, or Resurrection Sunday, truly is a day of great celebration. However, before we get to the resurrection, we have to first deal with the crucifixion.
The truth is, there are facts that Christians should know about the crucifixion, especially since the cross stands as the central standard and reason for our redemption. My goal today is to help you gain a full picture of what crucifixion really is and why it matters so much.
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What Is Crucifixion?
Crucifixion was one of the most agonizing ways a person could be executed. It was designed to inflict on its victims a slow, painful death, potentially lasting over days. In fact, the word excruciating means “out of crucifying.” It would be bad enough if it stopped there but this form of punishment was also humiliating. Think about it, everyone is watching you because it was public. Because of the horrific nature of dying in this fashion, it served as not only a penalty for criminals but would hopefully serve as a deterrent for future criminals.
What is fascinating is that this very form of punishment was exactly the way Jesus died. Yet, he wasn’t a criminal. He didn’t commit any offense or sin, but he was crucified as if he had. 2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
When you read Matthew 27:32-56 you get a full picture of the road leading up to crucifixion. For a moment, imagine being Jesus. Walking up a hill. Carrying the cross that you would eventually be nailed to. People yelling insults and mocking you. Suffering for crimes and sins you didn’t commit. Having to die between two thieves who were even mocking you at one point.
What a terrible experience. These are not pleasant thoughts to conjure, yet these are the facts Christians should know about the crucifixion.
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Where Is Crucifixion Mentioned in the Bible?
The story of the crucifixion is told specifically in the gospels. If you are new to the faith, the gospels are biographical accounts of the life of Jesus. These accounts are found in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Each writer tells the story through their own eyes. By reading each of the accounts it helps you get a full picture of this remarkable event. To help you, here is where you can find the crucifixion story in each gospel book:
Matthew chapters 26-28
Mark chapters 14-16
Luke chapters 22-24
John chapters 18-20
Even though we see the event playing out in the gospels, it was predicted long before that. In the Old Testament, the Bible gives us shadows and types as well as specific prophecies pointing to the eventual death of Jesus. A type or shadow is something or some event in the Old Testament that reflects or points to something in the New Testament. For example, in the Old Testament they would anoint with oil. This was a symbol that represented the Holy Spirit in the New Testament.
One event closely related to the crucifixion was when God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. Here are some similarities:
Isaac was a son of the promise conceived miraculously by Abraham and Sarah who were well past their child-bearing years. Even in her younger years Sarah was unable to have children.
Jesus was a son of the promise and was conceived miraculously by the Holy Spirit through a virgin named Mary.
Isaac was going to be sacrificed on a mountain and carried the wood up the mountain that he would be sacrificed on.
Jesus was sacrificed on the mount called Golgotha and he carried the cross that he would ultimately be crucified on.
Abraham was giving up his son.
God was giving up his only begotten son.
Isaac was a willing participant and at no point did he resist what his father was about to do.
Jesus willingly laid down his life. He submitted to the will of the Father.
All throughout the Old Testament from Genesis moving forward and through numerous types and shadows we see the Bible pointing us to this savior who would rescue us from our sin condition. One of the great passages of scripture that point to the events that we see laid out in the gospels is Isaiah 53. Here are some of those verses
Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. - Isaiah 53:4-6
If you keep reading you will eventually see in verse 10 that it was God’s will to crush him and to make his life an offering for sin. He bore the sin of many, none of which were his own. I hope you are beginning to see the wonderful plan and story of redemption that is being played out. Now that we have laid a foundation let’s consider some very specific facts you should know about the Crucifixion.
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6 Facts Christians Should Know about the Crucifixion
1. It Was Decided in Eternity Past
Revelation 13:8 makes mention of “the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.” The fact is when God created mankind, he knew they would sin and need a savior. Jesus – being part of the Godhead and present in eternity past and at creation – knew his life would eventually be sacrificed for the redemption of mankind. That’s why Revelation tells us he was slain from the creation of the world.
2. It Was Foreshadowed in Genesis
When Adam and Eve sinned, God made a covering for them from the skin of an animal. This established a principle that when sin occurs, something or someone has to die as a result. Death is the price required or the payment necessary for sin. As Romans 6:23 reminds us “The wages of sin is death.” The sin of the first two people ever created required a sacrifice – a shedding of blood that would cover their sin. In the Old Testament that something was an animal such as a lamb, bull, goat, or dove.
The problem was these animals could only cover sin, they couldn’t take it away. That was reserved for Jesus, the lamb of God who didn’t just cover our sin, he took them away. However, by covering Adam and Eve, God was giving us a picture of what was to come.
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3. The Crucifixion Was Prophesied from the Beginning
Genesis 3:15 – “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
From the beginning God lets us know that there will be a man coming who will crush the head of the serpent or the devil. The devil would strike his heel – that’s the crucifixion – but Christ would crush his head. That is the resurrection and redemption of mankind. Satan’s fate and man’s redemption were predicted right from the beginning. As Revelation 12:11 reminds us “They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” Crucifixion was part of the plan all along. It just took a few thousand years before the prophecy came to pass.
4. It Represents God’s Love in Action
It’s hard to think that someone suffering such a horrific death as crucifixion would represent the depth of God’s love. However, when you understand the purpose of Christ’s death then it all makes sense. God loves you so much that he didn’t want to leave you in your condition. The only way to win you back from your sin was that someone had to die. Jesus willingly became the sin substitution for you and me. The purpose was to win us back to the Father. This represents God’s love in action. Because I love you, I want you back and I will do whatever it takes to get you back. As Romans 5:8 puts it “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
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5. The Crucifixion Represents God's Justice on Display
When sin happens, there must be atonement. This is God’s justice established from the very beginning. Our sin demands atonement. It has to be paid for. What God did at the crucifixion was pour the entire punishment for the sin of the world, that includes you and me, on Jesus. By his death, the full requirement of justice for sin was met and fulfilled. No further sacrifice is required, and you no longer have to pay the penalty for your sin. Justice has been served.
6. It Paid the Price but Didn’t Seal the Deal
While on the cross Jesus cried out these words, “It is finished.” He was right. The crucifixion ultimately paid the price for our sin. It fulfilled and finished all the requirements of the law. However, our salvation is not complete because of Christ’s death. If all Christ did was die, then he is just like everyone else. Just another man who claimed to be divine but who ultimately just died. You might even call him a lunatic because of all the claims he made.
The reason we can hope and the reason our salvation is complete is because of the resurrection. 1 Corinthians 15:17 tells us “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” Here is a simple way to think about it. Christ’s death paid the price. Christ’s resurrection sealed the deal.
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Why Does All This Matter?
Why does crucifixion matter? Why does Christ’s resurrection matter? I will give you one word. Eternity. Because of what Christ has done we now have access to the greatest gift anyone could ever have – eternal life. It’s probably one of the most famous verses in Scripture, but you can take all the facts that Christians should know about the crucifixion and sum it up with this one verse.
Christ’s death and resurrection coupled with your belief equals eternal life. The question to consider is –will you believe? This is the greatest story ever told. This is the greatest act of love the world has ever seen and God gives you the opportunity to experience his love today. All you have to do is repent and believe. You do that today and eternal life is yours. That’s why the crucifixion matters.
The Final Thought
Crucifixion, though horrible to look at, when you pull back the curtain you see just how amazing this event was. The death of one produced life in many. The good news is Jesus didn’t stay dead. He got up. With all the different facts Christians should know about the crucifixion, aren’t you glad this one truth remains. God loves you and because he lives you will live too.
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Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a rising speaker, teacher, author and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He has spent more than 30 years serving the body of Christ in various capacities and has just released his first book called The Pursuit of Purpose. If you have ever struggled trying to find God’s will, this book will help you discover the different ways God leads you into his perfect will. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.