April 1, 2019
Years ago, I had a call from a new parent at our school who was concerned about something that their child had heard at school. This middle school student had heard a guest speaker in a chapel service preach about Jesus’ crucifixion. The parent felt that the speaker had inappropriately and unnecessarily described Jesus death on the cross, and that the school should not allow the teaching of this bloody religion. They felt that we should teach children about Jesus, without “scaring them into making a decision to accept Christ.” My response to them was, that although it was not our intent to be inappropriate or scare them into salvation, we will faithfully preach and teach the factual and biblical account of Jesus death, burial and resurrection, in an age appropriate manner, because it is God’s plan to save people. I believe we must never minimize the facts of what happened when Jesus went to the cross to die for our sins. Considering all of the violence that most children are exposed to in our society today, the teaching of the death of Christ may not be as shocking as what they may have already seen on television. The Good News is that in the death of Christ and his resurrection, our students can be given hope for the forgiveness of their sin and eternal life in heaven with the one who died to save them.
As Christians celebrate another Easter season, it is an opportunity to focus on the significance of the crucifixion of Christ. We need to remember it, talk about it, and make it a part of the testimony we give to those we know who are seeking truth about God. The crucifixion of Christ is unique in all of the world’s religious teachings because it is about Creator God redeeming His fallen creation through the death of His own Son, who was fully a human being, but also fully God.
The crucifixion of Christ is depicted in Mark 15:25-39. “It was the third hour when they crucified him. The written notice of the charge against him read: THE KING OF THE JEWS. They crucified two robbers with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!” In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him. At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”-which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.” One man ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said. With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”
Jesus was crucified on Golgotha, “the place of the skull.” This hill had that name because it protruded from the ground, much as a head does from a body. It was there Jesus was nailed to the cross beam. The beam was placed on an upright piece of wood, and the whole structure was then lifted up and dropped into the ground. Jesus would hang there unable to get support to breathe. Even in this desperate situation, Jesus prayed for those who were going to kill him. He asks the Father that his executioners be forgiven, since they have acted in ignorance. Jesus’ intercession lays the basis for God’s offer of forgiveness to us, and all who would accept his death on the cross as payment for their sin. God’s love expressed here, shows that anyone, even the most devout agnostic or Christ hater can be forgiven and profess faith in Jesus. Though Jesus pleads the ignorance of his tormentors, such ignorance does not remove their culpability. They have chosen a course that reflects a lack of understanding, but they still need God’s mercy. Jesus’ lack of vindictiveness illustrates the very love he called for from his disciples in Luke 6:29, 35, “If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.”
As we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus this Easter season, may we never forget that God’s plan to save us included the cross. It is the cross and the shedding of that precious blood which distinguishes Christianity from every other religious creed. If you have never celebrated Easter as a Christ follower, why not make this this Easter your time to accept Christ’s payment for your sin. The Bible says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved,” Romans 10:9. Don’t wait until another Easter comes, make that decision today!