Commentary: Looking at the totality of Jesus' sacrifice for each of usCommentary
Every Christian knows the story of Easter, how Jesus was crucified, died, and rose to life on the third day. The story of his resurrection is the backbone of our belief that we'll share eternal life with our savior.
But maybe we know that story too well. Familiarity can cause even the most magnificent event to lose impact. Maybe we need to view Easter through the broader lens of everything Jesus willingly endured on our behalf.
It wasn't just the crucifixion, as barbaric as it was. The deeper message of what Jesus suffered for all of humankind wasn't confined to a skull-shaped hill named Golgotha.
In part of a sermon series entitled "24 Hours That Changed The World," the pastor at my church brought the totality of Jesus' journey to the cross into sharp focus.
It began with his arrest, betrayed by Judas, led away soldiers in the middle of the night as they mocked and spat on Jesus. As Matthew, Mark, and John record, the entire Roman cohort—about 600 men—encircled Jesus in the courtyard and hurled taunts and insults at him.
We know the soldiers fashioned a crown of thorns and placed it on Jesus' head. By inference, that crown was meant to show that Jesus was the king of nothing. Thorns were considered worthless in Roman society, good only to be tossed into the fire.
Pontius Pilate had Jesus flogged, but it wasn't just a routine whipping.
Flogging was designed to take a person to the doorstep of death. Pieces of bone or metal were attached to the end of the leather strands of the flagellum. A flogging victim's skin literally hung from his body as blood oozed from his wounds.
As Jesus-story.net notes, "It made a bloody pulp of a man's body."
The torture served two purposes. In addition to eliminating (so they thought) an irritant from the religious establishment, Jesus' followers could take the scene as a warning of what would happen to them if they persisted in believing he was the son of God.
It was the precursor to crucifixion.
Most scholars believe Jesus hung on the cross for about six hours. As each minute passed, it became more difficult for him to breathe. The flogging weakened his muscles to the point where he didn't have the strength to pull himself up to have a deeper breath.
That method of public humiliation, torture, and execution reminded everyone of what would happen to dissidents.
Of course, we know what happened next—Jesus' body was taken to a tomb with a large stone in front to seal the opening. When the women came to the tomb on Sunday to minister to the body, the tomb was empty.
Death was defeated, and in that victory we have the answer for why Jesus willingly endured such anguish. He did so out of love for us so deep that we can't comprehend it. The empty tomb is our assurance of eternal life with the savior.
But there is another point to make.
Jesus' act of ultimate love reminds us that the same prejudice and ignorance that led him to the cross still exists today.
Many in society have a penchant for thinking those from certain other lands or who have a different skin color, religion, sexual orientation, or political views must be "less than" those with whom they agree.
Christians aren't immune from that attitude, either. Jesus' message that we are called to love unfailingly and serve willingly too often gets lost. We are not called to point fingers.
We'll celebrate the risen Christ and his promise for us on Easter Sunday. It will be a glorious day, worthy of commemoration. Yes, we know how that story ends.
However, it is also important to remember what it took to get there and why Jesus went through it all.
If he loves us that much, the least we can do is share the love with a world that too often goes without.
Joe Henderson is the News Content Editor for FLUMC.org. This commentary is one person’s opinion and does not speak for The Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church.
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