3 Reasons the Crucifixion Shows God’s Love

Sometimes when we’ve heard a story over and over, it starts to lose meaning. Have you ever felt this way about Bible stories? The story of the gospel can feel rote and repetitive after a while. So how can you re-capture the true meaning of the crucifixion and appreciate the truth of God’s love when the story feels dull?

N.T. Wright said, “the cross is the window to the very heart and character of the living and loving God.” When we see Jesus more clearly, it changes our life. From this perspective, these are more than just stories. These truths change everything.

When you take a closer look at the crucifixion of Jesus, it’s striking how much injustice He faced. Jesus was treated as a criminal, a title he never deserved. When we respond to injustice with compassion, it’s because we are made in the image of a just God. If God is so just, it begs the question: why would the God of perfect justice allow something so unjust to happen to his only son? To understand the answer to this question, we must take a deeper look at the progression shown in Luke 23.

  1. Jesus was led away as a criminal.

As they led Jesus away, a man named Simon, who was from Cyrene,
happened to be coming in from the countryside. The soldiers seized him 
and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.
- Luke 23:26

Simon helped carry the crossbar, which was the vertical beam. The soldiers seized Jesus because anyone going to be crucified would have been flogged first. At the end of the leather whip were shards of glass, metal, or bone meant to grab onto flesh and rip it again and again. It was so harsh that some criminals would not even make it to the crucifixion site because of the shock and loss of blood. 

The injustice of this treatment is vivid because we know Jesus was completely sinless, yet He was headed to death on a cross. Crucifixion was meant to be the worst form of torture and pain. The Romans had perfected the process to bring about the most pain and humiliation possible. So Jesus suffered publicly, convicted of something He did not do. It would be the equivalent of us carrying our electric chair to our own execution.

The passage later states, “A large crowd trailed behind, including many grief-stricken women. But Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, don’t weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.” (Vv. 27-28) Jesus is tender and compassionate in shepherding His people, even amidst tremendous pain. What a loving God we serve!

  1. Jesus was crucified as a criminal.

Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with him.
When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. 
And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left. 
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” 
And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice. 
- Luke 23:32-34

It’s easy for us to talk about Jesus’ crucifixion without genuinely understanding the level of suffering involved. So let’s take a deeper look at the process He went through. When Jesus got to the site to be crucified, they would have stripped him naked and laid Him down. He would have willingly laid his arms out on the cross beams because Scripture tells us He went willingly. They lined up the nails on His wrists and hammered them through Him. Rather than nailing through His hands, they most likely nailed through his wrists to hit nerves and cause the maximum amount of pain possible. 

Then they would have hoisted His body onto the cross and crossed his legs as they nailed through both legs. By those three points, all of his body weight would hang. This put Him into a position where He could not breathe. The only way He could breathe was to push up on His nailed feet and get a breath.

As this happened, again and again, His organs slowly stopped functioning, and he slowly suffocated to death. This is gruesome. It is torture. It is not just death. Jesus, being fully human, fully experienced that moment on the cross. This happened from 9 am till 3 pm, which means he suffered like this for six hours. And yet even amidst this, He asked His Father to forgive them. What a gracious God we serve!

  1. Jesus was mocked as a criminal.

And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.
The crowd watched and the leaders scoffed. “He saved others,” 
they said, “let him save himself if he is really God’s Messiah, 
the Chosen One.” The soldiers mocked him, too, by offering him 
a drink of sour wine. They called out to him, “If you are the King of 
the Jews, save yourself!” A sign was fastened above him with 
these words: “This is the King of the Jews.”
- Luke 23:44b-39

When we think of mocking, we think of mean teenagers calling out insults. Sometimes we say that it feels like the world is against us. But, in all reality, this passage describes a moment when the world was against Jesus; the physical world and the invisible world.

He’s being mocked by all different kinds of people of all different types of status in society. He’s even called King of the Jews, Messiah, and Chosen One. These titles are true and accurate in Scripture. However, the words were coming from people who did not understand. It’s not until the second criminal saw Jesus that someone saw the reality rightly and asked to be with Him in paradise.

I love that while Jesus is on the cross suffering unfathomable pain, He’s also offering salvation to those who see him rightly. This punishment does not fit the crime. He was sentenced to death, crucified, and publicly suffered as a criminal, although He was not one. He was mocked as a criminal publicly, although he was not one. This brings us back to our first question:

Why would the God of perfect justice allow
something so unjust to happen to his only son? 

The answer is in John 3:16. “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him shall have eternal life.” Our sin deserved punishment, and the only acceptable payment was death. So what did Jesus do? He paid the debt. Debt doesn’t magically vanish. Someone had to pay for that debt, and that’s what Jesus did. Why would Jesus endure this? Out of love. 

Out of love, the God of justice allowed His son to suffer unfathomable injustice so that He might justify us.

There are over 300 prophecies about Jesus in the Old Testament, from Genesis to Malachi, and that’s a conservative number. Three hundred prophecies speak about Jesus’ death and resurrection. This was preplanned, on purpose, and motivated by love. This was God’s plan all along to endure for the sake of you and me. I am so thankful that Jesus’ unwillingness to save Himself was actually rooted in His willingness to save humanity. 

Next Steps
History is full of people who saw the same thing and missed its meaning. This story is full of religious leaders, criminals, and soldiers who were observing this moment and missing it. We see one criminal mocking him and one criminal who got it. They were looking at the same Jesus. Their physical eyes were open, but some of their spiritual eyes were so blind. So today, as you look at Jesus, what do you see? 

Do you see a Jesus who changes your life? Do you see this as fiction? Do you see this Jesus as a good person and a valiant martyr, but not your Savior? Do you see this Jesus as a good teacher with wisdom to offer, but you’re not ready for Him to become your teacher? Or do you see Him as your Savior? 

God loves you. If you were the only one ever born, He would have still gladly chosen to die for you. He would have done so willingly. So what is standing in the way of seeing Jesus as your Lord today? If you need more information about knowing Jesus as your Lord and Savior, click this link to learn more.

Seeing Jesus on the cross as love making a way against all odds, changes our lives.
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