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The Messiah didn’t endure crucifixion for nothing

Members of the Italian community take part in a re-enactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday in Bensheim, southwest of Frankfurt, Germany, April 14, 2017.
Members of the Italian community take part in a re-enactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday in Bensheim, southwest of Frankfurt, Germany, April 14, 2017. | REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

Why did Jesus of Nazareth endure a torturous death by crucifixion?  After all, he could have just stayed in Heaven and left us all alone to pay the penalty for our sins. Instead, “he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).

But why?

For one thing, God loves us dearly. So much so in fact that he was willing to send his only Son to pay the penalty we deserve to pay. “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Love is the biggest reason Jesus “endured the cross, scorning its shame” (Hebrews 12:2). 

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Jesus suffered and died on the cross so that you and I could be rescued from sin, death, and eternal punishment in Hell. If we could have saved ourselves by our own righteousness, it would have been utterly foolish for the Father to send his only Son to redeem us. The fact of the matter is that Christ’s crucifixion was the only way we could be rescued. “If righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing” (Galatians 2:21). 

I assure you my friend that the Messiah didn’t endure crucifixion for nothing! It was the only way God's worldwide rescue mission could be accomplished!

Do you realize what happens to a person after death if their sins are not forgiven? Jesus made it very clear time and time again. And because God does not want you to go to Hell, but rather to Heaven, he did the one thing that would save us from eternal punishment. “The Father has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14).

The Messiah’s description of Hell (Mark 9:43-49) is something our hearts find extremely difficult to accept. But I wonder: Why is it harder for our sinful hearts to fathom sinners being sent to a place of eternal torment than to fathom the sinless Son of God enduring hour after hour of torture on the cross in order to pay for the sins of rebels like us?

None of it makes sense to our natural way of thinking, which is why “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing” (1 Corinthians 1:18). We simply don’t understand any of it apart from the illumination of the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God. The Lord opens our minds to understand the Bible, just like he did with his first disciples. “Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45).

The prophet Isaiah foretold the crucifixion of Christ: “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

This prophecy clearly foretold the suffering the Messiah would endure some 700 years later. Nevertheless, many people refuse to believe Isaiah’s message. “The 17th century Jewish historian, Raphael Levi, admitted that long ago the rabbis used to read Isaiah 53 in synagogues, but after the chapter caused ‘arguments and great confusion,' the rabbis decided that the simplest thing would be to just take that prophecy out of the Haftarah readings in synagogues.” Go figure.

Meanwhile, don’t forget: If Jesus had sinned even one time, he would not qualify as anyone’s Savior. In that case, he would need someone to save him. Thankfully, “he committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth” (1 Peter 2:22). A sinner cannot pay for anyone’s sins; a perfect sacrifice is required.

“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:18-19). 

God not only forgives our sins when we accept the Messiah by faith, but he also gives us a new heart with which to love and serve our Creator. C.S. Lewis said, “It costs God nothing, so far as we know, to create nice things; but to convert rebellious wills cost him crucifixion.”

The death of Jesus on the cross pays for our sins and reconciles us to God. When we trust the Messiah to forgive our sins, we immediately enter into a loving relationship with the Lord. Apart from the cross, we would remain rebels and would lack the holy motivations which enter our soul the moment we are spiritually reborn (John 3:1-18). Rather than enduring the cross for nothing, Jesus endured it so that all who receive him (John 1:12) will enjoy a relationship with the Lord forever.

Have you placed your faith in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, or are you living under the delusion that your best efforts are enough to gain eternal life? If we could defeat sin and death with our own righteousness, then it would have made no sense for the Father to send his only Son to suffer such excruciating pain and unrelenting physical, spiritual, and emotional torment. 

If you have not yet bowed your knee and surrendered your heart to Christ, this is a perfect time to do so. Turn away from your sins and believe that the Messiah's death on the cross paid the full penalty for your sins.

Repenting of your sins and accepting Christ as your Savior is the path to peace with God, whereas rejecting the Messiah leaves a person on death row. Everyone who dies on death row enters eternal darkness, where they are left with the agony of being punished for their sins forever.

And so, you see, it is true. The Messiah didn’t endure crucifixion for nothing. Therefore, simply receive Christ by faith and you will be given the free gift of everlasting life in Heaven (Romans 6:23).

Dan Delzell is the pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Papillion, Nebraska. 

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