“Calvary is the place where all the evil in our shabby selves tries to hold its own against God, and thus provokes the thunder of resurrection.” (Brennan Manning)
There are two ways to see the crucifixion of Jesus.
One way is perhaps best illustrated in a second-century pagan graffiti drawing depicting a man worshiping a crucified ass. The inscription on this graffiti reads, “Alexamenos respects God,” possibly making fun of a Christian Roman soldier. Perhaps this cartoon was common in that day, considering what Turtullian, the church father, wrote: “For, like some others, you are under the delusion that our god is an ass’s head” (The Apology, 16.1). To many in the 2nd century, Jesus was a fool and heretic who died a shameful death, and those who worshiped Him were as foolish as Him.
The other way to see the crucifixion of Jesus is that it is the crux of human history and the critical event that makes salvation possible.
Dealing with Doubts
It is easy, given the extraordinary claims of the meaning of Christ’s death, to let doubts creep in. It is easy, amidst the scoffing of the world, to feel as if we are as foolish as a man worshiping an ass nailed to a plank of wood. Perhaps we don’t doubt that Jesus died by crucifixion, but we may doubt whether it really is a death of eternal significance. Did God really pour His wrath out on Jesus? Did Jesus really absorb the stain of our sin? Does His death really rid us of sin’s condemning power and addictive grip?
Moreover, it is also easy to let the cross become peripheral to our Christian life because of how hideous it is and how hideous it makes us feel. When we behold the cross of Jesus and comprehend Him bearing our sin, there is something in us that should naturally recoil. The cross is in many ways an ugly sight; it is a scandal to our senses. As we consider that it was our sin that caused Jesus all His physical, psychological and spiritual turmoil, it means we cannot escape the fact that our sin is hideous to God. We divert our eyes from the cross and try to focus on other more pleasant images of the Messiah. We find ourselves much more at home with images of His birth, His childhood, His miracles, His blessings, His quotable teachings, or His compassionate life. We become engrossed in our opinions about how church should look, how to give a boost to our spiritual lives, how to make our lives work, and how to work harder at life . . . anything to keep the cross out of the center.
Looking to the Resurrection
We all have moments of sincerest doubt, where we just can’t seem to rub two thoughts together about Christ, can’t muster up an ounce of love for Him, and look with cold indifference at the cross. The human heart has a way of numbing itself to the humbling picture of the cross in order to protect its pride.
In the face of these doubts and diversions, we must continually look to His resurrection as the linchpin of our faith.
Jesus rose from the dead. His body, though transformed, really did get up from its place of burial. His tomb really was empty and He really did appear to His disciples. This is not merely an abnormality in the landscape of history; it is a foretaste of what God is going to do to the whole world. Jesus is the first of many resurrections to come.
Paul said that Jesus “was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Romans 4:25). Through faith in Jesus, God declares us right with Him (justification), and Jesus’ resurrection is God’s proclamation that Jesus’ death accomplished the salvation He promises. The resurrection declares to us and the world that Jesus’ death was not in vain.
If you are united to Christ in His death, you are united to Him in His resurrected life. And if His resurrection life flows through your veins, then you have a living hope. You can and will conquer the sin that grips you.