It is curious that people who are filled with horrified indignation whenever a cat kills a sparrow can hear the story of the killing of God told Sunday after Sunday and not experience any shock at all.

~ Dorothy Sayers

05-25-06 @ Mike Wiggins, courtesy of iStockphoto

Americans celebrate Easter’s traditions: Peter Rabbit, colored eggs, bonnets, and chocolates. While most have some knowledge of why Christians celebrate Easter, most aren’t comfortable with it.

Familiarity breeds apathy.

~ William Bernbach

For most Christians, the Passion is so familiar that we’ve become apathetic about it. And while we do celebrate what Jesus’ Resurrection means to those who’ve surrendered their lives to Him, there could be no such hope without what He endured on Good Friday.

That’s why …

we preach Christ crucified,

to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness …

~ 1 Corinthians 1:23, NKJV

Why was Jesus’ crucifixion a stumbling block to the religious and considered moronic to the educated? Crucifixion was the vilest form of capital punishment ever devised.

Romans mocked Christians with graffiti that portrayed a crucified donkey. In their mindset, a God wouldn’t choose to die. Even if He did, He certainly wouldn’t select the cruelest death – something reserved for the most heinous criminals, slaves, and enemies.

And yet Jesus …

humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death,

even the death of the cross.

~ Philippians 2:8, NKJV

Excruciating! That’s what describes our severest agony. It derives from the Latin term meaning: out of the cross. It was the supreme penalty Romans inflicted upon people.

God chose the worst torture for His Son, who was …

the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

~ Revelation 13:8, NKJV

John Piper indicated that redemption through Christ’s sacrifice wasn’t Plan B for God. He foreordained it to pay the penalty due for our sin. Isaiah prophesied:

Then the LORD saw it, and it displeased Him

That there was no justice.

He saw that there was no man,

And wondered that there was no intercessor;

Therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him…

~ Isaiah 59:15-16, NKJV

After mankind sinned in the Garden of Eden, God’s holy wrath required sin’s punishment to be paid, but He knew sinful man could never do it.

Before the Lord pronounced judgment on mankind for his sin, He announced that His Son would achieve victory over the serpent and death when He said:

“He shall bruise your head,

And you shall bruise His heel.”

~ Genesis 3:15, NKJV

If we look at how one dies by crucifixion, we find something very startling. People die via suffocation. The whole process slowly asphyxiates the crucified. They have to lift themselves to breathe by using their feet against the wooden cross to push themselves up for air. Such actions would bruise the Messiah’s heel – just as God foretold.

If Jesus’ death alone was needed, then His death could’ve been instantaneous. But that didn’t happen. Why? He had to suffer the full brunt of God’s vengeance due for sin. Isaiah prophesied about the Redeemer:

Yet the Lord was pleased to crush Him severely.

~ Isaiah 53:10, HCSB

Only such a sacrifice could avenge God’s wrath against all ungodliness. Jesus understood this because He wouldn’t partake of the narcotic offered to Him to numb the writhing anguish. He had to suffer the full effects of God’s fury against our sin.

Again, this was no light affliction, for Scripture portrays the Savior:

His appearance was so disfigured
that He did not look like a man,

and His form did not resemble a human being …

~ Isaiah 52:14, HCSB

He not only endured the crucifixion as bad as it was, but He allowed the barbarians to mutilate His flesh so that He no longer looked human. Just as Adam had marred his body with sin so that it no longer bore God’s holiness, mankind disfigured the Savior so that He no longer appeared human.

He was despised and forsaken of men,

A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;

And like one from whom men hide their face

He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

~ Isaiah 53:3, NASB

As we look upon our Savior this Easter, will we esteem Him for what He did for us?

Or, will we look away?

Will we trample underfoot once again the blood He shed for us?

The answer to these questions lies in how we live our lives from this day.

If our preaching does not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did.

~ Timothy Keller

Are we willing to live for Him with the same passion He had for us?

(For more information, please check out Crushed: a Physician Analyzes the Agony of Jesus.