In My Place Condemned He Stood

One of our members Ian Davies offers some reflections on the Cross. 

Some years ago, I was driving to a midweek meeting at church in the build up to Easter, when something hit me with a force I had never felt before. No, I hadn’t jumped a red light and been taken out by a truck. I was struck by the the sheer horror of the cross.  I know that doesn’t sound like a cheery start to an Easter blog and maybe to some it seems blindingly obvious but that’s actually the point I want us to ponder. What impact does the cross really have on us?


Some might see this as being quite a simple question to answer. We know the theology and we even understand some of the physical horror of what happened to Jesus (if we’ve seen Mel Gibson’s The Passion of The Christ we can picture the sheer cruelty of Jesus’ treatment in graphic detail). So why was I so struck that evening?


Well, As I drove was thinking about my own response to the cross. I had been reading something by a lady who said that she couldn’t help but weep as Easter approached and she thought of what Jesus endured for us on the cross. I wondered if I was missing something. Yes, I had wept tears of joy on occasion at the thought of coming to know my Saviour – at knowing that my sin was dealt with – but I couldn’t remember ever being that broken when thinking about what Jesus actually went through.


What struck me that evening on the way to church was the realisation that it wasn’t just the awfulness of the physical ordeal that Jesus had endured, as horrific as that was. It was the sheer weight of sin that He had been punished for; none of which were His own. I had been so focussed on my sins that I had never really thought about the entirety of the sin that had been nailed to the cross. Given the human propensity for thinking that we’re basically good, we can be very forgiving of ourselves and as a result, we run the risk of reducing in our own minds the seriousness of the sin that Jesus dealt with.


That’s undoubtedly what I had been doing and so for the first time that evening, I was prompted to think of the most heinous crimes imaginable and the punishment I thought they deserved. Whether it be mass murder or child molestation, I realised how angry that made me and it was then that it hit me. Whatever they deserved (in my eyes or anyone else’s); the punishment for every one of these sins of God’s people had been meted out on Jesus as He hung there on the cross. The realisation broke me.


If I could become angry at others’ sin, how did God see all sin (including my own sin that I chose to diminish)? If I, as his imperfect sinful creature, could see the injustice in the world and be grieved by it, how did it affect a perfectly holy God? How could He leave them unpunished? That was when I saw so much more of the impact of the cross.


God hadn’t left even the most heinous sins of his people unpunished, he nailed them to the cross in Jesus. As the Apostle Paul says in his letter to the Roman church:


“God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,  through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunishedhe did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” Romans 3:25–26 (NIV) (italics mine).


No matter how bad the punishments we could come up with might be, what God did to His own Son as punishment for our sin was infinitely worse.


So what impact does the cross have on us? Have we diminished true weight of sin by excusing our own? Do we perhaps do this unwittingly by only seeing some (like ourselves) as worth saving, or can we see the true offence of sin to God? Can we understand the horror, not only of the physical death Jesus died, but of the righteous anger of God that He had poured out on Him. If we imagine the worst punishment that the worst crimes would deserve and multiply this many times, maybe we can get closer to feeling the full impact of the cross.


“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.  And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” Colossians 2:13 (NIV)