Day 40 – Crucifixion: The Atonement

Luke 23:26–49

As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.  A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’  Then “‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!”‘ For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals⎼one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”  It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.”  When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away.  But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

I remember learning the concept of cost-benefit analysis as a youth when there were things–mostly video games–that I wanted, but didn’t have the money to purchase.  I decided that these things were worth more to me than eating lunch, so I would skip lunch and save the lunch money my parents gave me.  However, since lunch didn’t cost that much, I could only save a few dollars at a time, which meant that my self-inflicted suffering would often go on for extended periods of time.   Nevertheless, my teenage brain justified that the joy I would feel from obtaining my new game or toy was worth the hunger I endured.

I am greatly moved when I try to reconcile Luke 23 (the crucifixion and atoning work of Jesus) with Hebrews 12:2  (“For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God“). How does one face the cross with joy?  What was this “joy set before him” that would make it worthwhile for God to subject himself to humiliation, rejection, torture, and death?  It certainly wasn’t the video games that I prized for my own selfish enjoyment!

Jonathan Edwards offers us his thoughts on what Christ must have been looking forward to as he faced death: “Let us consider how much Christ has done to obtain that joy, wherein he rejoices over his church, as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride.  The creation of the world seems to have been especially for this end, that the eternal Son of God might obtain a spouse towards whom he might fully exercise the infinite benevolence of his nature, and to whom he might, as it were, open and pour forth all that immense fountain of condescension, love and grace that was in his heart, and that in this way God might be glorified.”  It was us!  We are prized and beloved.

Praise be to God, who with joy endured the judgment of sin on the cross and rose again so that we, sinners, are redeemed and reconciled. 

Note: Each day’s devotional is written by a different member of the GRC family.