Summary: The meaning of the crucifixion and its results for us. Evidence that Christ is the only way to God, and the meaning of forgiveness
Our Incomparable Christ—Crucifixion; Col 1:15-23; 11-16-2015; 3rd of 4.
We follow an Incomparable Christ. He is described for us in Colossians 1:15-20, which we are exploring in this series. If you have a Bible, I invite you to follow along as I talk about the passage. So far we’ve looked at Christ’s role in creation. The world was made “through him and for him.” That gives our lives meaning and purpose. We exist for him. We are here to honor God. WWHG: What would honor God? We also looked at his incarnation. The infinite, eternal God laid aside his heavenly prerogatives and entered our world as a human being. We can’t fathom the step down that entailed. Because he is fully God and fully human, he is uniquely able to be our Savior. And because he has suffered as a human, he is also able to understand and empathize with us when we suffer.
Tonight we move on to his crucifixion. (KT) Christ’s death opens the way to God. This is addressed in verses 19 and 20. It says Jesus died to reconcile creation to God. The death of Christ is the hinge on which all of history turns. It impacts not just humans, but the whole of creation. Jesus died to bring the world back to God.
Again, keep your questions and comments in mind and you’ll have a chance to ask them at the end.
We saw in verse 16 that God created things “in Christ,” “through Christ,” and “for Christ.” Now in 19 and 20 we see that pattern repeated. God reconciled the world “in him, through him, and to him.” We have a parallel here. In the beginning God created all things through Christ. In the end God will reconcile all things through Christ. Christ is the key to it all.
In verse 19 Paul says, “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in [Christ],” and thus, through Christ, God reconciled the world to himself. God brought the struggling, alienated world back to himself. And how did that happen? “By making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (20). The cross is the crossroads of history. That’s where God intervened most decisively to redeem human destiny.
The next paragraph of the text expounds on this. The human condition is basically one of alienation from God. Paul says, “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior” (21). “Alienated from God.” That implies isolation, loneliness, a deep sense of not belonging. And it is the heart of the prob-lem that everybody faces. When we as a people have gone our own way long enough, the ways of God actually begin to seem alien. It changes our thinking. When we are out of relationship with God, our sinful actions twist our minds to take us even further away from God. We begin to see evil as good or natural or just another choice. The more we drift away from God, the more our lives spin out of control.
Christ died to break that cycle of sin and heal our spiritual brokenness. He brings us into relationship with God and his purpose for us. We see the turnaround in verse 22: “But now” (the thought turns) “he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death.” Jesus died the worst kind of death so that we could be reconciled to God. Crucifixion was reserved for the very worst kind of criminals. It’s hard for us to imagine how horrible it was. Physically, it was agony. The victim was beaten near death before ever being put on the cross. Then as they hung by the arms, pain shot through the nerves unrelentingly. As you hung there your diaphragm was pulled up and you couldn’t get a breath. So you had to push yourself up with your feet to get a breath. That multiplied the pain in your feet, and it scraped your lacerated back against the rough wood of the cross. The pain in your feet became so great you couldn’t hold yourself any more, and you sagged down, transferring the weight to your hands again, and the cycle started over. This continued for hours and sometimes days, until you couldn’t push yourself up any more, and you suffocated.
Mentally and emotionally it was just as bad. Not a shred of human dignity was preserved. Artists typically put a cloth around the private parts, but you can be sure the Ro-mans didn’t. They wanted to humiliate their victims in every way they could. Victims were mentally and emotionally beat-en and drained.
Jesus came as our Prophet, Priest, and King, and he was mocked for all three. The soldiers blindfolded him and hit him and said, “Prophesy for us. Who hit you?” His priestly role was mocked as he hung on the cross. “He saved others, but he can’t save himself” (Matt 27:42). His kingship was mocked by the taunts of the soldiers, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” (Luke 23:37). So the crucifixion was a contradiction to everything he claimed for himself.