On Tuesday evening I had the privilege to go vote for our state elections. The place where my wife and I vote is at a church. As I walked in and stood in line waiting to sign in and receive my ballot I couldn't help but notice the pictures on the wall of this room. I could see some speakers, cables, amps and candles with a projector and screen as well. My assumption of the room is that some sort of service takes place there. Also to the left and right of the screen on the wall there were paintings. I could not help but stare at the two paintings to the left of the screen. One painting was of Jesus' face with a crown of thorns pressed against his head with blood running down from the crown to his face. The other was a person with hands raised at the foot of the cross with the cross having blood marks where the nails would have pierced Christ. Graphic, graphic stuff. The thought than occurred to me: "I understand completely but thousands of people have come to this place today to vote and may think this is gross or wonder why the celebration over a bloody sacrifice?."
The truth about the physical act of the cross is gross and very bloody but Crucifixions were a common form of execution for criminals back then. Why do we, as Christians, celebrate this one apart from the rest? Ultimately the question becomes who is Jesus?
The Bible is crystal clear that Jesus Christ is the God-man. "He is the image of the invisible God...in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell" (Col. 1:15-19). Fully divine and truly human. He is the one who "did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men" (Phil. 2:6-7). This is a 100% human and 100% God so please do not have in your mind the idea of a 50/50 split. This is essential because of God's holiness and our sinful, ongoing rebellion against this holy God. We need a mediator and Jesus Christ is that mediator. "For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5).
Why the bloody death?
Knowing God's holiness and our sinfulness will help us see the point of Christ and him crucified. I've often talked on this blog about the interesting reality that a cross has become a symbol of beauty in our culture. We see the cross around necks in gold and silver, on rings, pictures, paintings and so on and so forth but I think we miss the right truth about the cross. One thing I liked about the painting at this church was the fact that blood was on the cross. What we see now in houses and on people is this beautifully cleaned up idea of the cross. The cross was brutal and bloody! But the Good News is in the blood. The blood should not gross us out but should remind us of the price paid for sins. Our hope is found in the blood of Jesus Christ. "[Christ] entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God" (Hebrews 9:12-14).
This is the joy of the cross. Sinners are declared right before holy God because Jesus Christ bore the wrath and punish for sin that we rightfully deserve and in exchange we are clothed with the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ as our substitute in which we are now heirs of the kingdom of God. This is amazing stuff! This is amazing grace! This is why we sing songs with words about the blood with great joy:
"There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel's veins,
where sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains."
"Your blood has washed away my sins, Jesus, thank you"
Grace upon grace,