(This is part seven of a multi-entry blog series exploring the Apostles’ Creed.)
This entry talks about the second most important event in human history; the day that Jesus
“was crucified, dead, and buried.”
Once again, I’ll break it up into chunks and look at all three components of this line and why they matter.
“was crucified” – It’s been said that grace is free but it ain’t cheap. This event is exactly what that statement is referring to. Jesus, an innocent man, was crucified for sinful people. Jesus was brought before the crowds right before his crucifixion along with a man named Barabbas. Barabbas was a murderer, a violent man, a rebel (Mark 15:7). Pilate, who we discussed in the last entry, offered to let one man go: Jesus or Barabbas (Mark 15:9). It’s easy, at this point, for us to resent the murderous rebel who got to go free; for us to wish that Jesus had been set free. But I think at that moment all mankind was symbolized by Barabbas. The guilty rebel, with blood on his hands, was set free while the innocent Son of God was delivered to Roman soldiers to be scourged and crucified. I am Barabbas… and so are you. We should realize that we are the guilty murderous rebels that have been set free.What shall we do with this freedom that has been purchased on our behalf and given to us as a gift (Galatians 5:22)?
Next, Jesus was subjected to the most painful execution method in human history. The death of the Messiah was actually prophesied before crucifixion even existed (Psalm 22:16; John 20:20, 25), but that his how He died. We hear this all the time: “Christ was crucified.” We become numb to it. Yet, crucifixion was so horrible, a word was invented to describe it: excruciating. Excruciating means literally “from the cross.” That’s how painful it was. There are many people who do a better job of explaining this than I do. Here’s a link to the Medical Aspects of the Crucifixion that describes the physical pain our Saviour experienced for us. It was horrendous!
Sometimes crucifixion could last for days. Jesus was so weak from being flogged (Isaiah 52:14; Mark 15:15, Luke 22:63-65, John 19:1) and so dehydrated (Psalm 22:15; John 19:28) that He died quickly (Mark 15:44). Sometimes, to hurry the dying process the Romans would break the legs of the person on the cross. Jesus’ legs were not broken, which is important for several reasons. First, Jesus was the Passover Lamb; in John 1:29, John the Baptist described Jesus as “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” According to the Passover instructions, the sacrificial lamb was not allowed to have any broken bones (Exodus 12:46). Additionally, this was consistent with Messianic prophecies that described Jesus’ death (Psalm 22:17; John 19:31-36). Finally, after several hours, Jesus declared that His work was finished (John 19:30), and was…
“dead” – Matthew 27:50, Mark 15:37, Luke 23:46, and John 19:33 all agree that Jesus was dead. Some people have claimed that Jesus merely passed out and later woke up from His nap. Although medical science has progressed over the last 2,000 or so years, people back in Jesus’ time could still tell the difference between someone who was alive and someone who was dead. First there’s Luke; he was the author of the third Gospel and a doctor (Colossians 4:14). If anyone at that time could identify a dead body, it would have been a doctor. Another expert at identifying dead bodies would have been the Roman soldiers who professionally killed people (Mark 15:44-45). It was their job to take living bodies and turn them into dead bodies. Surely they would have been able to identify a dead body? Finally, it’s likely that anyone who witnessed Jesus being scourged, beaten, and then crucified, would have been able to realize He was dead because His body would have been mutilated; this also fulfilled prophetic Scripture (Isaiah 52:14).
“and buried” – After Jesus died, He was buried by Joseph of Arimathea (Mark 15:43, 46). If Jesus had indeed fainted, it’s likely that without immediate medical attention He would have died in the tomb during the three days He was buried. Also, as Mark 15:46 mentions, a large stone was rolled in front of the entrance. It would have been impossible for Jesus, after His body had sustained so much damage, to move the stone. Jesus’ burial in a rich man’s grave also fulfilled the prophecy in Isaiah 53:9 (Matthew 27:57-60, Mark 15:43-46, Luke 23:50-53, John 19:38-42).
We find that there is compelling evidence that Jesus was certainly crucified, dead, and buried. Isaiah 53:6 summarizes these events best:
“All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.”
Second Corinthians 5:21 tells us why He did this:
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
We’ll explore these themes further in a later post…
God never promised that life would be easy. In fact, Jesus promises pretty much the opposite in John 16:33. Jesus says we will have trouble. Life is full of pain, grief, and sorrow. These emotions are all part of the human experience. They’re a part of who we are and how we experience this fallen, broken world. Ecclesiastes 3:1 reassures us that this is normal. There are times and seasons for everything.
Specifically, Ecclesiastes 3:4 tells us that there are times to mourn. There are times for sorrow; but there are also times to celebrate. Life is a paradox. One of my favorite quotes comes from the character Brian in Vanilla Sky, he says, “Just remember, the sweet is never as sweet without the sour, and I know the sour…”
I think life is a lot like that. It takes the sour to appreciate the sweet. It takes death to appreciate life. And it’s okay to mourn when people die. In fact, it’s Biblical. Look at the Psalms. Sixty-seven psalms are regarded as lament psalms either wholly or in part. Sixty-one are laments in their entirety. To me, one of the saddest Psalms, is Psalm 88. Look at Psalm 88:14, 16, 18. Those verses are tragic. Yet in Psalm 88:1 the Psalmist refers to God as “the God who saves me.”
After Job lost everything, he went into a deep state of sorrow. In Job 2:13, his friends show up and just sit there with him for a whole week. No one says anything; they’re just there for him, supporting him, comforting him.
Even Jesus, in Mark 14:34 says that his “soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” Even Jesus! Arguably the shortest verse in the Bible (depending on what translation you use) is John 11:35 where the text says that “Jesus wept.” If Jesus can mourn, so can we. If Jesus can feel despair, so can we. It’s okay.
It’s not a sin to feel sorrow, despair, or depression (although it can be easy to sin while feel like this). The problem comes when we try to hide our emotions from God; or when we try to “sterilize” our prayers. Many of the Psalms are full of questions to God. Questions like, “How long, O LORD, how long?” (Psalm 6:3), or “Why have you rejected us forever, O God?” (Psalm74:1). Those are just two examples but there are dozens of others.
My point is simply this, when time are hard and we feel pain, we need to be honest with God. We need to bring our pain to Him and lean on Him for strength. Psalm 142:1-2 talks about being open and honest with God. Psalm 143:1 asks God to listen, with verse 10 asking for guidance. And Psalm 144:1-2 gives praise to God calling Him our fortress, stronghold, deliverer, and shield.We need to admit that we don’t understand the world but that we trust in someone who does. God is in charge and it’s not our place to know all the answers to life’s questions.
The good news is that we have hope; if not in this life, then certainly in the next. God will be victorious and He will be glorified. Although most of the Psalms are lament psalms, read the last one, Psalm 150:6 is the last verse in the book of Psalms and it simply says, “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.”
God also promises that he will be with us during hard times. One of my all-time favorite Bible verses is 1 Peter 5:10. While it does promise that we may suffer for “a little while” it also promises that God Himself will restore us and make us “strong, firm, and steadfast.”
To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 5:11).