In order to get a glimpse of Luke’s account of Jesus’ crucifixion, one only needs to watch “The Passion of the Christ.” While the movie is not fully accurate, it describes the scene that Luke records for us today. The movie focuses more on the beating and torture of Christ, but not why Christ was beaten and tortured. Since death entered the world, it was no longer “good” as God had once declared it. Something had to happen in order for it to become “good” again and that’s where Jesus’ Passion comes into play.
As we have seen throughout this Lenten season, we have a world that is completely infested with sin with no human cure available. The only cure to sin must be a divine cure, and so we have Jesus, who comes as the divine cure to creation’s problem with sin and death.
Days before His crucifixion, the people sat in the temple, listening to the words of Jesus. Perhaps they thought of Him as the Messiah, maybe someone who would set them free from Roman rule. And when asked the question, “Are you the King of the Jews?”, answering anything other than “no” would surely mean death. But death was what was necessary to remove death. It would require death of the innocent to ride death from the guilty, guilty because of a crafty serpent asking if God really meant what He said.
Throughout the beatings and sneering and false statements against Him, Christ was the King. His being king is correct on levels, though they would only have acknowledged one at best. Christ is the King of creation. Everything is under His authority. This fact they would not acknowledge because there was only one king and his name was Caesar. Any king other than Caesar had to be silenced. The rulers of the people, to put down the perversion of Christ and His teaching, saw one mean to do it – death.
To return to Pilate’s question about kingship, Jesus’ answer was simple: “You have said so.” Christ is indeed the King of the Jews. He is the King of the Gentiles. He is the King of the Romans. He is the king of all who believe in Him. He is the King of creation. There was one thing that this King brought that no other king ever could: forgiveness. Paying taxes to Caesar did not bring forgiveness. Roman citizenship did not bring forgiveness. Simply being a Jew did not bring forgiveness. Forgiveness is the gift of God by grace through faith in Christ Jesus.
When the waters of Holy Baptism hit our heads, we were marked as a child of God. Forgiveness comes only through Christ and from no one or nothing else. He plainly says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Faith in anything other than Christ is futile, for it was His body and blood, pierced and broken on Calvary’s cross that defeated death and nothing else.
Time and time again in their mockery did they tell Christ to save Himself. “He saved others; let him save himself.” “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself!” All of them are mockeries of Christ and the salvation from death that He brought with Him. Maybe the greatest bit of mockery was the sign above Christ’s head, “This is the King of the Jews.” Not only does this mock Christ, but also the Jewish people as a whole. It says that if you want a king besides Caesar, here He is, a pathetic man dying on a cross. It mocks the divinity of Christ, His triumph over death and the belief of the people worked by the Holy Spirit. What they failed to realize is that Christ needed no saving because it was He that came to do the saving.
One person, a criminal being crucified alongside Jesus, saw Christ for what He was – innocent. His words were plain, but spoke volumes: “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” While he may have been speaking strictly because they were criminals, his words apply to creation as a whole. We were receiving what our deeds deserved: death. Death came with Adam and Eve but with death came the promise of a Savior.
Death was not meant to be in the equation. It was an unknown variable that set creation spinning a way that it was not meant for it to spin. Through Christ, Satan was defeated and death removed, though we still feel the effects of death.
All of creation is guilty and thus unable to do anything about it. Christ, the only innocent, took the guilt upon Himself in order to make creation innocent.
In the last moments of Christ’s life, the world around Him began to change. The Creator, who took on flesh and was born into creation, is at this moment of death, bringing in new and eternal life, a new creation. With the curtain of the temple torn, it symbolized the completion of Christ’s victory over death, therefore allowing Jesus to commit His spirit into the hands of the Father.
The death of Christ marked the end of creation as we know it. Sin and death no longer have dominion over creation. Satan lost the keys to creation which he wrongfully stole from God through sin. No intercessions by the priests were needed because the greatest intercession was made. No more animals needed to be sacrificed because the sacrificial Lamb was offered. When Christ uttered the words, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”, He signified that His work was finished, once and for all. Nothing could undo what had just been done.
Through the life of Christ and His Passion, we have received life – life that came at an expense – the death of Christ. The King of the Jews, who “humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross,” died so that all of creation would be reborn in Him, purged from death and made “good” in the eyes of God. This was the way that creation was meant to be and what took place at our Lord’s Passion was necessary for creation to be restored. Today is not a time to focus on the brutality of Christ’s death or death itself, but to focus on what that death brought about – the dying of death and a restored creation. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.