I believe in Jesus Christ who suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried

The story is told of a disaster that happened when two men were out sky diving. The apprentice sky diver’s parachute failed. His selfless trainer managed to reach him across the sky. The two men descended at great velocity suspended from the trainer’s parachute. Seconds before they landed the trainer moved to be underneath his apprentice and cushioned his impact at the cost of his own life.

One man died in place of his colleague. He took the full impact due to him.

In his crucifixion Jesus bore the impact of the consequences of the sins of all people in every age. For lo between our sins and their reward we set the passion of thy Son Our Lord (Bright) The crucifixion is to the eye of faith God's irrevocable gift of himself.  “The Son of God loved me and gave himself for me…Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by being cursed for our sake since scripture says: Anyone hanged is accursed" (Galatians 2v20b, 3v13b).

Substitute, sacrifice and triumph

There are several theories of the so-called atonement none of which have been officially adopted by Christianity but all of which play a part in preaching and evangelism. Our story illustrates the so-called substitutional view where Jesus is seen to die in our place.

In the sacrificial view of atonement the blood of Christ fulfils ancient sacrificial rites by providing the sinless victim who alone can expiate sin. "Christ loved [us], giving himself up for us as an offering and a sweet smelling sacrifice to God" (Ephesians 5v2).

In the triumphant view of atonement the thrall of evil powers over humankind are seen as being overcome through the suffering of Christ who leads believers in his victory procession: "Thanks be to God who always gives us in Christ a part in his triumphal procession" (2 Corinthians 2v14).

Just  history?

How can a historical event like the crucifixion so affect people today?

When a tree is felled you see the beautiful rings within its trunk. By coming on earth to live and die God shows us what he is made of and through rising again invite us to be remade to enter his selflessness.

As Christians the crucifixion of Jesus becomes a central part of our consciousness through our regular participation in the Eucharist. The words of consecration interpret his suffering: "This is my body… given for you … my blood… shed for you" (1 Corinthians 11v24-25).  God's irrevocable gift of himself in Jesus and the gift of the Son of God back to his Father are two movements back and forth from God to humanity. In the Eucharist Christians “enter into the movement of Christ's self offering" (Anglican-Roman Catholic agreement)

Seeing the crucifixion of a Jewish Rabbi in the first century of our era as the supreme statement of a God of love and holiness is a distinctive of Christian faith.  It is rejected by many simply because of its astounding claim for the significance of one man in one time and place.  This is why St Paul writes : "We are preaching a crucified Christ: to the Jews an obstacle they cannot get over, to the Gentiles foolishness, but to those who have been called, whether they are Jews or Greeks, a Christ who is both the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1v23-24).

Knowing, loving and forgetting yourself

Christian belief in the crucifixion of Jesus links to the understanding of baptism as a sign that the "old self was crucified with Christ" (Romans 6v6, Galatians 2v19).  Christian life is said to be "ascetic", a discipline that is concerned to put baptism into practice by putting the old sinful nature to death and opening the soul to new life in the Holy Spirit.

When Jesus prophesied his crucifixion he went on: "If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me.  Anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it" (Mark 8v34-35).

Believers who look at a crucifix see the risen Lord behind it.  They see themselves and their inadequacy.  They recognise how much they are loved in that inadequacy.  Lastly they welcome the invitation to move from self-knowledge and right self-love to the self-forgetfulness of Christ himself.


Popular posts from this blog

I believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting

I believe in the forgiveness of sins

I believe in Jesus Christ who ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father