Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Mar 11 2013 - Mark 15:1-47 – And the crucified him

The bluntness and brevity of Mark's phrase, "And they crucified him" (Mark 15:24), hits like the blow of hammer upon nail. The whole of this cruel and unjust act is summed up in just three words. This act which shakes the foundations of the cosmos and brings darkness at noon, which rends the curtain in the temple and reconciles humankind with God, all of this is described with a few strokes of a pen; "they crucified him". So very much is contained in so very few words.

Of course, there are many who have attempted to explain the meaning of Jesus’ death. Here are just a few of the many theories:

The Moral Influence Theory. By being willing to go to the cross, Jesus shows how much he loves us. His love should move us to love him in return. Such love will be characterised by obedience to his commandments and following Jesus in selfless service of others. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” John 14:28.

Christus Victor. The cross is the battleground between Christ and Satan; between God and the powers of darkness. It seems that the powers of darkness – human wickedness, injustice and corrupt political and religious powers – have won the day when Jesus is put to death. But by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus breaks their power and demonstrates that he is victor or conqueror. Justice and righteousness have the last word. By his risen power Jesus gives us victory over the powers of darkness – we also are more than conquerors. “Having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Col 2:15).

Penal Substitution. God had declared that sin leads to death – “The wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23). At the cross, Jesus suffered the penalty that we deserve. He suffered and died for us – as our substitute. “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). The justice of God has been satisfied and our slate is wiped clean. “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1).

New Creation. When God’s good creation rebelled against him, he warned that it would end in death. We live in a dying world. Jesus, in identifying himself fully with fallen humankind and a fallen creation, endures death – its death. His death is the end of that fallen creation and his resurrection is the beginning (or firstfruits) of the new creation. Those who come to trust in him have passed from death to life – judgment day occurred for them at the cross. They share in Jesus resurrection life and belong already to the new creation that will be fully manifest when Jesus returns and all things are made new.

All of our theories are imperfect attempts to get our minds around the cosmic significance of what was happening at the cross. As Jim Packer once remarked, such theories are often right in what they affirm but wrong in what they deny. They are partial pictures, each capturing one facet of something that defies our complete comprehension. It will take all of eternity for us to fathom the depths of what took place on that hillside.

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Saviour’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain –
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Heavenly Father, I am filled with wonder when I read that you so loved the world that you gave us your one and only Son. Lord Jesus, I am amazed that you should have loved me and given yourself for me. Holy Spirit, who raised Jesus from the dead, I am filled with humble gratitude that you have come to me and given me a share in his resurrection life. Help me to bring the life of Christ to a dying world, even if that means sharing now in Christ’s sufferings.

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Peter Misselbrook