The Crucifixion: Mercy + Grace

I had the incredible privilege to share a brief devotional message at our Good Friday Service on April 2nd. The following is a post generated from those notes which I hope is a blessing to the reader.

“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.Surely, he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—everyone—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?
And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;”

Isaiah 53:3-10

At the crucifixion God gave the ultimate mercy toward mankind. This is the greatest mercy because it should have been you and me who received the full, unrestricted wrath of God toward sin. We were created for right and holy relationship with God. Adam and Eve – representing all mankind – chose sin and self over that right and holy relationship, sin and its eternal consequences were ushered into this world. You may point out, “I was not there. I didn’t eat the fruit.” But we too, like Adam and Eve, are guilty of sin. Not only as rule-breakers, but as aspiring rule-makers.

No matter how clean and tidy our lives appear on the surface, nor no matter how good of a person we may be, we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The Bible teaches there is a cost, an effect of the sin we commit (Romans 6:23). Big sins or small sins. Paul teaches in Galatians 6 that we should not be deceived, God will not be mocked by those who commit sin but then are convinced their sin isn’t a big deal. The ultimate act of arrogance is to believe that our sin is insignificant because of a self-created construct determining such. Whatever we sow (sin) we will reap (death).

The crucifixion was necessary because of the eternal punishment of God’s wrath against sin. The crucifixion was God’s mercy towards us because the punishment for sin was due us – but, cast upon his Son, instead. God’s mercy is only able to be fully known because this sacrifice was satisfactory. Jesus was our propitiation for sin. Now, yes, propitiation is a big theological word. However, Mayonnaise is a big culinary word, but everyone understands it! So, too, can we understand that Jesus, alone, was able to receive the wrath of God because he alone was worthy to take such a punishment on behalf of someone else. We receive mercy from God because Jesus’s crucifixion was satisfactory. We worship Jesus alone for commitment.

As those who sin, paradoxically, we find it really easy to underestimate and forget our sin. To convince ourselves our sin isn’t that bad. To forget that abundance and repetition. In a world of fancy cars, expensive hobbies, and lavish vacations, we live under a spiritual anesthesia. We choose to pursue happiness and comfort which has a numbing effect on the reality of our sin. Cultural Christianity is a world of financial donations, mission trips, and never missing a Sunday which provokes the deception that we are not that bad and as such – Jesus’s death on the cross wasn’t really that big of a deal. Jesus’s crucifixion was necessary for the thief on the cross, but not for me. Justification (your salvation) should not be a distant moment in your life. That we may be found with the perspective, “I’m saved so it’s all good,” (Romans 6:1-2). May our faith not truncate the love of God by being limited to only the feelings of Easter Sunday morning. The cross should become bigger in your heart and life as you mature in your faith.

At the crucifixion God gave the ultimate grace toward mankind. This is the greatest grace because it was Jesus. As Jesus alone was the worthy life to satisfy God’s wrath by death, it is he alone who can provide the grace of God toward sinners. If it were not Jesus who died, God’s grace would not be made available to us by faith (Ephesians 2:8). In very simple theology, grace can be known as an acronym, G.R.A.C.E. God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. There is a cost, an expense, which must be paid in order to know the grace of God. Mercy is not getting what we do deserve, and God’s grace is getting what we don’t deserve – made possible by the crucifixion. We were not good people who needed a little help nor bad people who needed a favor. Nor is God a cosmic Santa who gives blessing from a big bag on a sleigh. God’s grace is seeing his creation distant, enemies of him and yet loving us enough to give the only possible sacrifice worthy of the cross.

In Luke 22, the author explains that Jesus prayed to God not only that “the cup be passed from him,” but “nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.” The divine nature of the Holy Lamb could not keep the human nature of the Suffering Servant from knowing his true fate within the sovereignty of God. Then an angel appeared to strengthen Jesus for what was to come. Strengthen him in a way that did not insulate him from the wrath of God, did not excuse him, nor make easier the cross of Calvary. Instead, the angel represents the message that there was no other way. For the purpose of God’s indescribable grace towards his creation – though it pleased him to crush the son (Isaiah 53:10) – he would provide the strength necessary, the help needed, to see the purpose of Christ through to the end. It was necessary for him to die for the sins of the world, and that the will of the Father must be done in this way

May we worship Jesus with a mercy-motivated faith. Whether we surrendered our hearts to follow Jesus at age 8 or only 8 days ago, may we live our lives knowing that God showed us the ultimate mercy by granting unto us salvation from our sins. That by means of the cross alone, we are able to be no longer be known by God as we once were. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). We once were not, but now because of the crucifixion, we are God’s people; once we had not received mercy, but now we have received mercy (2 Peter 2:10). This kind of mercy should motivate us to utterly hate sin. That we have not received what we do deserve should cause us to flee temptation and deny committing the sins which made necessary the crucifixion.

May we worship Jesus with a grace-based life. Jesus died an unearned, undeserved death so that we may have unearned, undeserved death. Jesus did what we could not do. He is not to be seen as simply a great character in the story of our lives, but he is the author of your story – the founder and perfecter of your faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame (Hebrews 12:2). This kind of love, this commitment to the cross, demands more than living the American dream and sprinkling a little Jesus on top. This kind of grace is worthy of our heart’s deepest affections. May we not be found guilty of worshipping the gift of grace more than the giver of grace. He alone is worthy to have the preeminence (Colossians 1:18).

Easter is the greatest celebration a Christ-follower can ever know this side of heaven. Yet may we not forget that this blessing is made possible by the sacrificial love given on the cross. The crucifixion of Jesus was God’s ultimate blessing of mercy and grace. Blessings are not the proof of your salvation, nor are they the most significant proof of God’s love. His crucifixion is the foundation of your salvation and the bedrock of God’s unchanging love. May we, who are Christ-followers, respond to this love with a mercy-motivated faith and a grace-based life.