“The cross is not simply a lovely example of sacrificial love. Throwing your life away needlessly is not admirable — it is wrong. Jesus’ death was only a good example if it was more than an example, if it was something absolutely necessary to rescue us. And it was. Why did Jesus have to die in order to forgive us? There was a debt to be paid — God himself paid it. There was a penalty to be born — God himself bore it. Forgiveness is always a form of costly suffering.” - The Reason For God Timothy Keller p.193
As Good Friday approaches tomorrow I would like to post on what Christ’s suffering on the cross means to us. Christ’s death is more than just a moral example. It is more than just an event on a hill outside Jerusalem.
What would a bare moral example look like? I always think of a sacrilegious movie that I once viewed while in college: Monty Python’s The Life of Bryan. There’s a ridiculous scene at the end where Christ is hanging from the cross between two thieves. He and the collective crowd are singing, “Always look on the bright side of life,” followed by a cheerful whistle. That’s what we are left with when we see the cross as a mere moral example.
We see in Christ’s death an example of the suffering that always accompanies forgiveness. In forgiveness we agree to endure the pain and anguish caused by someone’s actions against us without seeking to make them suffer in return. In a sense, we absorb the suffering that the other person deserves.
That is what we see in the death of Christ. An abject lesson in what it means to forgive is presented. The chief party offended in our sins shows us the suffering that must be endured. His physical suffering is a mere symbol of His endurance of God’s wrath on behalf of us. A truly innocent man suffers a death He does not deserve and takes upon Himself the punishment due the sins of His people.
Christ came to show us what to do alright. He came to show us how to die a meaningful death, a death that had ultimate purpose. A death that could, if rested upon in faith, atone for the sins of the whole world.