MADISON, WI – The familiar scene opens to the gathering of ominous storm clouds. Darkness descends for three hours, above the hill where Jesus of Nazareth, nailed to the cross and in excruciating pain for several hours, takes his final breath, crying out according to The Bible’s Luke 23:46 “….Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit….” Then, in Matthew 27:51-52: “the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened;….” And finally, in Matthew 27:54, a Roman centurion guard, seeing an earthquake and the things that had happened, in great fear confirms: “…Truly, this was the Son of God!”
This scene fades away in our mind’s eye and springtime arrives, along with the much-awaited melting of snow from ever-so-slightly warmer breezes. Thoughts turn toward the sanitized version of Easter, including fluffy yellow chicks awkwardly bounding forth from a cracked shell, all innocent and gangly and soft – the embodiment of new life. But as we remember that compelling scene of a horrible and maiming death on the hill, we ask ourselves: Just why did He die for us?
And the answer is simply this: Jesus gave his life willingly to cover sin – ugly and heinous sin, which permeates all of mankind – because spilled blood is needed so that we, His beloved, created children, can stand in front of a Holy and perfect God. Perhaps some do not understand the reasoning, but we also know that God’s ways are not our ways – indeed, they are way above our ways.
And because that story on the hill has been told so many times, we may discount it as a fairy tale or a fable. But we do that to our peril, because all revered modern-day historians/scholars confirm that archeological evidence supports the fact that Jesus existed and walked the earth. As well, documentation by Roman, Jewish, and Greek historians overwhelmingly establishes that Jesus was crucified.
And in 1 Corinthians 15:6, Paul tells us that “After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.” In this writing penned within 30 years of Jesus’ death, Paul challenges doubters of Jesus’ resurrection to merely ask those of the 500 still alive.
As well, Professor Thomas Arnold, headmaster of Rugby for 14 years, author of the famous, History of Rome, and chair of modern history at Oxford, knew well the importance of evidence in discerning historical facts. This great scholar said: “I have been used for many years to study the histories of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort…than the great sign which God hath given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead.”
No story or fable here – just plain historically-proven fact. Which leads us to our next train of thought: What are we to do with this information?
Well, the fact that Jesus became part human, and suffered and died for our sins, certainly means that God is serious about sin. And before we start fluffing our feathers and reflecting on just how good we are, we should note that the Bible says that none of us are good – that if we have broken one of the Ten Commandments, we have broken them all. Also that we break the commandments merely by thinking in those terms, meaning that if we simply think angrily about someone without actually killing them, we are still breaking the commandment against killing our brethren.
And this is where Jesus as our Savior comes into the picture. We need to go through Him to get to Heaven, and also to acknowledge Jesus, as He stated in Matthew 10:32-33: “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.”
He meant what He said.
Editors Note: This story was originally published March 30, 2013, in the Green Bay Press-Gazette. It was republished on March 15, 2016 with Renew America.