Wednesday, 29 August 2012

The Cross: maximum humiliation - Revd Paolo Castellina

A meditation on the meaning of Christ's death by Revd Paolo Castellina (translated from Italian)

How did Christ humble himself in his death? 

Answer:  After being betrayed by Judas, forsaken by his disciples, scorned and rejected by the world, condemned by Pilate, and tormented by his persecutors, after dealing with the pangs of death and the power of darkness, he took upon Himself the weight of the wrath of God, laid down His life as an offering for sin, endured the painful, shameful, and cursed death of the cross. (Westminster Larger Catechism, D / R 49). 

Comment: Can the death of the eternal Son of God as man on the cross of Calvary, really be considered the lowest point at which he could have come for our sake, His people?

We say "as a man" - but it is an understatement. His death, in fact, was the worst to which any human being could ever then be subjected, a human being completely stripped of any dignity, rights or consideration, like a sheep for slaughter, indeed crushed like a worm. The comparison is entirely biblical: "Like a lamb led to the slaughter, like a sheep dumb before her shearers, he did not open his mouth" (Isaiah 53:6), "But I am a worm and not a man; the reproach of men, and despised by the people. Anyone who sees me mocks me, stretching his lip, shaking his head "(Psalm 22:6-7). 

We could approach this in the way Jews were treated, in the twentieth century, in Nazi death camps, not as human beings, indeed, "worse than animals", deprived of their most basic rights, unworthy of the slightest consideration. We might also think of the immense slaughter of human beings not yet come to light, and who are denied human dignity and the right to be born through the widespread practice of abortion.In any case, the punishment of crucifixion was reserved at that time for those who were denied every human right - for slaves when they rebelled. Jesus, the Christ, agreed to go the way of those who were considered to be "non-people". This is important to note: Jesus died out of clear choice: "For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life to take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have the power to take it. This commandment have I received of my Father '"(John 10:17-18).The death of Jesus, therefore, has a unique value. Jesus died, not from illness, accident or old age, not simply as a victim of injustice and oppression, nor as a martyr to a great cause, but as a sacrifice for sin, taking the place of sinners. It is the theological significance of Jesus' death, which the unbelieving world and, among other things, modern Judaism and Islam, of course, do not accept, but deny. 

The fact is that the death of Jesus, the Christ on the cross, is the central message of the entire Bible, in fact, what is declared to be the focal point of the story of the world, the central fact of the Gospel message, and the foundation of our hope of eternal life. Our Saviour offers His life as a sacrifice to God to atone for the penalty that our sins deserve - in our place. 

The humiliation of the death of Christ on the cross also touches on other points, which are a corollary. 

1. The betrayal of the disciple Judas. Judas was not a stranger, or a sworn enemy of Christ, but a person who had been granted special privileges to and friendship with Jesus, in the circle of the twelve apostles. "Even the friend with whom I lived in peace, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, has sided against me" (Psalm 41): 9), "If I had offended an enemy, I would born, if an opponent had tried to overpower me, I could hide from him, but it was you, a man I admired as my equal, my companion and my familiar friend. We met with pleasure together, through the crowd, went to the house of God "(Psalm 55:12-14).

 2. The abandonment of His disciples. The conduct of the disciples of Jesus showed, at least for a time, as they were much more interested in personal safety than being faithful to their Master. This fear was stronger then their love for Christ.

3. The horrors of death. Jesus faces the anguish of death in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before He was crucified. "Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be frightened and distressed. And he said to them," My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch '"(Mark 14:33-34).

4. The condemnation by Pilate. Just because it was an unjust, Pilate, the Roman governor, sat as a judge, the official representative of an institution of the state. Pilate, who had been appointed to administer justice, condemns Jesus Christ unjustly, that is contrary to the evidence of the case. 

5. The weight of the wrath of God. This is the perhaps most important, although it is the least understood and even quoted today among Christians themselves. Neglect of this point is often caused by a conception of "romantic" (and thus distorted) view of God which does not take into account the implacable logic but right of His righteousness and His holiness, which requires that (it is an unavoidable imperative) that the sinner is condemned, and "the maximum penalty." 

Jesus bears and brings the full weight of God's wrath against human sin to the whole course of His life on earth - but especially at the end of His earthly life, in the Garden of Gethsemane and especially during the three hours of darkness as He hung on the cross, from the sixth ninth hour, ending with His cry, "the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice," Eloi, Eloi lama sabachthani? "which, translated, means," My God , my God, why have you forsaken me "'(Mark 13:34). 

We cannot enough express our gratitude for all that the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ did to save us from sin and its consequences. It is important to understand this better, "deepening" our understanding , as the Scriptures tell us about it.

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