But he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
the sins of us all. – Isaiah 53:5-6
A passerby named Simon, who was from Cyrene, was coming in from the countryside just then, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. (Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus.) And they brought Jesus to a place called Golgotha (which means “Place of the Skull”). They offered him wine drugged with myrrh, but he refused it.
Then the soldiers nailed him to the cross. They divided his clothes and threw dice to decide who would get each piece. It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. – Mark 15:21-25
Some friends of ours were in a good place when we were in a difficult spot. I was studying in the seminary and Diane was working as a temp during our final year of school. We had no money. But good friends came through for us. They donated a monthly sum of money to us to help make ends meet. They did it anonymously, so I don’t really know who it was. But I do know they helped carry us through that difficult time.
Jesus did this in the ultimate manner when he took up our deficiency before God and took the beating we deserved. He stood in our place. He bore our sins.
The Bible is clear: “The soul who sins will die” (Ezekiel 18:20). “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). And not one of us is exempt: “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). So Jesus took our sins upon himself and died in our place. Yet he was spotless and pure, without sin. It was not his fault or guilt that caused him to suffer. Our sins killed Jesus.
In a rather ironic turn Jesus was not able to carry his own cross to Golgotha. The soldiers leading Jesus to the place of crucifixion pressed Simon from Cyrene into service. He was able to carry Jesus’ cross. But Jesus never gave up our sins for another to carry.
Jesus never blamed others for this stroke of justice from God. He never tried to justify himself. He had only our sins to take to the cross. Stripped of everything else, he did what he could. And when he was physically incapable of carrying his cross, and gave up the cross to be carried by Simon, he did not give up our sins as well.
Some will tell you of the horrific pain and suffering that is death by crucifixion. They will tell about how you end up suffocating in your own body fluids – no longer able to breath and gain physical equilibrium. This is true. Crucifixion is a horrifically cruel form of torture and execution.
But Jesus’ death was not merely a result of physical trauma. It was the wage of sin being paid in our behalf. In the end, however, Jesus cries – triumphantly: “It is finished!” He is saying that our debt has been paid. More about that tomorrow.