"Christ Jesus, who... thought it not robbery to be equal with God..., humbled
himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."
- Philippians 2:5-8
If Jesus was truly God, as the Scriptures claim, then why go to all the pain
and trouble of the cross? He could just as easily have forgiven our sins by
pardon or decree, and he could have done so without leaving heaven.
"I, Jesus the Christ, by the power vested in me as the Son of God, do hereby
absolve (your name) of all sins you've ever committed, or will commit in the
With rare exceptions - England's King Edward the VIII, for example, who in
1936 abdicated his throne for the woman he loved - few earthly rulers have
ever willingly left positions of status or authority, and they had much less
to give up than Jesus did. So why did this "King of Kings and Lord of Lords"
(I Timothy 6:15), who was "in the beginning with God" (John 1:1) and "by
whom all things were created and all things exist" (Colossians 1:15-16),
give up his throne and more for the people he loved, especially since,
unlike King Edward's new bride, very few ever loved him back?
As a rule, whatever our status we humans don't like going back one notch -
not to a less stylish home, an older car, poorer health or a job with less
pay - but Jesus dropped back a whole universe. For him, leaving a perfect
heaven for a flawed earth was like moving from a palace to an anthill.
Never having experienced heaven, we can't imagine what that pain-free,
trouble-free, gold-lined "City of God" is like, but after living in the
"City of Man" all our lives, we have some idea of what Jesus found when he
came here. Instead of a throne he found a stable; rather than a standing
"higher than the angels" (Hebrews 1:4) he became the object of ridicule and
scorn; instead of an antiseptic environment, he was surrounded by
overwhelming pain and fatigue.
All this would be incredible enough, but that's not the end of the list. In
the worst exchange of all, and the greatest pain of the cross, Jesus gave up
his pure, sinless life and took on the guilt and penalty of the sins of the
I can understand punishment for something I've done, like breaking a school
window when I was in the second grade, or sneaking off to a friend's house
after my parents told me to stay home. But oh, the pain of being unjustly
accused or unfairly punished, and scarce the number who can "let this mind
be in you that was also in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5) and forgive our
accusers as he did, even as he languished on the cross (Luke 23:34).
To the Roman rulers Jesus was a rabble-rouser; to the church he was a
blasphemer because he claimed he was the Son of God. Today we hand out fines
or a night in jail for civil disturbance, and once in a while a church
excommunicates someone who violates its doctrine. Jesus was innocent of all
charges, yet he was punished as if he were guilty of both and much, much
But still the question: Why the cross? Words always fail us when we try to
explain this mystery, not because our vocabulary is limited or we have a low
IQ, but because the reason goes beyond human comprehension. Simply put, sin
cannot be excused or deleted like errors in a word processor script. Sin can
only be forgiven, usually after punishment of the offender or a sacrifice
offered or allowed by the forgiver.
To solve the problem of the world's sin, God had two choices: He could have
refused to grant us forgiveness altogether or, following the Old Testament
pattern, he could have offered the customary sacrifice "without blemish"
(Exodus 12:5, et. al), and allowed that substitute to be unjustly charged
for the wrongs committed by someone else. God chose the latter. By the time
the sacrificial "lamb of God" was offered for the sins of the world, the
primary method of execution was a cross.
But wouldn't you think God could have sent someone else besides "his only
There was no one else.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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