It has become typical, at Easter, to discuss the physical ordeal that Jesus was made to bear.
This isn’t a bad thing. To be crucified was a torturous ordeal, and knowing the details sometimes helps us to understand that. The full physical measure of the agony Jesus was made to bear in the human body matters. It is important, and it is fundamental to our understanding of the Easter story.
But I think sometimes that in our desire to focus on the physical nature of the crucifixion, we sometimes de-emphasize the spiritual nature and the unseen aspects of what Jesus endured, all of which can be encapsulated in His cry from Matt. 27:46:
About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)
We lack the words and perhaps the intellect, in this flesh, to truly understand the spiritual aspects of what transpired on the cross in that moment, and in the days that followed prior to the resurrection. But what we do know is that “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us” (2 Cor. 5:21). And we know how God looks at sin. What, in that moment, did Christ bear? What did He feel under the glance of a holy God who despises and indeed cannot tolerate sin?
And what, too, did God the father experience from His vantage point? What did it mean for the Father, who approved of and loved His child, to witness that becoming?
We won’t know. We will never know, as believers, and indeed that is the point. Christ experienced the full brutality of what sin is and what sin can do, the full enormity of the havoc it wreaks on intimacy with God, so that we would not have to experience it. But I think it is the aspect of Christ’s sacrifice that we neglect, both because we cannot grasp the enormity of it and because it’s brutally unpleasant to think of.
Physical torture and degradation is awful enough. But so much of the sacrifice that happened at the cross was unseen, a spiritual wound vast enough and deep enough and horrible enough to redeem the whole world. And it the nature of that sacrifice in its entirety – in spirit and in flesh – that was made manifest in the ripping apart of the temple curtain and the earthquake that followed Christ’s death.
As I approach Easter this week, I’ve found that thinking about the spiritual aspects of Christ’s sacrifice as well as the physical struggles of his ordeal have enriched the enormity of what Easter means for me. I hope that, as Holy Week comes and goes, I do not forget it.
May your Easter be blessed and joyful!