Nailed to the cross.

March 26, 2009

Tonight’s passage at Bible study included these two verses.  As I meditated on them today, the magnitude and the reality of Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross were crushing.

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with [Jesus], having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands.  This He set aside, nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14)

The “record of debt” is literally rendered as the “handwriting in the ordinances” in the original text.  This was a debt certificate written in the hand of the debtor, who was basically acknowledging his debt.  The certificate was legally binding, requiring payment in full from the debtor.

Paul is saying that we had such a debt certificate because of our sins, but it wasn’t a debt that could be paid with silver or gold; it was a debtor’s note that required the payment of death and eternal hell.  That’s how serious our sin was (is).

But what did God do?  He canceled it.  Wiped it away.  Blotted it out.  Our debt certificate was erased.  How, when sin is so serious?

He “set it aside, nailing it to the cross” (v. 14).  Our sins were nailed to the cross.  The ESV study notes says that “the image comes from the notice fastened to a cross by the Roman authorities, declaring the crime for which the criminal was being executed.”  When Jesus died on the cross, the criminal notice fastened to His cross included the full list of all my sins.  All of them.  The reckless words, the unchecked thoughts, the pride that belittles God Most High and magnifies ego, the self-righteousness for which the Pharisees were so harshly condemned …

My sins — past, present, and future — were nailed to the cross, and Jesus was nailed to the cross.  The Holy One was nailed to the cross, and my sins weren’t just written on a note and nailed above His head; they were borne on His very person.  He was nailed there.

“For our sake He made [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Before the cross, in Gethsemane, He asked God if there was any alternative.  The One who can, by the word of His power, create life and destroy life; the One before whom legions of demons tremble; the almighty, awesome One.  He asked if there could be any alternative to the cross.  The thought of separation from the Father and the thought of God the Father’s wrath toward sin completely unleashed on Him brought Him such anguish and distress that His sweat became drops of blood.  Jesus sweated blood at the prospect of bearing my sin before the Holy, Righteous Judge. God’s fiery judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah was as nothing compared to the full, unbridled fury and wrath Jesus would face on the via dolorosa, on the cross.

This is what it meant for Jesus to be the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.  He bore our sin, that we might bear His perfect righteousness.

Now, how can I ever doubt His love when He has acquitted me of all wrong and charged His own Son with my treason?  The One in whom the fullness of the Godhead dwells in bodily form, the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, was crushed that the creature might walk in newness of life.

How deep the Father’s love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One
Bring many sons to glory

(by Stuart Townend)

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only son…” (John 3:16).

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