By Caleb Faires
Can you bear to look?
It seems that even Matthew could not endure the sight: “After crucifying Him they divided His clothes by casting lots,” he wrote (Matthew 27:35). We can look at His empty robes at the foot of the cross, but how can our eyes stand to see His bloody and broken body?
The weight of the crucifixion of Christ is difficult to comprehend. I find that I get lost in my efforts to understand it more fully, straying into sentimental imagination of Christ’s very human agony or into detached pondering of its theological significance. Witnessing Christ’s death must have been unimaginably brutal. Of course, from our perspective a couple of millenia later, we know it was also incomprehensibly profound and deeply personal. My own sin put him there. My voice mocked His suffering. My hands gambled for His clothing. My criminal lips taunted and spat at Him.
What are we to do with this?
How do we approach the God we mocked?
How do we look upon the Christ we crucified?
There are no words. We can make no answer, no appeal. Scripture tells us that as Jesus approached Jerusalem on the day of His triumphal entry, “he wept for it, saying, “If you knew this day what would bring peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes” (Luke 19:41–42). “He was pierced because of our rebellion, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on him, and we are healed by his wounds” (Isaiah 53:5). Jesus was willingly scarred by our sin, and yet stands before us to say, “Peace to you!” (Luke 24:36).
Do you tremble at this?
Jesus is the very image of the invisible God, the Creator of all of heaven and earth, the head of the Church, the ruler of all dominions, who was before all things, and in whom the fullness of deity dwells. And God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in Jesus in order to reconcile us to Himself, to make our relationship with Him right (Colossians 1:15–20). Knowing all this about Jesus, our Savior, how can we not tremble?
When Jesus asks, “Why are you troubled?”, the whole world of awful betrayal, of faithless doubt, seems to disappear. When He says, “Why do doubts arise in your hearts?”, a great barrier shatters. The trembling, awe, and even disbelief we sometimes feel before our Jesus, our crucified God returned from the dead— are now reasons to rejoice.
The apostle Paul writes, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). At the cross, we witness not only Christ’s death, but our death. At the empty tomb we witness not only His life, but ours.
The Messiah has suffered and died and risen, so that forgiveness of sin might be proclaimed to all nations. Oh that our eyes might be ever fixed on Christ, crucified and risen! How can we bear to look away?
Written by Caleb Faires