Because He Poured Out Himself to Death

By Jon W. Quinn

There are different ways to write about a thing. A subject can be approached in a purely objective way. Newspapers are supposed to report the news in this manner and leave the emotion on the editorial pages. As sergeant Joe Friday used to say on Dragnet, “Just the facts, ma'am.” A news report may cover some very emotional and dramatic event, but emotional jargon is supposed to be kept to a minimum.

School textbooks are usually written this way as well. But then there are other writing styles that are much more dramatic. Words are carefully chosen to, in addition to reporting the facts, arouse emotion. So, a news report or a text book may report on a historical event for the purpose of relaying the facts of the matter to a reader, where a political speech or a drama written about the same event might be for the purpose of arousing strong feelings in the same reader. Though about the same event, the effect on the reader may be quite different.

The New Testament Records of the Death of Christ
Sermons on death of Jesus can be highly emotional. That event can be very difficult to preach about. We certainly need to be deeply moved about the death of our Lord. When one loves Jesus and appreciates what He has done for us, emotion will be involved.

So, is it not peculiar that the New Testament records of the event are written more like a news report? There is little in the way of highly emotional language employed. It is the event itself that moves us. The language of the writers is not emotionally charged, but rather is a straightforward reporting of the facts.
"They took Him out and crucified Him" - not an emotionalized account; Emotional words like “outrageous” or “dastardly” or “fiendish” or “ghoulish” or “hideous” are all avoided.

Such emotional words all fit, and we do use them as we describe the event in our teaching and preaching and singing. We sing about a ”rugged” cross and about Jesus being “lifted up amid that savage crew” and His “mangled body” and “writhing in anguish and pain.” These poets have marvelously captured the emotion of the event. But the New Testament seldom uses such vivid and emotional language at it describes the death of Christ.

The scholar, J.W. McGarvey, says that this is one reason why we should believe. The gospels are written to inform us of the facts, and allow us to consider them. To be sure, our emotions are likely to become involved, but not because of the language used, but rather because of the event itself. Deeply moving, emotional statements on death of Jesus are not in New Testament at all, or at least very little. It is “Just the facts, ma'am.”

If You Want Emotion, Go To The Old Testament Prophecies About Christ's Death
This is not to say that the Scriptures all treat our Lord's death without emotion. Interestingly enough, the real heart-wrenching, emotionally charged language about it occurs in the Old Testament. Chief among these accounts would be found in Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53.

Both of these passages are about the same thing; the death of Christ. The 22nd Psalm was written about 900 years before Christ, and Isaiah's prophecy about 700 years before. The Psalm is written from Jesus' own perspective as He hangs on the cross. It informs us as to what He is thinking and feeling as He hangs there. It is very, very descriptive of immense suffering and injustice.

The prophecy in Isaiah 53 is from our perspective as lost souls who have come to realize that Someone has suffered much to save us. It, like the 22nd Psalm, is also emotionally charged.

The Suffering One
Israel's view of the Messiah was fuzzy and distorted . They did look forward to a coming Redeemer, but usually their view was of a Messiah quite different from Christ. When they got to Isaiah 53 it had to be a shock to them. The Redeemer of this passage doesn't look very “redeemer-like”! Rather than saving, it looks like He is the one needing saved. He is presented in a way that is nothing like the Jews were expecting (i.e. conquering military hero); not pomp and grandeur; not the “Glory of David” nor the splendor of Solomon. The Jews were looking forward to a golden age, but there was not much gold to be found in Isaiah 53, at least in the literal sense.

In a nutshell, the Redeemer was to be a servant! The servant was going to suffer indignities and humilities! Sounds a lot like Jesus! “For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.” (Isaiah 53:2-3).

We also learn that it was God the Father that appointed Jesus' suffering to occur. Many think that Jesus was a wonderful man, fighting for a just cause, but things just didn't turn out right for him, so he became a martyr. If that is your concept of the death of Jesus, then your concept needs readjustment. Jesus came to fulfill God's plan - to satisfy an absolutely righteous, universal code; and that demanded death for sins. God is merciful to us! He sent His Son to pay the price. Isaiah tells us that God is the one who makes the servant suffer. “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” (Isaiah 53:4). Interestingly, the tormentors at the cross accused Jesus of being “smitten of God” (cf. Matthew 27:23-26; 42,43); they were partially correct (see also Isaiah 53.10). God bruised Him; Jesus' death was according to God's plan (Acts 2.23).
We read about His suffering in highly charged language. Crucifixion was physically excruciating. It is certain He suffered much due to the physical side of the cross. But there was more to it than that. The weight was heavier for Jesus than for the two thieves that died at His side. The physical anguish may have been the same, but Jesus was bearing something that they were not. He was bearing the sins of the world. “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.” (Isaiah 53.5-6; see also vs. 7).

All of God's good plans for us are found in Jesus' invitation to "Come unto me." Read the gospels for the facts and God's love expressed in deed. For the heart of God expressed in words, find that in Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53.

From The Bradley Banner 8/28/2005
Published by the Bradley Church of Christ
1505 E. Broadway

Bradley, IL 60915


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