The first time I realized the full weight of the gift of the cross, I was in a college classroom. In my freshman year of college, I had the immense pleasure of taking UC 154. When I saw it in the Winter 2016 (I'm young, I know) course guide, I knew that it could be wonderful or disastrous. The course was titled “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made: Themes of Medicine in the Old and New Testament.” As a freshman at a state university, I knew that this class could be an opportunity for the professor to “get even” with religion and use pain they may have received from the church of their youth to belittle or speak against the Bible. Or this class could have been a look into the Bible from a perspective I hadn’t studied before; it could be a class that stretched my understanding of Scripture. I didn’t know which it would be. So, I emailed the prof.
I am looking to take UC 154 during the winter semester. Your class stuck out in the course guide because as a Christian, I believe it is important to discuss and academically analyze what our religious text says. The course guides state that we need consent to take this class from the instructor. I just have a few questions about this course and how it will be handled. I am concerned that this class could be offensive to my faith. While I understand that not everyone believes the same things I believe, I want to be aware of how taking this course might impact me emotionally. I truly believe this class could be an amazing way for me to delve deeper into what it means to study the Bible. Thank you for your time.
In response, the professor asked if she could call me. The result: I enrolled in the class. And it turned out to be the most important class I would take.
On Maundy Thursday in 2016, I sat and read from a medical standpoint what it was like for Jesus to endure crucifixion. We used the Journal of the American Medical Association 1986 article “On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ” (Edwards, Gabel, & Hosmer, 1986). As my seven(!) classmates (smaller than miniscule at a university where I often took classes that were triple the size of my high school) and I discussed the details we are given in each of the Gospels against this article, it hit me. I was and am why Jesus went to the cross. My sinful nature caused Jesus to suffer this immense pain. And He did it willingly.
That’s an incredible fact. He endured incredible pain. And it was for us. Even more incredibly, three days later He rose again. He took our place. The death He endured should be what we get at the end of our lives. If it were up to our own righteousness, we would not make it into heaven. But Jesus was sinless. He did no wrong.
And it’s not like he didn’t experience temptation. We know He did. Not only as fully man was He daily tempted, but He spent a full forty days and forty nights being tempted by Satan himself. In the Gospel texts, we see how He lived a life we are to follow and fail to do so.
During Lent, I am now always reminded that without Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, I would return to dust. I am reminded of what His life here on Earth meant. It means that He endured everything we endure. It means that we have a Savior who knows what it means to feel loss, to be abused, to be unpopular, and knows how it feels to physically die. Having a Savior who understands our pains is one way our trust in Him grows.
While we reflect on the truth that without Christ we would not only be lost but would suffer eternal damnation, we need to remember that He died so that we may live. In John 10:10, Jesus states "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." So what does life knowing that Jesus has defeated sin look like?
As we move closer and closer to the end of the Lenten season, let us rejoice in Christ's victory as we reflect on what living a life from the victory of the resurrection looks like.