“Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know–this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.”
– Acts 2:22-24 NASB
The words above were taken from an address by the apostle Peter to a crowd in Jerusalem. It was the first recorded sermon after Jesus had been raised from the dead and had ascended into heaven.
The “godless men” to whom Peter refers are, of course, Roman soldiers under the direction of Pontius Pilate. Thus both Jews and Gentiles were involved in crucifying Jesus and neither can fully lay the blame off on the other. All of humanity has culpability for the death of Jesus. Of course, as Peter says, this was God’s plan.
It’s not that God made people do evil. It’s that He gave them freedom and He knew this is what they would do with it. Yet He let things unfold this way so that He could forgive us all and thus provide convincing proof of His love for us.
The cross to which Jesus was nailed has, of course, become the most prominent symbol associated with Christianity. How many churches have you seen with a steeple…and a cross at the very top? Probably too many to count.
Let us stop and think for a minute about this symbol. A cross was the means of Jesus’ execution. Had He come to earth at some different time, He might have died by guillotine…or electric chair. Can you picture either of those devices set atop a steeple? Yet seeing a cross there should be equally preposterous.
A cross as a symbol of the movement Jesus started is actually more preposterous than a guillotine or electric chair. This is because those latter two devices are designed to bring about death relatively quickly and therefore are more merciful ways to die. Crucifixion was designed to kill a person slowly and torturously.
How much does God have to hurt before we’ll believe that He loves us?
(Remember that prayer is more about listening than talking. Use the words below to start yourself, but then allow time to reflect more on the Scripture above before you say the “Amen.” During that time of quiet reflection, let God shape your thoughts and wait for a sense of peace to come. That’s your signal to say “Amen” and go forth to the day.)
Lord, help me understand Your love for sinful people like me…(this is where you remain quiet in order to let Him work in your thoughts)… Amen.