"He is risen. He is risen indeed."
Words that offer hope to Christians everywhere, words that matter much. Because without a resurrection, Jesus is just foolishness, the Bible just babble.
However, that is also true of the cross. Without the actual cross, without the weight of the world's sins wrapped across the Son's shoulders, the whole Gospel is but a lie.
The work at the cross is one of atonement which simply put is about this amazing redemption that reconciles us to our Creator. Redemption is actually a word connected to indebtedness. It is the canceling out of something you are responsible for. In faith, it means we as man cannot measure up to God's standard of living a perfect, sin free life so God's justice demands we pay this debt. And yet somehow, on the cross, Jesus says "I'll pay the debt. I'll take on the curse." Man is brought near to God and Christ, for a moment, is exiled.
Curse perhaps seems a strange word to use in the Easter story. For most of us, a curse is something borne in a Disney movie, placed upon a pretty princess by an evil witch. But for the cross and the resurrection to matter, Easter must be about not just a curse but also about God's blessing.
R.C. Sproul writes about this in The Truth of the Cross. "If we were to study that [the vision of God, looking God in the face] carefully in all of its ramifications in the Old Testament, we would see that blessedness is related to the proximity of God's presence. The closer one gets to the immediate presence of God, the greater the blessedness. The farther a person is from the face of God, the less of the blessedness."
This rings so true for me. The hard things in my life have provided me with a lot of time to think about God's blessings. "My God who longs to bless me has allowed the death of both my mother-in-law and my dad. That's a bit hard to swallow." My God who is good allowed us to take on the role of caring for an ailing grandparent and walking with her in the last part of her life. Why us?" "The God who knows my daughter intimately has been silent while her adoption stalled. Surely He's not using her waiting to teach us a lesson? That just seems cruel." Those are all things that I had to hash out with God, because not hashing them out would surely have pulled me away from Him. Over time, I came to the realization that my good was not God's good and Sproul's words just reaffirm this.
So then what does this have to do with Good Friday and Easter morning? It's because as Sproul writes, "A curse is the opposite of blessedness. The curse of the covenant was to be cut off from the presence of God, to never see the light of His countenance, to be be cast into the outer darkness."
Christ's sacrifice on the cross, while about physical suffering, was perhaps more about spiritual suffering. His Father saw my sin, your sin, the world's sin, and cursed His Son. He turned His face away because those sins could never inhabit the same space as God's presence. It's about the way Paul explains it, in Galatians 3:13, that "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us for it is written 'Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree'" Christ spent His entire life enjoying the presence of God, savoring His blessing. But on that day, as the nails were hammered and the tree was sat upright, that blessing was pulled away. His curse became my blessing, giving me the chance to be near to God. My blessing, His curse, perhaps that's just as amazing as the resurrection.