Long before Jesus was born, it was prophesied that in the town of Bethlehem a Jewish child would be born, who would become King of Israel. He would be the Son of God, son of a virgin, descended from Abraham and David. But it was also declared, that he must endure suffering, and that he would die to save his people from their sins:
He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows . . . He was pierced for our infirmities, and he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed . . . For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. (Isaiah 53:3-5,8)
The Lord Jesus understood the Old Testament very clearly. As a twelve-year old boy, he amazed the teachers in the temple at Jerusalem by his knowledge and understanding. From the Gospels we learn that he knew beforehand that he would suffer a cruel death at the hands of his enemies.
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must killed and on the third day be raised to life. (Matthew 16:21)
How would you feel if you suddenly realized that you had crucified the Son of God? This is what happened to the centurion and his soldiers who nailed Jesus to the cross. No doubt at first they thought Jesus was a common criminal, in the same category as the other criminals they had crucified that day. But the longer they watched the centurions were more convinced that Jesus was no ordinary criminal and that Jesus didn’t deserve to be there at all.
His actions, his grace, even in his dying moments, showed that Jesus was far superior to the ordinary man. And then, this was no ordinary crucifixion afternoon either as the sun went dark for three hours, the curtain in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom, there was an earthquake and many dead people came to life and out of their tombs.
If we suddenly realized that we had just crucified the Son of God we would have probably felt the same way as the centurion. “When the centurion and those that were with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that happened they were terrified and exclaimed Surely he was the Son of God.” (Matthew 27:54)
We did crucify the Son of God by our sinfulness but through his death we can be forgiven. Know that he is the Son of God and that it was for our sins he died. Jesus was hanging on the cross and He prayed “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” – Luke 23:34. I am sure that if we were in such a desperate position we would have been feeling more sorry for ourselves, even if we had deserved it. Not Jesus, he prayed for their forgiveness – What love he showed for us!!
We need to appreciate how much our Saviour did for us. From the beginning, by the will of God, it was necessary that the Son of God should be born into the world to suffer at the hands of wicked men. It was God’s intention that Jesus should struggle against his human nature and overcome it, that he should endure temptation but never fall, that his life should be sinless. Jesus willingly submitted to suffering and death, in order to become a perfect sacrifice for sin. By that sacrifice, by that free giving of his life, we can receive the forgiveness for our sins if we believe, and can hope for eternal life at his return.