When Jesus hung on that Roman crossbar nearly 2,000 years ago, nobody considered it good news. Jesus was a righteous man, a holy man, and a great teacher who some hoped would deliver them from oppression at the hands of the Roman Empire. He was a great healer; He did not deserve to die. Jesus deserved honour and not death; He deserved fame and not mockery at the hands of His killers; He deserved worship and not the hatred of those who cursed Him, beat Him, spit on Him, and then brutally and torturously crucified Him. On that black Friday, there did not seem to be anything "good" about the death of Jesus of Nazareth. Despite Jesus' warnings that He would be crucified at the hands of the elders and chief priests (Mark 8:31), the day still came as a shock: in the face of the death sentence that was handed down, many of His followers were left "mourning and lamenting" (Luke 23:27) as they followed behind Him.
It wouldn't be until later on that His followers would realize the significance of what Jesus was doing: He was giving His life as a ransom for ours. The Apostle John stood beneath Jesus as the life faded from Him, and later wrote that in this way, "to all who did receive Him... He gave the right to become children of God" (John 1:12). Peter watched Jesus die from afar, and writing a letter to the early Christians, he told them "you were ransomed... not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ" (1 Peter 1:18-19). The great apostle and missionary, St. Paul, would go on to say that "by His blood... we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son" (Romans 5:9-10). The crucifixion is not an abstract idea to argue over; it is a truth to be accepted, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. That is the major point upon which all of Christian hope and belief and practice turns. Although none of us were there to see the blood and sweat drip down that crossbar, or to hear Jesus' words as His life slipped away, or to learn from Him upon His physical resurrection from the dead, it should be no less real to us that because of what Jesus did for us, wrath is now replaced with the right to become children of God.
Though My Sins Be Like Scarlet...
I love the fact that because of Jesus' death, I no longer need to be trapped by guilt over the things that I've done. I no longer have to look over my shoulder and wonder whether or not I've been good enough for God to accept me as His child. I don't have to weigh my good actions against my bad actions out of fear that God will punish me; on the cross, God announced that He loves me enough to experience death for me. In the middle of my sinfulness, it's as if God bent down and said on the cross "Come now, let us reason together: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool" (Isaiah 1:18).