Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood.
In 2004 Hollywood actor Mel Gibson made headlines when he directed The Passion of the Christ, a film depicting the last twelve hours of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Some criticized the film’s graphic portrayal of Jesus’ suffering.
What are we to make of the violence of the cross? Some prefer to understand the cross only as Christ’s victory over the powers of evil, rather than seeing His suffering as satisfying the heavenly Father’s demand for justice. In his death and resurrection Jesus “disarmed the powers and authorities” by “triumphing over them by the cross” (Col. 2:15). Yet the Bible is equally emphatic in emphasizing that God the Father had a hand in Jesus’ suffering.
When Isaiah predicted the suffering of Israel’s messiah, he explained that “it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer” and characterized Messiah’s suffering as “an offering for sin” (Isa. 53:10). Like Isaiah, the apostles saw the suffering of Christ within the larger framework of God’s redemptive purpose. Jesus was handed over to the powers of evil “by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge” (Acts 2:23). Christ’s suffering did more than make a public spectacle of the powers of evil; it was a payment for sin that satisfied the demands of God’s law.
While Jesus’ response to His enemies provides us with a good example to follow, the significance of His suffering goes far beyond this. The Savior shed His blood as a “sacrifice of atonement” (Rom. 3:25). Some translations use the theological term propitiation to speak of this sacrifice, a word that emphasizes the personal dimension of the cross on our behalf. Christ’s suffering reminds us that God’s wrath is real and can be satisfied only by the blood of His Son.
Apply the Word
Beware of attempts to sanitize the gospel by removing the offense of the cross. The violence of the cross is a blunt reminder of what we deserve for our sin. The fact that God took such punishment upon Himself by pouring it out on His Son testifies to the Father’s mercy and grace. Jesus has taken our suffering (see chapter 53 of Isaiah).