Back when I was a teenager, I heard a talk about the medical and historical details of the crucifixion. It had a profound effect on me then, and stuck in my memory. The video below, called “What Was Crucifixion Like?” posted last year on the Messages of Christ YouTube channel, presents that information, along with visuals. There’s good and bad to that. I never saw the movie The Passion of the Christ, because it was too gruesomely intense for me. I’m glad it exists, but it wasn’t really meant for me.
This documentary video uses partly literal recreation, along with computer illustrations for some of it. So I managed to be amazed at Christ’s suffering without being overcome by the savagery. It’s about 7 ½ minutes. And it ends with this:
The willingness for Jesus to die on the cross for us, in such a painful and agonizing way, teaches us of His incredible love. Jesus could have been killed by stoning, or by one of many other ways, but He instead chose to be crucified. He submitted to the most heinous and dreaded forms of death, so that He could understand and succor His people. None of us can claim that Jesus cannot fathom our sorrows, anguish and pains, for He has endured all things. Truly, as Isaiah so prophetically stated: "he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed."
At Easter we do, of course, remember the crucifixion. But what is the most important event in all history is the resurrection. That makes all the difference.
In our religion, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we look at these events somewhat differently from other Christian churches. We do not deny in any way the importance of the crucifixion. But we also note what happened in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before. We don’t see this as a weak or worrying moment for Christ, fearing what was to come. The suffering in the Garden was itself enough to cause even God to tremble, and bleed from every pore. This can’t be from imagining what was to come; it had to be important in itself. And we believe it was.
I struggle to explain clearly and briefly. But we believe that what happened in the Garden of Gethsemane was the temporary withdrawal of the Spirit of God the Father. What happened the following day, on the cross, was the separation of the body from the spirit, which is what happens in death. So there are two “deaths” to overcome: the one we understand when we see it, when the body and spirit separate; and also the one that separates our spirit from God’s spirit, that came about with the fall.
We live in a fallen world, where bad things happen, and where we make mistakes that we have no power to overcome on our own. Christ overcomes both the physical death, leading the way for us to be resurrected as He was; and spiritual death, leading the way for us to return to our Father.
Christ rescues us all from physical death; every one of us will be resurrected. But our place—our acceptance back into the presence of God—depends on our accepting Christ’s act, his atonement, to make up in every way our deficiencies, if we are willing to do as He asks, by earnestly striving to live according to God’s commandments, and to repent when we fail or slip up.
There was a talk, by one of my favorite Church leaders, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, from 2006. In it, he says,
Considering the incomprehensible cost of the Crucifixion and Atonement,
I promise you He is not going to turn His back on us now.
I love that. I feel loved by knowing that. Christ didn’t do His ultimate sacrifice to be able to weed us out when we make one little mistake too many; He did it to give us every opportunity to be redeemed, because of His profound love.
Our worldwide Church has a theme again this Easter. This year it is #Because Of Him. Besides some reminders for each day of Holy Week, there’s this brief video reminding us of the many ways we benefit from what Christ did for us. It’s a worthwhile reminder before the Easter egg hunt and the family dinner.