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You probably know the old hymn “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?” Obviously, no one alive today could have been physically present at the crucifixion. Never the less, the answer is ‘Yes – you were there”.
Let me explain. In the seventh chapter of the Book of Acts, verse 52 – we read of an event that happened a few weeks after Jesus had been crucified, resurrected and ascended to heaven. One of the first Christian leaders, Stephen, was hauled before the religious court for blasphemy and heresy. In a bold speech, he told his accusers who Jesus was, and then said, “you have betrayed and murdered him.”
He wasn’t referring only to that particular group of men, although it is quite likely that some of them had been among those who conspired to have Jesus killed. But that was not Stephen’s point. The priests and religious leaders of Jesus’ day, along with the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, who signed Jesus death warrant, may have been directly responsible. But, Stephen told them they were all accomplices to the murder of Jesus, and so are we.
Our involvement in the death of Jesus is important to understand. When Pontius Pilate gave the order for Jesus to be crucified, even while attempting to wash his hands of it, he represented what is in all of us, that would lead us, sooner or later to betray the Son of God and attempt to wash our hands of it all the while. It was just this deeply rooted propensity in us to reject the grace of God and justify ourselves that required Christ’s coming, dying and being raised for us. For the only way our corrupt and mercy hating nature could be put right, was for it to be put to death and raised to new life in and with him. He has done for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
“We are convinced,” the apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:14, “that one died for all, and therefore all died” (NIV). All means all – you, your obnoxious neighbor, your nearest and dearest relatives, your enemy in battle, your loved one locked in suffering, the hungry child in famine, those caught up in the tragedies of earthquakes and tsunamis, your boss at work, those trapped in false religion, the worst of terrorists, the best of heroes. This is a great mystery: Christ died for us all so that all that is corrupt in us has been condemned, put to death in him.
A few verses later, in 2 Corinthians 5:19, Paul tells us that on the cross, “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them” (NIV).
Jesus died for everyone who has ever lived and who shall live. No one was excluded from the effectiveness of his sacrifice. Everyone was involved in his death. There were no exceptions.
That means that our past, no matter how desperate or depraved, was nailed to the cross. It means that through Jesus’ sacrifice we have all been forgiven, whether we have accepted it or not. It means that everyone, irrespective of race or religion, was crucified with Christ so that everyone might live with Christ as new persons with renewed natures. Having seized on to all of humanity as its Lord and Savior, he took upon himself all that is corrupt and rebellious in us, so that he could share with us all that is in him. That’s the mystery of the Great Exchange that took place on the Cross.
Do you see what this means? It means that there is hope for us all because, as Paul wrote in Romans 6:8, “Now, if we all died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him” (NIV).
It is the announcement of forgiveness and new life for all, not just a select few. It’s a call to believe or trust in the one who loves us and gave himself for us – the one who, as Revelation 1:5, puts it, “has freed us from our sins by his blood” (NIV).
So, “Were we there when they crucified our Lord?” Yes we were, by the wonderful grace of God. Let’s be thankful for that. Because we were included in his death, we are now included in his life. He gave his life so that we might share in his – now and forever.
I’m Joseph Tkach speaking of LIFE.