Twenty plus years ago N.A. Urshan preached a message entitled “He Captured Captivity.” I’ve listened to this message numerous times and it has had a profound impact on my life. Because this is the week leading up to Easter, I wanted to write a blog post on the topic of Jesus’ life. Immediately, I thought of Brother Urshan’s message and decided to write a post on the life of Jesus using a spin-off of his title.
The Nativity that Captured Captivity
“Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.”
– Ephesians 4:8 (King James Version)
Over two-thousand years ago, on what was probably a night just like any other, something happened that was far from ordinary. On a bright starry night perfection once again was found on Earth. Kings and queens are born and raised in ornate palaces decked in a regal façade. Under the gold and the fine craftsmanship of the palace and under the crown and monarchial apparel of the king and queen is nothing but the normality of humanity. The royal blood that courses through the hearts of kings is also found in the lowliest of peasants. At the end of the day no matter the power, nor the title, humanity was corrupted by the chains of sin. Sin entered the world through a single act of disobedience resulting in a plague that has effected the world millennia after millennia (Genesis 3:6). Yet, there was nothing normal about this simple night in Bethlehem, because, an infinitely supernatural God had just come to Earth wrapped in the finite flesh of humanity (John 1:1, 14; Isaiah 9:6). Perfection in flesh, that had not been seen since the Garden of Eden, was now wrapped in swaddling clothes. At this time, humanity found itself trapped in a vicious cycle, there was not a perfect sacrifice for sin. Goats, Cattle, and Doves were all used as a substitute between man’s sin and God’s wrath, but this was an imperfect system that could not last eternally (Hebrews 9:22). God’s love for humanity and his desire for relationship led him to put on human flesh for the purpose of the perfect sacrifice (John 3:16). The nativity scene of Jesus Christ is without a doubt one of the most famous, if not the most famous, nativity scenes known to man. The very creator of heaven and Earth was born in a place reserved for animals because humanity had no room for him (Luke 2:7). Yet, it was this night, at this nativity, that the fate of humanities captivity was signed and sealed.
The purpose of Jesus’ life and ministry was to show the supernatural power of God giving humanity a way of salvation (Matthew 3:11-17). It is first important to understand that Jesus was both fully human and fully God incarnate (John 10:30). Paul says in Colossians 2:9-10, “For in him (Jesus) dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power.” 1 Timothy 2:5-6 perfectly sums all of this up, simply saying, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” The definition of a mediator is: a person who attempts to make people involved in a conflict come to an agreement, a go-between.
In short, sin is disobedience to God. Sin creates a void between man and God, because obedience is the one and only thing that God absolutely commands from all men (1 Samuel 15:22). Sin entered the world through Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God’s commandment (Genesis 3:1-7). This sin created a void between man and God that caused chaos on Earth. Earth was created by the perfect spoken word of God and was intended to function under that perfection (Genesis 1). After this very first act of sin God sacrificed an animal and clothed Adam and Eve with it (Genesis 3:21). Adam and Eve were created to live eternally in relationship with God but the judgement of their sin was inevitable death. This animal was sacrificed in the place of Adam and Eve that they might live. The blood of the animal took the place of the blood of humanity. Hebrews 9:22 says, “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.” Sin always comes with a cost, and that cost is blood. Yet, Hebrews 10:4 says, “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.” The blood that was shed of the animals for the covering of sin was just that, a covering. The sacrifices made during the Old Testament were an imperfect system because they simply covered the sin of humanity. It is the square peg in a round hole analogy of remission of sins. Due to this fact, Isaiah 59:16 records God bringing about a solution for mankind, “And he saw that there was no man, And wondered that there was no intercessor: Therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; And his righteousness, it sustained him.” In essence, Isaiah is saying here that God looked down on sinful humanity and came to the conclusion that there was no perfect human sacrifice to pay the price for humanity. After all, all humans are sinful by nature (Romans 3:23). Because of this, God himself, the only perfect sacrifice, wrapped himself in flesh as the man Jesus Christ so that we might have perfect remission of sins (Hebrews 9:15).
As stated previously, Jesus’ purpose on Earth was to bring humanity a way of salvation for eternal life (Matthew 1:21). The only way for this to actually come about was for Jesus to be the literal sacrifice and pay that price that every human deserves. Isaiah prophesied of the crucifixion of Jesus saying, “ Surely he hath borne our griefs, And carried our sorrows: Yet we did esteem him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But 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. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned every one to his own way; And the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:4-6). The last verse of Isaiah 53 concludes with, “And he was numbered with the transgressors; And he bare the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12). Jesus was perfect and never committed a single sin, yet on the day of Calvary Jesus bore the weight of every sin man has committed. Jesus’ death on the cross did not covered our sin, it completely erased our sin.
Death by crucifixion is without a doubt one of the most terrible ways to die. It is credited to have been invented by the Persians and later perfected by the Macedonians and Romans. It was specifically designed to tortuously kill a human being in the worst way possible. Often times, the victim would suffer for numerous hours even living until the next day before they finally died. This method of punishment was reserved for some of the worst criminals. It also functioned as a method of deterring future criminals. This method of capital punishment is sinister even for the worst of murders, but for Jesus, who was not even given a fair trial of evidence, it was absolute madness. Matthew 27 records Jesus being mocked and beaten. A crown of thorns was placed on his head as a form of vile torture and shear mockery of his divine nature. The very God who created and controlled the breath, and heartbeats, of these soldiers now allowed them to mar Jesus more than any man (Isaiah 52:14). He knew the pressure of blood that pulsated through their veins infused with the malignant rush of diabolical adrenaline. He saw every drop of sweat that emerged from the skin, and cascaded down their faces, due to the overexertion of the strength they put into each blow. He heard every atrocious curse that bellowed from the vibrations of the larynx designed by his hand. He listened to the deafening thunder produced by the plummet and crash of each drop of Jesus’ blood. He knew the exact weight of the cross thrown on Jesus to carry (estimated around 300 pounds). Every thud and clang of the hammer reverberated throughout heaven. He saw every gasp of agony Jesus endured. Yet, at the culmination of Calvary, he watched every fiber and listened to the almost silent scream of every thread as the veil was torn in the temple (Matthew 27:51).
There are numerous ways one would die on a cross: exhaustion, blood loss, hypovolemic shock, asphyxiation, and heart attack only being a few. Some doctors have studied the death of Jesus in an attempt to determine what exactly could have been his cause of death. Obviously, we have no real proof to come to a dogmatic conclusion. Yet, taking into account what we know about crucifixion, and the text given in the Bible, some doctors have concluded Jesus may have died of a myocardial rupture, a ruptured heart. In the case of Jesus it would have been caused by severe trauma and extra strain placed on the heart due to blood loss. The rupture is often preceded by some form of heart attack, and due to the strain the heart literally implodes. There are many classes and forms of myocardial rupture but one of the most drastic is when the walls of the atria and ventricles perforate before they tear apart. On top of that hill at Calvary, there was more than just mere trauma and torrential agony tearing the heart of Jesus. 1 Peter 2:24 says, “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” Sure, excruciating pain shot through the nerves in his his arms and legs like bolts of burning lighting. The position of the cross placed so much pressure on his lungs and chest that every breath felt as if the weight of a thousand spikes were slowly collapsing his lungs. Above all this, there was the vexatious tonnage of the sins of all humanity. Scientists guess that maybe some 108 billion people have been born on Earth since the dawn of humanity. What is the weight of 108 billion souls? If heaven rejoices over one single sinner that comes to repentance (Luke 15:7), then what anguish did Jesus feel for every one that doesn’t?
Today, humanity delineates perfect love as an emotion or feeling of deep affection toward another human being. Emotion is nothing in comparison to a God who would endure the tyranny of savage evil on a cross simply so I could have a chance of salvation, that is perfect love. Perfect love took root at the base of a cross where perfection met imperfection. It was crimson love that poured down the cross infusing with the sand beneath; causing it’s voice to once again cry out to God from the ground (Genesis 4:10). God created a universe so immensely expansive that scientists can only study the nine billion light year diameter of the observable universe we can see, with less words than are comprised in this sentence. The very same God, endured the most brutal and sinister form of capital punishment diabolically created in the mind of his own creation. Why? So the love that surged down Calvary's cross would drain into a well I could draw from for salvation (Isaiah 12:3). It was not anger or revenge that was on the mind of Jesus that day, it was me, it was my life. Had the crucifixion never happened, the third day of Jesus’ resurrection would have never happened. Today we would not have the beautiful promise of eternal salvation. Humanity would still be bound by the captivity of sin. But, Calvary did happen, and so did the resurrection. Because of this, today, I have the opportunity of salvation through the Biblical method given by the Apostles in the Book of Acts.
Acts 2:38-39 says, “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Jesus suffered the most sinister form of capital punished known to man in order to transform the cross into the universal symbol of liberation. He paid the price of my salvation so I could repent of my sins, be baptized in the name of Jesus, and receive the Holy Ghost. This is a promise that is insured to every single human breathing air on the face of the planet. Heaven and Hell are not some mythological place where Zeus and Hades just so happen to reside. Heaven and Hell are just as real as the pain that galvanized the neurons of Jesus’ body on Calvary. They are real places, and someday they will be the eternal homes for all humanity. For me, Jesus paid to high of a price that I could have the possibility of salvation for me to turn my back on his scars. Yet, salvation all begins with the process of Repentance, Baptism in Jesus Name, and receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost. This is the only biblical method of salvation, the method that Jesus paid such a high price for. I’m far from perfect, but I look back to Bethlehem, at a nativity that captured my captivity, and I’m reminded that the price of perfection was already paid.