Romans 5:8: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

At age 17 I realized that God is real. It was wonderful to get connected to God and experience His love. However, to me, the Godhead felt a bit crowded.

“One God is plenty”, I thought. “Why Three in One?”

I did what I always do when I don’t get something: I focused on the things that I did get. I understood that I have a Father in Heaven who loves me and left it at that.

When we were dating, my future husband Bill and I started hanging out to get to know each other. After a while he introduced me to his family. Getting to know the Trinity reminds me a little bit of dating. As time progressed I could not help but notice that besides loving me, the Father dearly loves His Son. Isn’t that how it works? We get involved with one member of the Trinity, and pretty soon we get introduced to all three of them: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The Godhead situation became pretty unique when the Trinity had to temporarily split. Jesus arrived on planet Earth! The Son of God was born into a human family and became one of us – a relative of ours! Think about that for a minute.

We celebrate Christmas because God became our relative.

We celebrate Easter because this relative of ours laid down His life for us.

We know that God is eternal. He has no beginning and no end. And yet, by becoming one of us, the eternal God, Author of life and Heartbeat of Creation, voluntarily submitted to mortality. His heartbeat literally stopped before He was returned to life and rose from the grave – all of that to rescue His creation from death.

Dying for us is one thing, but being martyred to death is quite another. Honestly, for the longest time I had trouble seeing why Jesus had to be punished so badly. It made me feel bad. Have you ever wondered why Jesus had to die the way He did – nailed to two wooden beams? If you have seen any of the quite graphic motion pictures showing Jesus on the cross, you too may have wondered about that.

Appalling as His manner of dying was, Jesus did not compete to die the cruelest death ever. Many criminals in the Roman Empire awaited the same fate. Nailed to the cross, people expired to satisfy Roman law. Jesus, however, did not die to satisfy Roman law. He definitely was no criminal. He did nothing wrong to deserve to be executed. Nevertheless, there’s a reason for Jesus’s willingness to submit to the Roman criminal justice system. His intention was to take the blame for every crime ever committed and to accept its punishment – including the crimes committed by the two criminals who were dying right next to Him.

Jesus and the two criminals were in the same boat. All three of them were nailed to the cross awaiting their death. Here is the unfolding conversation between the three dying men (Luke 23:39-43):

“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’

Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’

Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.’”

We understand that there’s more to having a real conversation than just being physically present. A Native American proverb basically says that we’re not supposed to criticize people, unless we have “walked a mile in their moccasins”. Well, being crucified with the two criminals, Jesus was more than physically present. He walked in their shoes and literally felt their pain. That’s love going the extra mile.

How could a fire department accomplish a rescue mission without ever being on the scene of the accident? That doesn’t make much sense, does it? By the same token, God decided to go through hell to pull us out of hell. That’s redemption in a nutshell! If there was a different way of saving us, I’m convinced that God would have done it. As it is, He chose His Son to perform the biggest rescue mission ever – saving the world – by dying on the cross. Thank God that He did!

Birds have nest, foxes have dens, but the hope of the whole world rests on the shoulders of a homeless man.

Romans 5:10: “For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”

Nations have always competed against each other by using advanced weaponry to win the war. In this day and age, however, there is no winning the war without completely trashing our planet if we use all the resources we’ve got. Thanks to the invention of the atom bomb, nations keep each other in check by sheer threat of warfare. The goal is to never ever have to push the button!

Just as the atom bomb has changed the face of warfare, the story of the cross has changed the face of human history. Both Jesus’s death and resurrection have profound implications to creation in general and to you and me in particular.

Estranged from God, Heaven had become a faint concept. In our natural minds, we could not relate to the Godhead anymore. God was invisible to us and seemed a million miles away. So much so, that it was easier to explain Him away than trying to find Him.

And yet, without God, all we’ve got are our five senses. Without God, we’re the only ones in charge of our destiny. It’s up to us to determine what is best for us. We’re on our own navigating through the maze and trip-falls of life. Without our connection to God, the biggest challenge is loneliness. At the end of the day, we’ll find that our connection with other human beings is no substitute for knowing our Creator.

Then Easter happened, and with that our entire outlook on life has dramatically changed. Jesus’s death and resurrection removed the threat of being hopelessly lost. His death on the cross spells forgiveness for everything that went wrong cancelling the entire load of guilt and shame accumulated over the years and giving us a new chance to live life connected to God. Heaven is wide open!

In his letter to the Romans, Paul wrote about the wonder of Jesus’s death and resurrection. He basically said, if Jesus’s death brings blessing to mankind, how much more will His life! Dying on the cross, Jesus satisfied the Law. Rising from the grave, He conquered death once and for all. These are two major accomplishments by the Son of God: the former freeing us from guilt, the latter setting us up for eternal life – which Paul thinks is the best gift of all. The opportunities arising from our friendship with God are limitless!

No one is happier about the results of the cross than God Himself. He loves us so much! What a treasure trove to discover His heart and to dig deeper every day! More and more we’ll get to know Him, and one day we will see Him face to face.

Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Change of ID – this actually happened twice in the history of mankind. When God invented a new life form – us – we were inherently good. Things turned around with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We got involved with that knowledge, and we came under the law. With that, our ID changed. No longer inherently good, things got really messy. Creation around us also changed its ID.

The age of the law ran its course, and at the right time Jesus came with the purpose of reclaiming our original ID. Jesus lived the life of a human being the way it was originally intended by our Creator. Jesus, the Son of God, is inherently good, just as we once had been. At the cost of His life He both satisfied the law and freed us from it.

We are now free to reclaim our original ID. We can leave the life under the law and instead live by faith in the Son of God, by believing in His sacrifice, in the power of the cross.

It’s easy to believe and it’s hard to believe. Unfortunately, the symbol of the cross has its hang-ups. We can get distracted by human history. There has been abuse of the name of Jesus – people claiming to do things in the name of Jesus, and Jesus never authorized it.

Still, it’s not impossible to get past all that and meet with Jesus, the original, not Jesus the counterfeit. Cutting through the chase of misconceptions and misinterpretations, we get to the bottom of the message of the cross when we turn our eyes to Jesus and understand why He did what He did. He dearly loves us. He didn’t die on the cross because He had to, He died because He wanted to. He wants us to be free. God missed us. In our prior life, in the Garden of Eden, we had a close relationship. The incredible gift of the cross is our opportunity of regaining that closeness.

The very first step in reclaiming our original ID is seeking Jesus out. When the message of the cross becomes tangible the core of our being changes. Praise the Lord! Let the healing begin!