My Body, Broken for You
It was the night of my arrest.
For quite some time, the powers that be had been seeking to take me into custody. They had been busy gathering and twisting “evidence” and securing their witnesses. No one cared to know the truth; they just wanted me out of the picture. I was feared and misunderstood.
I prayed hard that night, pleading with God to take away the cup of suffering I was about to drink. God‘s plan would cost me everything—even my life. Still, I had peace. I knew that the things to come were necessary. They were all part of His bigger plan, and they were for the sake of all people. So, I found the courage to surrender my will to His and complete His purposes for me.
Those closest to me, however, couldn’t understand. They had trouble accepting my fate. The plan wasn‘t panning out the way they thought it should. It rarely does. They couldn‘t see past what was happening because they didn‘t know the end of the story. But one day, they would, and they would be grateful for the plan. They would even make sacrifices of their own.
I pleaded with God to wrap His arms around my loved ones. They needed the comfort of His presence and the protection of His love to endure the coming days. Satan was busy looking for opportunities to flood their hearts with fear and their minds with doubt. Only by focusing on God‘s promises and remaining unified in His love could they stand firm.
It was quite a scene when the soldiers and police arrived to take me into custody. They were armed and ready for a fight. I wasn‘t going to give them one, and neither would those who were with me.
Leading the way was a friend who had betrayed me for a bag of money. He knew where I‘d be that night because he’d often been there with me. He was part of my inner circle; I had shared everything with him. His decision to betray me would cost him much, though. It never profits a man to gain the world when he loses his soul in the process.
The rest of the group was caught off guard by this friend‘s betrayal, but I knew it was coming. His greed often got the best of him. Sadly, he wouldn‘t be the only one who would betray me before the night was over. My most dedicated and determined friend was about to deny he knew me.
Human nature often chooses self-preservation over loyalty and integrity.
I’d already forgiven them, though. I didn’t want the weight that anger and resentment would bring. I put them and all my enemies into God’s hands and trusted Him to use their actions for His purposes. God doesn’t waste anything—especially pain, disappointment, or hardship. That’s His way—He weaves everything together for His glory.
The officials expedited my trial. It was nothing more than a formality. Too many people wanted me eliminated, and nothing would change the outcome.
It didn’t matter that I was innocent. According to the officials, I was guilty of the most serious of crimes. I was a dead man walking, and they would torture me to the extent of the law.
Hundreds of people watched as we made our way to the site of my execution. More gathered to watch, waiting for my final moments. Some wailed and mourned over the injustice of what was happening to me, but most celebrated my death. They yelled and screamed, laughed and jeered, and hurled insults at me. Some even spit in my face. The fire of hatred in their eyes was as intense as the fire of pain pulsating through my body from where I had been viciously beaten. The officers even played games and gambled for my clothing.
My heart ached at the chaotic scene. “Oh Father, forgive them,” I prayed. They had no idea what they were really doing or who they were doing it to.
Then I saw my dear mother. Tears were streaming down her face. The depth of her grief was obvious. I could feel her pain. God had chosen her for a special assignment, too, and her life hadn’t been easy. Few people had understood His plan for her. God’s ways are often hard to understand—but even then, we can trust Him. Despite the difficulties, though, my mother has loved and cared for me every day, just as God intended.
I know she felt helpless for not shielding me from the hate and injustice of the world—but even her love couldn’t have protected me from this. All anyone could do now was trust God to make this right. I knew, of course, that He would, but oh, how thankful I was that He and our loyal friends would care for her after I was gone.
Suddenly, intense pain radiated through my body, jolting my mind back to the reality of my situation. The soldiers had driven large stakes through my wrists and feet. Those stakes and some rough rope were the only things holding me to that old, rugged cross. Well, that and my reason for being there.
Blood trickled down my forehead and into my eyes from the wreath of thick thorns the soldiers had pressed into my brow during their pre-execution games. My vision grew blurry. I was getting weaker and thirstier by the moment. The cross was getting slippery from the blood pouring from my hands and feet. Gravity pulled me downward, and I could no longer find the strength to push up against it. My lungs filled with fluid, and I gasped for air.
Two criminals hung on crosses to my right and left. They were experiencing similar pain, and I could hear their groanings. We had been hanging there for hours. Our time on earth would soon be over.
“If you’re so powerful,” one of them taunted, “why don’t you get down off that cross and save yourself? And save us while you’re at it.”
He didn’t realize it, but my hanging on that cross was the only way I could save him. Sadly, his pride and selfish desires would keep him from receiving God’s gift of salvation. He wasn’t concerned with his eternal destination; he just wanted out of his current situation so he could return to his dead-end life. It didn’t have to be that way.
The other criminal saw things differently. “Don’t you fear God?” he protested. “You and I are getting what we deserve for the things we did, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said to me, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
He didn’t ask me to get him off the cross. Instead, he reached toward me with the only thing he could—his heart—and asked me to take him with me to heaven. In a moment of clarity, he focused on the things to come and wished to experience a different life than the one he had lived. With his words of faith, everything suddenly became right for him.
He found peace and hope in the middle of hardship. His past mistakes were swept away in the flow of blood that poured from my veins. Because he recognized his guilt and acknowledged my innocence and believed I was the Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior of the world, he now had the promise of eternal life.
His death wasn’t the end for him; it was the beginning. I heard heaven rejoice when this man repented of his sin. How thankful I was that God’s love had met him in his most desperate hour and in a place where his sin was publicly exposed. God the Father wasn’t scared off by his sin, nor was I. God doesn’t want anyone to perish—not even a criminal.
You know, people like him are who I came down from heaven to save. People who’ve made grave mistakes and who’ve gone astray. People the world hates and wants to eliminate. People who feel less than, who have no hope for their future.
God loved him (and the rest of the world) so much that He sent me, His one and only Son, to die. With my life, I paid the penalty for their sin—I was the perfect sacrifice required, the spotless Lamb. It was a price they could never pay, for the wages of sin is death. But God arranged it so that whoever calls on my name in faith will be saved. Because of me, they can now experience light, order, and healing in their dark, chaotic, and broken lives.
I looked over at the broken man beside me. “Today,” I promised him, “you will be with me in paradise.”
Our conversation ended as darkness suddenly came over the land. It was high noon, yet the earth became as dark as night. For the next three hours, I hung in agony as the sin of the whole world landed directly on my shoulders. The full measure of God’s wrath came against me. I was crushed, just as the prophet Isaiah said I would be.
Still, I stayed there. I knew this was God’s plan, and I endured the pain of the cross for the joy of knowing that others would be saved. That didn’t make it easy, though.
The weight of the world’s sin and the agony of my heart overwhelmed my senses and hid the truth of God’s love. I couldn’t feel God’s presence anymore.
“Oh, Father,” I cried. “Why have You forsaken me?” I was alone. Nonetheless, even in that place of utter darkness, I trusted what I knew to be true in the light—God’s love would never fail me.
“It is finished!” I called out with the loudest voice I could muster.
My work on earth was complete. I had walked in obedience; I had willingly laid down my life. There were no barriers left, none of any kind, no further requirements of performance, no more death sentence for sin. I had made a way—the only way—for all of humankind to come to God. My sacrifice had fulfilled all His requirements, once and for all. My body, my blood, given freely for all.
To everyone else, everything seemed hopeless at that moment, but I knew morning would come. It always does.
I, Jesus, the Light of the World, would rise again.
Jesus, Light of the World
Can I just say, I am so glad that Jesus’s execution isn’t the end of the story—not for Him, and not for us. The Bible tells us that three days later, He came out of that grave, fully alive, fully God, and fully man. By doing so, Jesus proved His deity, conquered death, and destroyed every work of our enemy, Satan.
Do you know what I love most about God’s redemption story? It’s that the Light of the World returned to those He loved. If I was the one who was beaten, spit on, and nailed to a cross by those I had come to save, I would have hightailed it to my heavenly home and throne.
But Jesus didn’t. He stayed on earth for another 40 days to encourage His friends, even the ones who had denied, deserted, and doubted Him. He assured them of His love and reminded them of truth. And before He left, He promised to send a Helper—the Holy Spirit—to guide and protect them. Jesus’s followers would never be alone again.
And neither are we. His Spirit is here, empowering and enabling us to fulfill His will and to transform us into His image. There’s nowhere we can go that His hand of hope and heart of light won’t find us.
Friend, God cares for us so much that, through Jesus, He put on flesh so He could identify with us in every way. He understands our pain because Jesus faced every hard thing on this earth—humiliation, rejection, persecution, abandonment, temptation, hardship, physical hunger and thirst, death—and the list goes on. He wants to reach into our pain to save us.
In fact, He’s reaching out to you this very moment—but you must grab His hand. Like that man on the cross, you must call out to Him with your mouth and reach toward Him with your heart. Yes, it’s that simple. Romans 10:9 NLT says, “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” The moment we acknowledge our sin and need for Jesus to be our Savior, God reaches into our darkness and saves us. We don’t have to do anything to earn His love. We don’t even have to get cleaned up first. His love and His blood make us clean.
When God looks at you, He doesn’t see “a thief on a cross.” He sees someone worth the very life of His Son. You are the reason Jesus came. You are the reason He stayed on that cross and died a brutal death. Even while you were a sinner, Jesus died for you. Don’t you love that God saved that man while he was hanging on the cross, completely exposed in his sin? There is hope for all who will accept Jesus.
Satan has worked overtime to keep you from the light and life found in Christ. He recognizes your potential and knows the power and authority God gives you through His Son. That’s why he has attacked you since your birth and tried to convince you that God doesn’t love or care for you, or that He isn’t there.
But Satan is a liar—John 8:44 calls him the father of lies. Don’t let him keep you in the dark. Don’t be like the other man on the cross who chose to die angry, bitter, and alone. His fate was eternal darkness because he rejected the Light of the World’s gift of eternal life.
Choose life. Grab God’s hand of hope. Leave your darkness behind and come into the Light of Christ today.
Or maybe you made that choice a long time ago. Maybe you took His hand, but then the troubles of the world and the desires of your heart led you astray. Is it too late for you? Have you gone too far? No! God still loves you. Jesus still died for you. Come back and grab hold again. It’s never too late to return to the One who will never stop loving you.
Kristi Overton Johnson encourages and equips people for victory through her writings, speaking engagements, and prison ministry. To learn more, go to kojministries.org.