I was 17 at the time. It was maybe around ten o’clock at night, I don’t remember. But I was sitting in my bed, reading the Bible and praying. As I closed my eyes, I suddenly had a vision, a crystal-clear image that I’ve never forgotten. But it wasn’t just a picture, I felt it, too. It was so real, so powerful, so intense, that I immediately fell to the floor on my knees and began sobbing.
I had crucified Jesus.
In my vision, He was hanging on the cross, bloody, beaten, wincing in agony. And I stood at the base of it, still holding the mallet used to drive the nails into His wrists and feet.
The vision lasted only a split second, but it absolutely destroyed me. I had done this. I had tortured Him, struck Him, then nailed Him to a Roman crucifix to suffer a slow and excruciating death. It was all my fault.
Burying my face in my hands, all I could do was cry. Filled with unimaginable guilt and remorse, the only words I could get out were, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.” Over and over again, I apologized to God, overcome by my actions that I knew weren’t real but might as well have been. I may not have driven the nails into His hands, but it was because of my sin that He was up there.
Yes, Jesus died on the cross because of our sins. He paid the ultimate penalty so that we wouldn’t have to. But it took me a long time to let go of the guilt, the feeling that if I had only been better, if I had only done more, I could’ve prevented His suffering.
The truth is, no matter how good we are or how much we do, how often we go to church or how much we give to the poor, we’ll never be able to erase our sinful nature. Even as Christians, we’re still broken and defective. And that’s why Jesus came in the first place. Before the world was created, before mankind ever set foot on Earth, Jesus existed. Before we took our first breath, God knew we would fail and that there was nothing we could do on our own to do to fix it. No pill, no 12-step program, no act of Congress. Only God Himself could break the bonds of sin.
God didn’t sacrifice His Son to clean up after us the way a parent cleans up after their kids. It wasn’t to uphold some end of a deal — “I’ll give my Son for your sin if you promise to do XYZ.” It wasn’t to make us feel guilty and ashamed of our never-ending failures. It was all because of love.
We’ve heard John 3:16 repeated so many times that it’s become a cliché, but it’s still true: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son….” Why did He give His Son? Because He loves us. Two thousand years ago, today, tomorrow. And nothing will change that.
The good news, of course, is that the Easter story doesn’t end with Jesus’ death, but with His resurrection: the fulfillment of prophecy and the promise of a new life, set free from the chains of our past.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.