EDITOR'S NOTE: The following is an excerpt from Death by Love by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears (Crossway).
We Killed God: Jesus is Our Substitutionary Atonement
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned--every one--to his own way; and the Lord has laid on [Jesus] the iniquity of us all. - Isaiah 53:6
Jesus was born in a small town to a poor, unmarried teen mother roughly two thousand years ago. He was adopted by Joseph, a simple carpenter, and spent the first thirty years of his life in obscurity, swinging a hammer with his dad.
Around the age of thirty, Jesus began a public ministry that included preaching the truth, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and befriending crooked sinners who were despised by religious types. Jesus' ministry spanned only three short years before he was put to death for declaring himself to be God. He died by shameful crucifixion like tens of thousands of people had before him.
In the pages of Scripture, which exist to reveal him, we discover that while Jesus loved children, fed the hungry, befriended the marginalized, healed the sick, encouraged the downhearted, and rebuked the religiously self-righteous, the light of Scripture shines most clearly on the final week of his life and his work of atonement through the cross and empty tomb. In total, the four Gospels, which faithfully record his life, devote roughly one-third of their content to the climactic final week of Jesus' life leading up to the cross. While only two Gospels mention Jesus' birth, and each speaks sparsely of his resurrection, all four Gospels give great attention to the final week leading up to Jesus' cross. In fact, John's Gospel devotes roughly half of its content to that week.
Perhaps most peculiar is the fact that the symbol for Jesus, which has become the most famous symbol in all of history, is the cross. While the early church embraced several symbols, including the fish and the loaf, the cross has always symbolized the believer's connection with the death of Jesus. The church father Tertullian (155-230) tells us of the early practice of believers making the sign of the cross over their bodies with their hand and adorning their necks and homes with crosses to celebrate the brutal death of Jesus. In our day, this would be akin to a junkie's needle or a pervert's used condom becoming the world's most beloved symbol and adorning homes, churches, and bodies.
The ancient Jewish historian Josephus called crucifixion "the most wretched of deaths."1 The ancient Roman philosopher Cicero asked that decent Roman citizens not even speak of the cross because it was too disgraceful a subject for the ears of decent people.2 The Jews also considered crucifixion the most horrific mode of death, as Deuteronomy 21:22-23 says: "If a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God."