How is it that Jesus can pay the penalty for our sins? How can one innocent man do that? First of all, we need to recognized that it was not just Jesus’ suffering on the cross (which in and of itself was horrible. I recommend that you jump over to the Revolution blog and download last week’s sermon for all of the gory details on ancient crucifixion) but also the suffering he undertook all throughout his life (temptation, rejection, abandonment, etc.).
Yet, it was surely on the cross that Jesus most clearly took all of our sins upon himself. The effect was to tear himself from the Father for the first time in eternity (Matt. 27:46), to bear the wrath of God in order to satisfy God’s justice (or, to propitiate His wrath) (Rom. 3:25; Heb. 2:17; 1 John 2:2 and 4:10). The blood of Christ also washes us clean of the stain of sin, so that guilt has no place in the life of Christian who has confessed and turned away from said sin (Heb. 9:14). Through all of this we are reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:18-19).
But how? How can one man do that? The easiest answer is that he was not just a man but the God-man. If you think about it, it was the only way for a once and for all sacrifice…a perfect sacrifice–an undeniable means of atonement. The sinless God-man laid down his life because only man can die but only God can be sinless and utterly selfless.
But did Jesus descend into Hell after his death on the cross? That will have to wait until later.