Jesus' crucifixion invites many kinds of questions. How did it happen? Who, exactly, was responsible? What did his death and resurrection accomplish? Did the cross expose and repair something about human existence? Did it alter our status before God? What does the execution of an innocent man from first-century Galilee mean for the world today? All these questions deserve our attention. All have occupied Christian thinkers for two millennia. Yet none yields simple answers. This two-part study only opens the door to deeper reflection upon Jesus' crucifixion. Its focus is the New Testament, the ways in which selected writings portray or refer to Jesus' death and, in the process, interpret the meaning of that event. The first session explores the four Gospels' descriptions of the crucifixion. The second looks at language that the apostle Paul employs to understand what God accomplishes through Christ's death.
Although the similarities among them outweigh the differences, nevertheless the Gospels do not present Jesus Christ's story in the same way. The slight and sometimes striking variations among them point to differences in their overarching perspectives on Jesus and his importance. The distinctive aspects of each Gospel remind us that these are not disinterested reports of biographical data; rather, the Gospels interpret the Christian story as they tell it, inviting us into their particular points of view as they shape our understanding of Jesus and our response to the gospel message. When we allow each Gospel to speak from its own perspective, to influence our imaginations in a particular way, we discover that all four collectively lead us to see the crucifixion as full of rich and complex significance.