In concert with God the Spirit, our Savior spoke the universe into existence after the Godhead had formulated Plan A, the only plan. Though Romans, Jews, Passover, and crosses did not exist in the predawn of time, they would. Christ would lay his life down on a Roman cross during the Jewish Passover. It was the plan. God the Father loved humanity before God the Son had even crafted and breathed his life into us, loved us in a way we can’t even begin to comprehend.

We would sin. His Son had to die. That was all there was to it. The price for our sin had to be paid.

Because God is perfectly just and holy, our sin had to be cleansed so we could be reconciled to him. We had to be redeemed—the cost was Christ’s blood.

The Son was all in; he was fully invested, a member of the planning committee. He would not sit idly by as we partied, fought, and clawed our way to hell. No, he would leave his rightful place in heaven, come down here, and do something about it. Of course. That is who he is.

But why crucifixion? Why a method of death that has been described by physicians as the most agonizing torture ever devised, so awful that even first-century pagan authors wouldn’t disclose the details? Why a slow and excruciating death that gives the tortured plenty of time for contemplation?

Because, when God shows his love, he has to give an accurate depiction of its depth. God is love, so he has to go all in. He can’t just give a meager, half-hearted, convenient display, because that is not how he loves. He loves with all of himself. His love pours over the top, spilling all over the universe. His love is messy. It gushes. It’s bloody.

“Kill me quick and easy. Let’s get it over with.”

God the Son would never have spoken those words. They are small and inglorious. He had to make the ultimate sacrifice, the fullest display of his tender devotion. So he put on flesh and came down to show us.

His loving nature impelled him to allow sin-sick humanity to have their way with him, to let Satan inspire the evil machinations of violent men, to choose and foretell a method so horrendous that it can’t be imagined without revulsion. Reining in his deity, not calling those angels to get him down, he permitted them to kill him, knowing beforehand exactly what would happen and how it would feel. They impaled him on a wooden cross in such a way that his every breath was agony, his death slow and lingering. He was publicly humiliated in the process—life ebbing away as calloused persons watched and mocked.

Now that put God’s love on display, lifting him up for all to consider. Behold the God-man.

“See. Look. Observe. I love you with my every fiber, thought, sinew, consideration, and breath. I even chose to die in a way that would make it obvious to you. Is it clear to you now?”

So, my non-liturgical, nondenominational, Protestant self pauses this Lenten season to contemplate God’s love as shown in the sacrificial death of Jesus his Son. I’m not just coasting into Easter this year, only aware of it when it’s time to buy the ham and the Easter candy. If I can set up a tree, string lights, buy gifts, and sing Christmas carols for a solid month before celebrating my Savior’s birth, surely I can ponder on the gift of his death, his purchase, his agony, his mercy, and his resurrection that clenched the deal.

This year, I’m smearing on the ashes.