“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
As believers all around the world gather to reflect on the crucifixion of Jesus this Good Friday, may we be humbled in the knowledge that a perfect, sinless man, who was God in the flesh, bore the ultimate price for us all – and He did it all out of love for us.
His death was not mere symbolism; it was as real as the brutal beatings with whips – whips with metal razor-like edges hanging from the ends that bore into his flesh, a common punishment preceding crucifixion under Roman law. His beating was so severe he was not recognizable as a man. In fact, the Old Testament book of Isaiah foretold of His suffering in vs. 52:14: “Just as there were many who were appalled at him – his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness.”
Jesus was also beaten with fists, spit upon, laughed at, dragged through the city being taunted, his beard torn, and he was made to stand trial only to be condemned to death when the people chose to free the thief and murderer Barrabbas (who was to be crucified) over him.
Over the years, many discussing the crucifixion often wonder how it could be the people chose freedom for Barrabbas but sentenced an innocent man to death. The truth of the matter is this: Jesus knew his purpose on this earth was to die. It was the fulfillment of Mosaic law, and Jesus said so in Matthew 5:17 – “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” We must also be mindful of the fact that had Jesus not been sentenced to death, the world would have been – and it would have meant that Jesus was not who he claimed to be. Barrabbas certainly had a direct intervention from Jesus that day; all of us did.
Some have tried to cast blame for the death of Christ on various individuals or groups of people, but the truth of the matter is ALL of us sent Christ to the cross – even those yet to be born. To take it further – God himself made it possible for his only Son to die; otherwise, there would be no hope at all for humanity because there is no single person without sin. The one person who was truly without sin was hated, mocked, laughed at, beaten and ultimately killed because he dared to say he was the Son of God and teach accordingly.
Jesus’ death was not without significance; he was the ONLY sacrifice that could be made on our behalf. A lamb is the symbol of innocence and purity – its blood used for the atonement of sins in the Old Testament. For Passover, Mosaic law forbids the breaking of the sacrificial lamb’s bones. In the New Testament, Christ is the sacrificial lamb for the atonement of our sins. What was prophesied in the Old Testament (Psalm 34:20) and verified in the New (John 19:33-36) is Jesus’ bones were not broken even though it was a common practice after being crucified to break the legs to make sure one was dead. In the book of John, the soldiers saw that Jesus was already dead and did not break his legs; instead, a soldier pierced Jesus’ side – again, the law was fulfilled.
Jesus was God in the flesh. He lived among men and had a human body that felt pain, weariness, sadness, happiness, worry, sickness, temptation, hunger – everything we know in our finite, human existence. He also felt fear. It was not so much a fear of crucifixion itself, but knowing what was demanded of God for perfect justice. In the hours before his crucifixion, he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane ‘…let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will but as Thou wilt.‘ The ‘cup’ spoken of was not a fear of the cross itself Christ was referring to, but the cup was filled with God’s wrath. Yes, God is love – more than we can possibly know, but His wrath was the sin his Son would bear. Jesus’ agony was so great the sweat became large drops of blood falling from his head to the ground. He knew what was about to happen, but he also knew the very battle wherein the gates of Hell did not want His crucifixion to take place. When praying a third time, an angel came to give him strength to endure his earthly fate.
After being betrayed, arrested, interrogated, judged, mocked, tortured and ultimately, turned over to a brutal death, Jesus still willingly went to the cross. Even when the soldiers laughed and made a crown of thorns shoved onto his head in mockery to The King of the Jews, He didn’t hate them in return. His death was for them, too. After all, He came to save the world – all of it. The only thing He has asked of us is to believe, repent, accept and live for Him. I often ask myself, ‘It is such a simple request. Why is that so hard for me to do?’
As I reflect on the significance of this day and this Easter weekend, I am confronted with my own shortcomings which are many. What Jesus did is an example for all of us. No, he doesn’t require us to suffer as he did – only he could be our Savior, but we are to experience a ‘death of the old self’ which is what the sacrificial blood represents: death of the old life to make way for the new (made possible through the resurrection).
With that, I leave you this passage on this Good Friday highlighting the end of Christ’s earthly life which occurred about the noon hour all those years ago. Even after all that he had been through at the hands of the courts, citizens and soldiers, Jesus still had compassion for them (and us today) as he was nailed on the cross.
Luke 23:34,46-47 (NIV)
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are
doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. Jesus
called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my
spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. The
centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely
this was a righteous man.”
Thank you, Jesus.