They call this Good Friday. What Jesus did for us is definitely good, but what the people did to Jesus is horrendous and mortifying. Doesn’t that contrast make it all the more powerful? The emotions that are swirling around as we read these texts can take our breath away. When it’s a familiar story like this, it can be even harder to really put yourself back in the moment. Close your eyes and picture the scene. Can you just about hear the mocking in the soldier’s voices? They were truly possessed by the evil one and totally blinded to the Son of God standing before them.
Even on our most difficult day, we have not endured such brutality. We cannot begin to imagine what it felt like to be beaten, spit on, jeered at, and then forced to carry a heavy cross to Calvary’s hill. I remember testing for black belt and feeling totally drained and beaten up after that. I wasn’t sure I could walk to the car to drive home. It was the most brutal thing I have ever done. In the midst of that test, I questioned everything I had ever known, been taught, and practiced. I had to be on alert even though my dripping sweat was burning my eyes. My spirit fought through every test. I remember calling on God many times to give me just what I needed for the next trial. I didn’t die. I was not even close to dying. When I think of Jesus’ torture I can only weep. His purpose for going through all that was for me. Because he loved me.
If all of that physical pain wasn’t enough, Jesus had to witness his clothes being raffled off, and hear the sneers of the crowd questioning his identity. Jesus knew who he was, and he was being obedient to his calling. That couldn’t have made it any easier to not defend himself. That was not the point. To the end, Jesus loved. He pled, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”
What was happening was these monsters (people just like you and me) were killing Jesus, the Son of God. Little did they know that God would raise Jesus from the dead, just as he had told his closest friends. But they couldn’t truly grasp and understand Jesus’ words. How could they? Even though they had seen with their own eyes Lazarus raised from the dead, and many more people healed, it just seemed too unbelievable. But if Jesus said it, it must be true, right?
The finality of death was more familiar. Satan was using this moment for his own glory. Imagine if you didn’t know how the story ended. What would you be thinking? As a Christ follower would you, too, be afraid, fearing for your life, standing at a distance?
Think of the men hanging beside Jesus, guilty of crimes worthy of death in those days. One was thinking only of himself and how he could avoid his destiny. The other, in his own torment, knew Jesus was not guilty and did not deserve to die. He asked Jesus for forgiveness, to be remembered in his kingdom. Imagine his surprise when Jesus said to him, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Jesus gave him a pardon, right there, as they hung dying together. Jesus loved until the end.
The agony! Did Jesus feel deserted? As the end drew near, the sky became dark in the middle of the afternoon. Jesus felt alone and cried,“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Just because it was happening exactly as it needed to happen didn’t make it easier to accept or to witness. The heavens were mourning the loss of their chosen Son, the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. The earth couldn’t keep silent either and shook in gut-wrenching grief. Even the veil in the temple tore in two. This was not just another death by crucifixion. This was the execution of God’s Son. The man who loved sinners, who loved us.
Love was there that day. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” God gave. For us. So that we can live. Let that resonate with you today. Don’t think ahead to what’s coming. We need to be in this moment. Rest in God’s love. He did this for you.
Let’s pray. Lord, I am overcome with emotion. Thank you for doing the unthinkable, for laying down your life for me. Help me to feel worthy of your love. You have designed me for a purpose. Help me to see what that is so that I can live it boldly and effectively. May I never take you or your love for me for granted. As Jesus said, Father, I entrust myself into your hands. Use me God. I am yours. In Jesus precious name. Amen.