“The he released for them Barabbas, and having Jesus scourged delivered Him to be crucified . . . and when they had mocked Him, they stripped Him of the robe and put His own clothes on Him and led Him away to crucify Him” (Matthew 27:26, 31).
I have often pondered the label “Good Friday.” From the world’s perspective, it must seem strange to call a day set aside to commemorate the torturous death of the sinless Son of God “good.” Yet, for those of us who have had our whole hearts, minds and souls forever changed by that same Son of God, the label fits quite well.
On the cross, we see our greatest “good” even as we see our greatest “evil.” As one of my favorite contemporary Christian trio’s sings, “The beautiful, terrible cross.” The beauty is in the salvation and forgiveness and freedom from sin’s bondage that was earned by Jesus for all those God would ever redeem and make His people. The “terror” is in realizing the awful wrath of God against our filthy rebellion was being poured out on Jesus, though He Himself never sinned.
“He [God] made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). I doubt the essence of what transpired on that cross has ever been captured any better. God treated Jesus like we deserved so that we could be treated like He deserved! My sin for His purity! His life for mine! O sweet Gospel Grace! Oh amazing love, how can it be?
And in case you’re wondering, this was not a case of some demented Divine child abuse as some claim. No! Jesus Himself said He willingly laid down His life for His sheep and He had power to also take His life up again (John 10:17-18). Easter was planned by Jesus Himself! The writer of Hebrews further tells us enduring the cross was a joy for Jesus (Heb 12:2). Joy? Amazing love, how can it be?
Each year, I grow more and more weary of the way so many churches and Christians present Good Friday or Easter to the world. Pageants purporting to “reenact” the crucifixion of Christ are everywhere. Movies splatter blood and guts across the screen to move us nearly to the point of nausea.
Now do not get me wrong. The original Bible readers knew full well what “crucifixion” meant. They had seen thousands of criminals and enemies of Rome skewered to trees. They knew it was torture. They knew the scourging itself often killed men, before they ever got nailed to a tree. They knew about the agonizing death suffered by those who were crucified. And, today, we are not at all familiar with it. So, perhaps all the pageant directors mean well. I assume most of them do.
But aren’t we missing something? Have you ever wondered why the New Testament writers focus so very little on the physical part of the cross? They go into no gory detail. They simply say Jesus was scourged and crucified. Perhaps this is because their readers knew the torture scene so well? Maybe. But I am convinced far more is going on in the way the Bible presents the death of Christ to us. The Holy Spirit intentionally led the writers to not hone in on the physical aspects of the cross. And why?
To get the answer, all we must do is read our New Testaments! Everywhere we turn in the New Testament, we find the focus being placed upon the spiritual aspect of the cross. It was for “our sin” that Jesus died.
“He Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree that we might die to sin and live for righteousness; by His stripes we are healed” (1 Peter 2:24).
“Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor 15:3).
This is the obvious pattern of the Scriptures. You see, the reason I think it highly arrogant (and perhaps not God-honoring) to attempt a reenactment of the crucifixion of Christ is because there is absolutely no way to repeat it or remotely capture what was really happening on that day. The human eye could not “see” the truest torture Christ endured. Many men died on a cross under Roman rule. Nothing was exceptional about that! As sickening as it seems, crucifixion became almost ho-hum by the end of the Roman Empire. It’s kinda like when we hear of another life sentence doled out on a murderer in America. We don’t really have a deep sense of horror, do we?
Friends, no man ever died like Jesus! He died under the holy wrath of God for countless sins of countless sinners, all of whom deserved to be cut off from God forever in the fires of hell. No Easter pageant could ever capture the essence of Calvary:
Eli, Eli, lema sabacthani? (Matt 27:46).
This is Good Friday. My evil thoughts, word and deeds cutting off Jesus from the land of the living. This is Good Friday. Jesus cursed while I go free.
O Jesus, forgive us for what we have made it. How dare we attempt to recreate Golgotha? That hill belongs solely to You! You and You alone could ever own such a cross. What a love! What a cost! We stand forgiven at the cross!