Key Scriptures: Matthew 27:1-61; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 18:28-19:42
Written by: Dr. Charlie Self
Why is this moment of horrific, undeserved suffering called, “Good Friday” by all Christians? Because even though our Lord is condemned to a Cross, with a weak Roman leader capitulating to the paid-for-mob and jealous religious leaders, our salvation is secured though this deep suffering. Our Lord bears all of humankind’s sins and sorrows, sufferings and sicknesses, unspeakable evils and unanswered questions as he atones for humankind. “It is finished” indeed! At the very moment darkness appears to win, forgiveness and reconciliation are secured (See Romans 3:21-5:21).
Our Lord’s final mistrial is before Pilate – a poor leader who would prefer to beat Jesus and release him rather that have a martyr on his hands. Pilate knows Jesus is innocent of any capital crime and he is perplexed by this humble Rabbi claiming divine authority but not questioning Pilate’s civil leadership. But corruption and fear win the day and Pilate hands Jesus over to a squad of soldiers for crucifixion.
In addition to an unmerciful beating and the taunts of the soldiers, Jesus must carry the cross beam to Golgotha, the Place of the Skull, where criminals die a lingering death. Jesus is so physically weak that Simon of Cyrene (located in North Africa) is plucked from the crowd to carry the beam, leaving his two sons among the watchers. Though weak, Jesus finds time to comfort weeping women on his bloodstained pathway.
Jesus is on the Cross from 9 AM to 3 PM, with the final three hours full of unspeakable suffering. For the first time in all eternity, fellowship with the Father is broken (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) as Jesus bears our sins. He is suffering between two criminals. One curses; the other humbly pleas for mercy. Jesus promises the latter that they will enjoy God’s presence together in just a few hours, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.” While on the Cross, Jesus forgives his tormentors, makes provisions for his Mother, refuses drugged wine, accepts a drink of water, and, at the very end, declares, “It is finished!” and “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
As Jesus utters his final words, in the Jewish Temple, the veil into the Holy of Holies is torn, symbolizing access for all who believe and a New Covenant. The very moment our adversary thought was his victory, becomes our salvation! “It is finished!” means all sins are covered, for in this one sacrifice, God’s love and justice are fulfilled and all who believe are forgiven and granted favor (Roman 5:1-11; Hebrews 7-10).
Jesus is hastily buried in a borrowed tomb as the Sabbath approaches. The tomb is sealed and guarded and Jesus’ followers scatter, wondering what the future may hold.
What does the Lord ask of us as we consider all this? He calls us to believe, turn from our selfishness and sins, and humbly say thank you with obedience to his commands – summed up in the command to love God and neighbor (Acts 2:38; Romans 10:9-10; Matthew 22:37-40; Ephesians 4:1-6). Just as Jesus submitted to a pathway of service for us, will we reframe our lives for God’s glory and the good of others?