When I think about the major Christian holidays, it is easy to get excited about Christmas and Easter Sunday. I mean one is about a baby, Jesus-God in flesh. There are the stories of angels, kings, and shepherds. God with us as promised. Resurrection Sunday is a celebratory day as Christians celebrate Jesus’ victory over sin, death, and triumph over the enemy Satan. Good Friday, the day of the cross and crucifixion is hard to think about. Though we call that day good, it was a dark and sobering day. It was dark because of the seen and unseen activities going on. It was good only because we know of the outcome.
Do you ever find yourself tempted to just gloss over that day for Jesus? Do you find yourself wanting to hurry through the betrayal, beating, shaming, mocking, and torturing part of Jesus’ life here on earth to get to the “happy ending” part? Would you be willing to go “there” with me for moment? And by going there, I mean looking at Jesus in the darkest day of his life.
Jesus had spent what would normally be sleeping hours up all night praying. In the gospel of Mark, we are told that while Jesus was praying he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. Mark 14:34 says, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” Jesus’ spirit was already beginning to feel the weight of what the day would bring to him physically and spiritually. Already, Jesus is in the beginning stages of the most intense spiritual warfare battle of his human life.
- Jesus then is betrayed by one of his closest friends.
- Jesus is arrested and brought before the religious elite and falsely accused.
- Then, the religious condemned him as worthy of death.
- “Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, “Prophesy!” And the guards took him and beat him.” Mark 14:65
Jesus is experiencing the relational sting of the betrayal of a dear friend. Though he knew it was coming, the blow to his heart was real. Then, those that would have been considered “righteous” began lying and falsely accusing Jesus because of their fear and envy of his growing popularity and power. It is determined that Jesus is to die. They cannot just determine that Jesus is worthy of death and bring him before Pilate. Instead, they feel the need to be cruel and demeaning. They degrade him by spitting on him. After blindfolding him, they struck him with their fists. The full out physical assault to his body while being blindfolded had to be terrifying. Jesus was unable to get his bearings and unable to prepare for the physical blows that were coming from all sides.
- He was denied by Peter three times.
- He was brought before Pilate, and though Pilate could see Jesus was innocent, he chose to be a crowd pleaser and ordered for Jesus to be flogged and crucified.
Again, instead of just doing just what was ordered, Jesus must endure another round of humiliation, mockery, and beatings by the Roman soldiers. “The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace and called together the whole company of soldiers. They put a purple robe on him, then twisted a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him,” Mark 15:16-20.
This mockery, humiliation, and torture continued to the cross and all through Jesus being crucified on the cross. The shaming of Jesus, the mockery of Jesus, the beating and torture of Jesus; the ugliness and evil of humanity was on full display. All the while, Satan is delighting in evil abounding in humanity.
Maybe this is why the cross and crucifixion make us uncomfortable. What Jesus endured to get to the cross and while on the cross exposed the sin in humanity. When Jesus’ bloodied, bare body hung exposed on the cross, it exposed me and you. It exposed our sin, our ugliness and our shame. It made visible what we really are; a sinner.
Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” That is the beauty of the cross, though it exposes you and me as sinners, Jesus’ desire is to not leave you and me that way. Jesus’ death on the cross means that my sin and your sin were nailed with him on the cross. Our sins demanded punishment, and Jesus took that punishment for us. Jesus’ death on that darkened day means that we can be free. “Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ,” Romans 3:24 (The Message).
Jesus, I thank you for the cross. I thank you that because of what you endured that day; it exposed the condition of my heart. I was and I am still in need of a Savior. Jesus, thank you for taking my punishment for me and for forgiving me and releasing me from my sin so that I can be free! I choose to receive your pure gift, and I will treasure you as a result. Help me to become more like you Jesus! Amen!