Today, Christians remember the death of Jesus of Nazareth. He died at the hands of Romans, under the order of Pontius Pilate, through crucifixion on a cross. Before being nailed and hung to the beams, naked, he was severely beaten. The Roman charge against him was insurrection; but many Jews were upset because Jesus claimed he was God. It was for this claim that others worshiped him. It is for this reason that I worship him.
The physical end of Jesus' life was not any more spectacular than that of the thousands of other people that Romans killed on crosses. In fact, two of them were hung next to Jesus. Certainly men and woman have endured greater physical torture than Jesus did, many of them in his name. Paul, one of Jesus' followers claimed in his second letter to the Corinthians to have received the 39 lashes (like the punishment Jesus received) five times. Three times he was beaten with rods. Once he was even stoned and left for dead. (2 Cor 11:23-28). In 1527 Michael Sattler, a man professing a faith in Jesus, had his tongue cut out so he could no longer proclaim Christ. Then he was drug through town behind a mule cart with occasional stops to have his flesh pierced and torn off with hot pokers. After this, he was attached to a pole and lowered into flames. But at the point when most people being burned at the stake are about to die from suffocation and smoke inhalation, Sattler would be pulled out long enough to take a breath or two and then dropped back into the fire until he eventually died.
Could this day's importance be because Jesus was innocent of the Roman charge? He was indeed innocent, but no, the significance has little to do with Roman law. No doubt the Romans got it wrong on more than this occasion; it's highly likely that other innocent men and women found their end on a cross.
What then makes Jesus' crucifixion worth honoring on a day like Good Friday?
It was not merely the physical death of Jesus. If that were all, we've already seen that there are probably more spectacular deaths worth talking about. No, it's about more, much more.
It is not just that Jesus was innocent of the Roman charges or falsely accused by the Jewish religious leaders; it's that he was innocent of sin. He had never once committed a crime against God. He had never acted in a way that went against God's desire. Nothing in the life of Christ would require exclusion from God's presence. He was not like you or me; he was perfect. However, for the salvation of man, Jesus bore all the sins of all people. The wages of sin is death, physical and spiritual. God, being just, must pour out his wrath upon sin and Jesus took that wrath on behalf of you and me and all people. However, there is no way any created person could endure such wrath. We can't even endure the punishment of our own sins, let alone those of others. So God, being love, entered the world as a man, Jesus, lived a perfect life, and bore the wrath in our place. Therefore, it is not just the physical death of Christ being remembered today; but instead it is that our loving God would intervene for us to take the punishment we rightly deserve. This is why we celebrate.
But it does not end here because if Jesus had simply died he would not have overcome the eternally destructive power of sin and death. However, Jesus lives! On Sunday, we will celebrate Easter, the day Jesus Christ rose from the grave, alive. Forty days after his resurrection, he ascended into heaven, never again having tasted death, to sit at the right had of God. Scripture tells us that if we turn from our sin and surrender our lives to the authority of Jesus, we too can live with Christ forever. And that is worth celebration!
Will you celebrate with me?
I am more than happy to answer any questions you may have about Good Friday and Easter, or tell you more about Jesus, or share how you can become a follower of Christ. Please feel free to contact me.
*The image used in this post is licensed under a creative commons license: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kyz/ / CC BY 2.0