On Good Friday, we commemorate the day that our Savior Jesus was crucified. In the ultimate sign of love, Jesus laid his life down so that we may be saved. He suffered more than I can fully comprehend. Still, I’ve heard some people say that Jesus’ death was not anything really special or unique. Lots of people have been killed for various causes. Lots of people have been crucified. Heck, even when Jesus was crucified, two other men were crucified with him! Death by crucifixion could last from several hours to even several days, but Jesus was only on the cross for a few hours. At times I’ve even caught myself thinking that Jesus’ death was not anything spectacular. But in reality, several things differentiate his death from the deaths of other martyrs and victims of crucifixion.
The most obvious difference is of course the fact that Jesus was innocent of all crimes. He was perfect and sinless. Even one of the men crucified with Jesus recognized this fact. None of us can say the same. Romans 3:23 says “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Even the saints and the people we honor for their contributions to society have fallen short. We all deserve to die. Romans 6:23 states “ For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Jesus was sinless and yet he paid the price that we should have had to pay.
Obviously the physical suffering of Jesus was extreme. He was brutally whipped, forced to carry a rugged (and heavy) cross through the streets, had thorns pushed into his head and finally nailed and lifted up on a cross. Crucifixion is one of the most excruciating means of execution. Still, others have been whipped and crucified throughout history. While we remember the physical suffering that Jesus experienced, we must also remember the emotional pain he experienced before and during his crucifixion.
While Jesus was human and experienced physical torture, he was also God and knew things that others did not. While Jesus physical torture was perhaps not exceptionally long in duration, the emotional pain he experienced before the day he was crucified was long and excruciating. Imagine knowing the exact way you will die. Imagine having to continue to work despite knowing the pain you will be inflicted with in the near future. Imagine walking into the city knowing that later that week you will be betrayed by your friend, beaten, crucified, and abandoned by many of those you love. If these thoughts don’t churn your stomach, I’m not sure what will. If I knew these things, I’d probably be crippled with fear and unable to continue doing anything. Yet Jesus continued to teach, serve, and love people, even the one he knew would betray him. As the hour of his crucifixion drew nearer, we see that Jesus was distraught by what was coming. In Mark 14:34, Jesus says to his disciples, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” Luke 22:44 says “And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like drops of blood, falling down to the ground.” Even though Jesus knew what must be done and that he would live again, he was still very troubled. He even asked that this awful cup of suffering awaiting him would be taken away.
While on the cross, as life slowly left his human body, Jesus was thinking of each of us. He knew that many would reject him even after he paid the price of our sins. He knew that sin would still fill the world for years, centuries, and beyond. He knew things far beyond our comprehension. If you watch the news, you hear of horrible things going on all over the world. There are bombings, shootings, stabbings…the list goes on and on. It can make us feel sick. Even with the technology we have now and all the media, we still only know a small fraction of the pain and suffering in this world. God knows all that has happened, all that is happening, all that will happen. I can’t even imagine the pain that God must feel seeing the suffering that people, his own creation, has inflicted on themselves and each other.
Despite all the physical and emotional pain, Jesus still laid down his life for us. His love is beyond human comprehension. So as we mark another Good Friday today, let us remember how much our savior loved us and how much he went through so that we could have a relationship with God. Let us also remember that the cross is not the ending though. The cross is nothing without the resurrection but that is another blog post.