How on earth do we summarize the events of this day? Volumes have been written about it. Movies have been directed on the subject. Already today, links to blogs and poems and songs and video clips are spread wide all over Facebook. This is a good thing.
If you’re looking for some good quiet time today, I would recommend checking out this link. It has the entire Passion Week Scripture harmonized and presented for a complete picture of what Jesus has been through to this point and what will occur today, Saturday, and Sunday: .
One of the most popular sermons surrounding today through Sunday is a sermon by an old preacher named S.M. Lockridge. It includes this popular refrain: “It’s Friday…but Sunday’s comin’.” I have no beef with the sermon. Indeed, it is quite moving.
I fear, however, that by looking ahead to Sunday, we sometimes miss the full meaning of Friday.
Most people know the cruel way in which Jesus was beaten within an inch of his life before he ever was pinned to the cross. It is unimaginable how the crucifixion must’ve placed a grim exclamation point on his betrayal, arrest, and death sentence.
He has been awake since staying the night near Bethany on Wednesday evening. Last night he was washing the feet of his best friends. At a prayer service, where he begged the Father to strengthen his resolve, his disciples slumbered while he agonized. John 18:2-12 tell the story of his arrest. All four Gospels give insight into the 3-phased Jewish inquiry he faced, as well as the 3-phased Roman trial he underwent from the wee hours of the night to sunrise. This includes his severe beating, which the Romans hoped would satiate the blood thirsty mob.
It did not.
Pilate, a coward who cared about his own career more than he did what was right, finally sentences Jesus to be crucified. For about six hours Jesus hangs on a cross. Most likely naked, between two criminals, the Creator of the Universe suffers voluntarily, necessarily, and with extreme suffering.
From Luke 23, we know that at about the sixth hour until the ninth hour, darkness washes over the entire scene. In fact, the Scriptures say that “the sun’s light failed.” Creation was buckling under the pressure of it all. While necessary, it was not how things were supposed to be.
In some ways, the understatement of the cross is noteworthy. Jesus’ death is described simply:
“and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19:30)
The simplicity of the words contribute to the popularity of them. This is information we know. Most folks aren’t missing the point. Good Friday is the day when Jesus died on the cross.
I can’t wait for Easter! Sunday’s a’coming!
But hold on just a second. Let’s not turn the page too quickly.
If I may be so bold, I invite you to envision the scene once more.
- The Son of God, firstborn over all creation, The Word. He holds everything together (Genesis 1, John 1, Colossians 1, etc.)
- Descends to earth, wraps himself in skin, lives among us (Philippians 2, John 1:14)
- Dies a cruel, intense, agonizing death
- Is tricked, tried, and treated unfairly
- Surrenders his life into the hands of people who wouldn’t be living unless he said so
- Is beaten within an inch of his life
- Is hung (and by that we of course mean nailed to) a cross between real criminals
- Bled, got thirsty, thought about his mom, called out to his Father, prayed for his persecutors
- Died. No breath, no strength, completely dead
- For good measure, had a spear rammed through his ribs and into his chest by an expert executioner to ensure that he was, in fact, dead
- Unpinned from the cross and wrapped in burial clothes before being laid in a borrowed tomb donated to him by a rich guy
That is the summary. Those are the bullet points most can recite. Our own favorite points of emphasis may vary. But we’ve read that blog post, sung that song, watched that movie. Every five year old in Sunday school can recite that truth:
“Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sin.” It’s true.
Good Friday is about when Jesus took up his cross, fulfilling his mission to serve all of humanity with this selfless, difficult task.
So what are we missing, friends?
What we may be missing is the invitation for us to do the same.
Luke 14:27: “And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”
Jesus didn’t just die on the cross to forgive us. He took up a cross to invite us to do likewise. He didn’t stop teaching us how to live upon his arrest in the Garden on Thursday night. He showed us how to live on Friday–forgiving his tormentors, bringing comfort to humanity by forfeiting his own, praying for his enemies, and dying.
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
This Good Friday, it’s a great thing to meditate on the death of Jesus and how it affects your life. But it doesn’t start and end with forgiveness. The effect it has on our lives should include our own death–to pride, to selfishness, to control.
Yes, Sunday is coming.
But for a new life to mean anything, the old one has to breathe it’s last. So remember this Good Friday that you haven’t been called to simply bow in worship before the cross.
You’ve been called to pick one up, too.
Photo credit to Carole Foret