Good Friday is named ironically. For the day that Jesus died was filled with grief, fear and hopelessness for those who knew and loved him. We hear that Jesus was beaten, tortured, betrayed, stripped, and mocked. This morning we remember that he walked the Via Dolorosa carrying a cross upon his back, bleeding and in pain. He was so weakened from the beatings of the soldiers that he needed help to carry this heavy load. As he was nailed to the cross, we imagined he cried out in pain, from his flesh and blood being torn apart.
As he hung on the cross from noon until 3 in the afternoon, those who had come to watch jeered at him saying "save yourself." A sign above him read "King of the Jews," so they taunted him saying "He saved others, but he can't save himself. Let him come down from the cross and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him for he said, 'I am the Son of God.'"(Matthew 27:42-43).
And I wonder...
What if Jesus had been saved in that moment: healed and released from the cross? Wouldn't that have been just as effective and powerful instead of allowing him to die? Wouldn't those gathered who jeered and doubted him, have believed as they witnessed God's saving him from death? After all, we wonder, how could a God of such great love, allow Jesus to suffer this way? Wouldn't God's true nature been more deeply revealed by such a miraculous act?
And then I remember...
Jesus was fully human. And the words from the cross "forgive them for they know not what they do," would have much less meaning if Jesus knew this suffering was just a show. Those words that have been so powerful for all of us, knowing we are forgiven for our sins as Jesus understood them completely. Knowing that this act of dying on a cross was not done from vengeance of an angry God that demanded a penance, but rather out of great love to die on our behalf for our sins. Jesus' act is the death of sin.
The death of Jesus on the cross is powerful because it is a death on our behalf. It is the assurance of how we are not asked to live in the guilt and death and pain of sin, but rather are freed from that into a new life. By being fully human and fully divine, Jesus was able to do this for us, out of great love. No one else could have done this for you.
This Good Friday, may you experience that good news.