So then Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him. And the soldiers twisted a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe. Then they said,”Hail, King of the Jews!” And they struck Him with their hands…
Then Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, “Behold the Man!”
Therefore, when the chief priests and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, “Crucify Him, crucify him!”
…they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!”
John 19:1-3, 5-6, 15
The day when grown men’s eyes water and women wail.
The day that gives every man breath yet chokes us in the grip of solemn remembrance, agony, and death. Since I was a young child, I will honestly say that I have shown an unhealthy partiality towards the Friday before Easter Sunday.
I dreaded Good Friday.
Every year my heart writhes and struggles intolerably in the furious, bubbling cauldron of sorrow and death and sin.
A tradition that has lasted for a long time in my family is Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. We watch it every year during either Good Friday or the Saturday that Jesus was in the grave. Its explicit and accurate details of Roman crucifixion and Biblical truths is incredible, and every year I have to watch it with a box of tissues on command.
Once more, my heart writhes and struggles intolerably in that furious, bubbling cauldron of sorrow and death and sin.
Until this year.
It was naught but a few days ago, as I was bracing for my epic clash with Good Friday, that I sat up one night thinking. What I am about to say you might possibly think ridiculous, ludicrous, stupid. Think what you will, and say what you will, but I believe it, and that is what matters.
Anyway, as I was saying, I sat up one night thinking. I always think of Good Friday as a mountainous, terrible hump before sliding down into a heap of goodness: Easter. I sat thinking of how that hump was only a few days away. I decided that, since everyone else was asleep, I could talk to the One who was not: Jesus. I smiled and began my complaint. “Why do we have to remember Your death every year, Lord, when we know You have already conquered it? Why do we have to shed tears and pray prayers and remember sorrowful things? Why can we not simply celebrate the Good News that You are alive and offer us eternal life and salvation and everything?” I did not have to wait long for His answer. It was blown into my head and soul, and my heart skipped a beat then just like it always does whenever I get an answer. “If there was no awful torture on Friday, there would be no miracle or joy on Sunday.”
Shame flooded my mind and I wanted to cry.
I stared into the wall and thought.
Thought even more.
How selfish I had been. Neglecting to acknowledge pain and torture that I myself never even felt. The love that compelled the God who made me to willingly choose the path of mockery, beating, flogging, crucifixion, and ultimately, death.
I have heard that the whips the Romans used when flogging a criminal had animal bone and glass in-bedded in the cords of rope. The flogging exposed the bones in Jesus’ back and made Him bleed exorbitantly. Flogging was a death sentence to all criminals, but Jesus did not die when He was flogged.
I have been told that the cross Jesus carried halfway to Golgotha was 50-100 lbs, and he struggled to carry it on His raw, bleeding, and weak back.
I have listened to men say that when nailed to the cross, the nails passed through Jesus’s wrists and would have burst the Median nerve, which would have caused excruciating, burning pain in both of His hands. His legs would have been angled forty-five degrees and his feet nailed one atop the other. Due to this position, His ribs were angled up, causing unthinkable pain just to take a breath.
And He hung there, just like that, for six hours.
Such love I do not understand. Such love is so deep and infinite that our human minds will never understand.
Sometimes I wonder if He saw my face. I wonder if He thought of me up there on that cross. As the blood fell in streams from his gushing wounds, perhaps He thought of Emily. Perhaps he thought of you. When the temptation to end it all in the blink of an eye filled His tormented, wracked body, He pressed on because of us. “No, I must do it for her! I must do it for him!” You fill in the blank.
Such love is incredible, unimaginable, indescribable. I can not understand it. When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane a few hours before He was arrested, He prayed:
And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
– Luke 22:41-44
Jesus, knowing the torment, the betrayal, the humiliation and death He would face, willingly walked into it anyway. He was in so much pain even before the hour had come that he began to sweat blood! But He did it nevertheless. Why? Because He loves me, and He loves you.
Now when one sits back and thinks about that, it is incomprehensible. Then when you combine that with the fact that He never stayed dead, it is even more amazing!
That is why today, on this Good Friday, it was the best Good Friday. I wept in church, sang with tears on my face, and, though felt so strange, I was in anguish and felt the peace of Christ’s Great Love.
This Easter season, I encourage you to reflect upon the sacrifice Christ made on Good Friday. It makes it all the more joyful when you wake up on Sunday, exuberance fills your heart, and you remember that Christ is risen!
“‘It means,’ said Aslan, ‘that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards…”
– C.S. Lewis, from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe