Today, Christians remember the death of Christ. We celebrate it, argue over it, dismiss it, glorify it.
I grew up in a denomination (and culture) that did not place emphasis on religious holidays.
“Christmas? Psh, we celebrate the birth of Jesus every day. Easter? We celebrate Jesus’ resurrection every day. Halloween and Mardi Gras? Those are Satan’s days!”
Where other Christian groups spent time on Good Friday remembering that Jesus was unjustly crucified, we would mention it, but not usually dwell on it. And a sort of spiritual pride crept into me as a kid, this thought that I didn’t need a specific day to remember any event in the life of our Lord or Christian history. You do what you need to do, but I don’t need to dwell in the past; Jesus is coming, and I’m going to be ready!
And what was lost in all this is the realization and wonder of what happened when Jesus came into this world. There was a moment in time when GOD stepped into history. GOD walked among regular people, people who constantly sinned. GOD sacrificed Himself for our wickedness and overcame death!
What does it even mean that Jesus died for our sins? We say it so much in Christian-speak that we gloss over whenever it is said. What really happened on the historical Good Friday?
You and I, we have this uncanny propensity to sin. Even in our attempts at goodness, we do so out of selfish reasons, or pride will creep in. And God hates sin. One of the things that confuses most people about the story of the Garden of Eden is the fact that Adam and Eve (and all of humanity) were cursed and banished because they ate a piece of fruit. What’s the big deal?! It’s just a piece of fruit.
The deal is they disobeyed the God of the Universe. They looked at what God offered and what Satan offered, and chose what was in Satan’s hand. And that is what we do when we sin, we choose what something else has to offer over the goodness of God.
And so the wrath of a holy and just God was coming towards us, and fast.
Jesus Christ, who is very God of very God, lived a perfect, sinless life, even though he was also fully human and tempted and tried just as we are. So “the wages of sin is death” didn’t really apply to Him. But He willingly walked toward the cross every day of His life. He allowed His very creation to torture, ridicule, and falsely accuse Him. And on the cross, he who knew no sin became sin. Wrap your mind around that thought. Jesus took on the sin that condemned you and I, and bore it on Himself. That’s why He sweat blood in the garden, why He cried out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?”
For the first time in His life, Jesus, who had forever been in community with the Father, was separated from the Father. And the wrath of God that was headed toward us was satisfied.
It was more than physical pain. More than mental torture. It was spiritual anguish.
Many since Jesus have died in worse ways. There are stories of people glorifying God and singing hymns as they were repeatedly dipped into vats of boiling oil. How’s that for suffering well? Many martyrs died more “glorifying” deaths than Jesus. But what set Jesus apart was the fact that He bore the weight of sin and that sin was crucified on the cross.
And He did it because He loves us. And more importantly, He did it for His great Name.
Take some time and reflect upon that. Go through the Gospels and read Jesus’ time in the garden after the Last Supper, His betrayal, and His crucifixion. It is incredibly humbling.
But remember, the story doesn’t end there.