Good Friday

The Day Jesus Died

The Day Jesus Died

The day that Jesus died—the day we remember as Good Friday—goes down in the history of the world as a day of great suffering, when Jesus Christ endured the weight of sin and shame on our behalf. As we remember what it cost him to reconcile us to himself on this day, it is worth walking through what Jesus endured that day.

EXCRUCIATING PHYSICAL SUFFERING

The Bible records that after being arrested, put on trial, falsely accused, spit on, and beaten, Jesus was handed over to be scourged, or whipped, in accordance with the Roman custom of scourging a condemned criminal before execution. The Roman scourge was a short whip called a flagrum made of a wooden handle connected to a few strips of leather or rope, with pieces of metal knotted along the strips. The condemned person was stripped naked (or nearly so), stretched out and tied down so as to leave the neck, shoulders, back, buttocks, and legs completely exposed, and lashed repeatedly with the scourges.

This flogging was so severe that often the victims were killed, though the goal was to inflict as much pain as possible while keeping the criminal alive for the execution later. Jesus would have emerged from the scourging with deep lacerations, exposed muscle, covered in blood, and half-dead—already fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah that the Suffering Servant would be marred beyond human recognition (Isa. 52:14).

Sin is not just some misdeeds here or there. Sin is an autonomous, enslaving power.

Next Jesus was given a crown of thorns and forced to carry the heavy crossbar that he would soon die on. It would have weighed more than a hundred pounds, and it was laid across his traumatized back to carry to the place of the execution.

At the place of crucifixion, Jesus had large 5- to 7-inch nails driven through his hands and feet to secure him to the cross. Crucifixion victims would often die from asphyxiation because in their weakened state, they would slouch down on the cross, keeping air from reaching the lungs. They would pass in and out of consciousness, pushing themselves back up on the nails to get enough oxygen to stay conscious.

Jesus was on the cross enduring this for roughly six hours, while his family, friends, and enemies stood around watching him as he was utterly exposed, shamed, and tortured. At around 3 p.m. in the afternoon, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Soon after this, he declared, “It is finished,” and called out, again with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” before he breathed his last breath.

Later the Roman soldiers came to ensure that all the crucifixion victims were dead. Jesus was so obviously dead that instead of breaking his legs as they normally did, the guards jabbed a spear into his side, piercing his lungs and heart so that blood and fluid poured out. There was no question that Jesus had truly died.

EMOTIONAL AND SPIRITUAL SUFFERING

As terrible as the physical pain Jesus endured was, the emotional and spiritual suffering must have been even greater. In the lead-up to his crucifixion, he experienced betrayal by his friends, false accusations, mockery, and the shame of being exposed naked in front of his family, disciples, and worst enemies.

And far beyond all this, he endured the full weight of the wrath of God against the sin of the human race. It was the reason he came into the world (1 Tim. 1:15).

Jesus’ cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” is known as the Cry of Dereliction. It shows his intensity of suffering and his radical vulnerability.

Scripture tells us that everyone who does not follow the law of God perfectly is under a curse (Gal. 3:10–14). Sin is the cause of this curse. Sin is not just some misdeeds here or there. Sin is an autonomous, enslaving power. Romans 3:10 tells us, “None is righteous.” There is no distinction because all have sinned.

Christ became cursed for us. In his death, Jesus takes the part of all those who suffer from the curses of others and the curse of their own sin. On the cross, Jesus voluntarily and willingly bowed his head under the penalty for sin and the curse of God. The Father did not do this to the Son; the Son and the Father did this together. God submitted to God’s own wrath.

Fleming Rutledge makes the point that no other form of execution would have reflected the enormity of the dark powers holding us in bondage. Jesus’ situation under the harsh judgment of Roman persecution was like our situation under sin. He was condemned, he was rendered helpless and powerless, he was stripped of his humanity and reduced to the state of a beast, and he was declared unfit to live and deserving of death.

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.

Jesus Christ took our place under the dictatorship of sin. He was condemned by the law and subject to death because only he, the perfectly righteous one, could break the hold of these powers and bring us out of slavery to sin, attributing to us his righteousness in what is called the Great Exchange.

This why Scripture says that God made Christ, who knew no sin, to be sin, so we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). The full weight of our enmity with God fell on him. No wonder he cried from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” His forsaken condition was a direct result of his identification with us.

God the Creator, in the person of his Son, put himself into our place and made himself to be our own sacrifice. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.

Our heavenly Father sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world through him would be saved—that all who believe in him would be delivered from the power of sin and death and become heirs with him of everlasting life.

Good Friday Reading Recommendations

Good Friday Reading Recommendations

Good Friday is a crucial day, not only of the year, but also for world history.

Since Jesus’ death, Christians have proclaimed the cross and resurrection of Jesus to be the decisive turning point for all creation. On Good Friday, millions of Christians set aside our other concerns to meditate upon what this astonishing claim means.

One way to meditate on the crucifixion is to read and reflect on the seven sayings of Jesus from his cross. These sayings have been used in Good Friday services for centuries.

  1. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
  2. “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
  3. “[Jesus] said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’” (John 19:26–27)
  4. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34)
  5. “I thirst.” (John 19:28)
  6. “It is finished.” (John 19:30)
  7. “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46)

 

There have been numerous books written on the theological analysis and the devotional elements of these seven sayings.

HERE ARE A HANDFUL ON THE TOPIC THAT WE RECOMMEND:

The Seven Last Words from the Cross, by Fleming Rutledge

The Seven Sayings of the Saviour on the Cross, by A. W. Pink

Finding Hope in the Last Words of Jesus, by Greg Laurie

Cries from the Cross, by Erwin W. Lutzer

Death on a Friday Afternoon, by Richard John Neuhaus

Cross-Shattered Christ, by Stanley Hauerwas

Thank God It’s Friday, by William H. Willimon

Jesus’ Last Words

Jesus’ Last Words

On Good Friday each year we take some time to meditate on the depth of Jesus’ sacrifice for us in suffering a humiliating, bloody death by crucifixion. It’s a time to dwell on what Jesus suffered for us, in all its pain and intensity, without rushing straight ahead to the good news of Easter, resurrection, and new life.

One of the ways Christians have traditionally meditated on Good Friday is by reading and reflecting on the seven last sayings of Jesus from the cross.

Luke 23:44–46: It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.

This passage is a moving account of Jesus’ dying words. When everything was said and done, Jesus’ work on the cross was all but complete, and his proclamation “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” finished the work. The significance of Jesus’ statement lies in a conversation he had with religious leaders about his role in God’s great plan.

John 10:14–18 records this conversation: I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I make take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.

No one truly took Jesus’ life from him. God had given him a specific task. That task was to lay down his life on behalf of the world (v. 18).

Just as it was Jesus’ God-given task, it was also Jesus’ choice to lay down his life.

THE GRAVITY OF THE TASK

When we read of Jesus before his crucifixion, the gravity of this choice becomes even more apparent. In Luke 22:39–44 Jesus spends an intense evening in prayer, wrestling with the reality of the task ahead of him. Going so far as to ask God to remove the task, to make another way, Jesus ultimately concludes that God’s will would be done.

Thus, when Jesus finally declares in Luke 23:46, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” Jesus is voluntarily laying down his life. No one took it from him—in fact, when the soldiers came by to make sure the men on the crosses would die quickly, it was obvious to them that Jesus was dead already.

Jesus faced the incredible task to lay down his life as a ransom for the world.

This task was traumatic and overwhelming, yet Jesus went to it willingly. After hanging on the cross for three hours, Jesus finally gave up his own life. He was not helpless at the hands of those who crucified him—he alone had the authority to die. In Matthew 20:28, Jesus says, “The Son of Man came . . . to give his life as a ransom for many.” The crucifixion was Jesus’ plan and it was the plan from before creation—he’s the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.

ACKNOWLEDGE THE SACRIFICE

But Jesus’ death is still death. It is still an abomination. Jesus submitted, but this doesn’t mean everything was OK. The author of life was murdered by evil men. But Jesus yielded to the evil and injustice because he knew who was really in charge.

The story doesn’t end here; there is the hope we celebrate at Easter. But for now, let’s take a moment to acknowledge the suffering sacrifice of our Savior. You can give thanks to Jesus for his steadfast love and faithfulness that led him to lay down his life for you as a ransom.

What’s “Good” About Good Friday?

What’s “Good” About Good Friday?

Why do we call Good Friday “good,” when it is a such dark and bleak event commemorating a day of suffering and death for Jesus?

For Christians, Good Friday is a crucial day of the year because it celebrates what we believe to be the most momentous weekend in the history of the world. Ever since Jesus died and was raised, Christians have proclaimed the cross and resurrection of Jesus to be the decisive turning point for all creation. Paul considered it to be “of first importance” that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and was raised to life on the third day, all in accordance with what God had promised all along in the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3-4).

On Good Friday we remember the day Jesus willingly suffered and died by crucifixion as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. It is followed by Easter, the glorious celebration of the day Jesus was raised from the dead, heralding his victory over sin and death and pointing ahead to a future resurrection for all who are united to him by faith (Rom. 6:5).

Still, why call the day of Jesus’ death “Good Friday” instead of “Bad Friday” or something similar? Some Christian traditions do take this approach: in German, for example, the day is called Karfreitag, or “Sorrowful Friday.” In English, in fact, the origin of the term “Good” is debated: some believe it developed from an older name, “God’s Friday.” Regardless of the origin, the name Good Friday is entirely appropriate because the suffering and death of Jesus, as terrible as it was, marked the dramatic culmination of God’s plan to save his people from their sins.

In order for the good news of the gospel to have meaning for us, we first have to understand the bad news of our condition as sinful people under condemnation. The good news of deliverance only makes sense once we see how we are enslaved. This is simply another way of saying that it is important to understand and distinguish the Law and the Gospel as the “two words” of scripture. We need the law first to show us how hopeless our condition is; then the gospel of Jesus’ grace comes and brings us relief and salvation.

In the same way, Good Friday is “good” because as terrible as that day was, it had to happen for us to receive the joy of Easter. The wrath of God against sin had to be poured out on Jesus, the perfect sacrificial substitute, in order for forgiveness and salvation to be poured out on the nations. Without that awful day of suffering, sorrow, and shed blood at the cross, God could not be both “just and the justifier” of those who trust in Jesus (Rom. 3:26). Paradoxically, the day that seemed to be the greatest triumph of evil was actually the deathblow in God’s gloriously good plan to redeem the world from bondage.

The cross is where we see the convergence of great suffering and God’s forgiveness. Psalm 85:10 sings of a day when “righteousness and peace” will “kiss each other.” The cross of Jesus is where that occurred, where God’s demands, his righteousness, coincided with his mercy. We receive divine forgiveness, mercy, and peace because Jesus willingly took our divine punishment, the result of God’s righteousness against sin. “For the joy set before him” (Heb. 12:2) Jesus endured the cross on Good Friday, knowing it led to his resurrection, our salvation, and the beginning of God’s reign of righteousness and peace.

Good Friday marks the day when wrath and mercy met at the cross. That’s why Good Friday is so dark and so Good.