Crucifixion Day. People know this day as Good Friday, the day on which Jesus Christ was nailed to a cross. The Good Friday designation may be a better slogan, less jarring to the public perception, I suppose, but it should go without saying, this day was anything but good for its central figure, Jesus Christ.
As a specific point in history, Good Friday was unquestionably a day like none other. It was, in fact, decidedly worse than Alexander’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Way more devastating than the damage done by rampaging hordes of the Middle Ages or the raping, pillaging conquerors of Genghis Khan‘s day. (No, my intent is not to make light of Good Friday, but rather to acknowledge, in a world where terrible, horrible, awful things happen every single day, the Crucifixion event belongs in a category all its own.)
The Creator of all mankind didn’t design the world with Death. Adam and Eve were created to enjoy and thrive in a perfect garden. They were given a luxurious pristine world, but the couple chose to reject God’s provision. By rejecting God (believing instead the lies of a serpent), their act of rebellion (sin) brought Death. From that moment, everything on the planet − everything − was forever tainted by Death’s decay.
Yet, even before the two humans were expelled from Eden, God himself provided a way of escape: blood was shed to clothe the pair. Blood, the only means for reconciling man to God, the proof and promise from God that for a now-broken world, all was not lost.
Fast-forward the narrative to Holy Week. Jesus has already demonstrated the power to call a man, Lazarus, out from the grave! Lazarus had been in the grave four days; when Jesus instructed the tomb be opened, Martha balked. She reminded Jesus there’d be a stench after four days of decay.
The Jews in his company recalled an earlier miracle when Jesus healed a blind man, and they were quick to suggest Jesus might have kept Lazarus from dying … if only he’d been there. The multitudes following Jesus had witnessed the earlier healing and were amazed by the miracles. (In fact, many who continued to follow Jesus into Jerusalem were just as interested in seeing Lazarus, knowing he was the man Jesus had raised from the dead!)
Mary echoed the crowd’s lament: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
But nobody (not Mary, not Martha, not the disciples in his company, not even the multitudes who witnessed other miracles) ever supposed Jesus would do what he did, saying “… with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth.'”
Because nobody − NOBODY! − had yet understood Jesus, the one and only son of God, held power over the grave. This was beyond their understanding … this was what C. S. Lewis aptly described as “the deeper magic from before the dawn of time.” (From chapter fifteen, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.)
The blood shed back in Eden foreshadowed the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ at the Crucifixion. Because the sin of Adam (and Eve) was perpetrated by humans, animal sacrifice was never an effective (once-for-all) solution. Human sin called for human amends. Adam couldn’t volunteer to die for Eve’s sins … when he died, it was the just punishment for his sins. Nor could a sacrificial act by Eve cover Adam’s sins … she had her own sins, and the penalty for them was Death.
A Human, one sinless (perfect) human, could die for all − which is exactly what happened on the day of the Crucifixion. God became man in the person of Jesus Christ. He lived a perfect life (being “tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin”) and he suffered an ignominious death on the Cross … not because Jesus sinned but rather to pay the penalty of my sin!
When my kids were younger, they’d have exclaimed, That’s not fair! Why should Jesus die for me (or them)? And they’re right … it wasn’t fair, but sin required payment. Jesus paid the penalty in my place.
Consider this though: it wouldn’t have meant anything at all for Jesus to simply die, just another poor sap in the long line of human history who died an inglorious Death. Three men were crucified that day. All three of them were buried but the bodies of two men remained in their pauper’s graves.
Jesus did not remain in the grave!
Jesus had to go t-h-r-o-u-g-h Death … dying wasn’t enough! Recall that memorable scene from Braveheart when William Wallace says “All men die but not all men really live.” In his humanity, Jesus did what all men do: he died. In his deity, Jesus did what no man can do: he defeated Death!
In my earlier post, A Life On Loan, I recounted the ultimate sacrifice of one soldier (Sgt. Daniel Ferguson) to spare the lives of his imperiled associates. The Crucifixion demonstrates the greatest love, Jesus laying down his life for all.
In yesterday’s post, I noted “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ was (and continues to be) a transformative event.” Allow me to restate my observation with added emphasis: The Resurrection of Jesus Christ was (and is) THE singular, most transformative event in human history.
Death has been vanquished, once-for-all! The horrific tragedy of Crucifixion Day made Resurrection Day possible. Why would anyone knowingly choose to die for their own sins when Jesus Christ, the perfect Lamb of God, has already paid the penalty in his flesh?