Today’s reading is Luke 23:26-49 (ESV):
26 And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. 27 And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. 28 But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30 Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31 For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. 35 And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!”36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
The Death of Jesus
44 It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 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. 47 Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!” 48 And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. 49 And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things.
There is no story written in the Christian Bible, or perhaps written in any other book for that matter, that is known as well as the story of the Crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. By typing this piece I am most likely just throwing more words into the endless abyss of things already said about the cross. Maybe that’s a good thing. If God himself died, how could we ever cease to find new things to say about such an event?
Yet for all that’s said about the cross and this Friday that we call Good, we Christians have a hard time dwelling on what Friday means. We love the forgiveness and deliverance that Friday purchased and we love celebrating Easter morning. God defeated death. That’s something to be happy about. But if we skip to Sunday, we cheapen Friday.
The weight of Friday is dependent on our perception of who Jesus is. If he is just a man who “laid down his life for his friends,” then he is someone to be admired and respected. His death is sad, but one of many such deaths in the brutality of the world we live in. But the Christian can’t perceive his death in this way. When the writer of the book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is “the exact imprint of God’s nature,” he is telling us that Jesus is God. He is telling us to look to Jesus if we want to see what God is like. If we only see the Sunday Jesus who conquered death, we miss the complete picture. Jesus died. That means God himself was crucified. God is not just the victorious Sunday God. He is the beaten and murdered Friday God. This tale of the death of Jesus goes from being one of a life cut short to an absolute travesty that words cannot quite explain.
Yes, we know that joy is awaiting us on Sunday morning. But Friday happened. So did Saturday. Good Friday offers for us a time to pause and repent. A time to acknowledge the sin in our lives and the hurt in our world. A time to pray and a time to weep. A time to walk silently out of the church, pondering what it means to say that God was crucified.
Like so many, I long to cry Hosanna to the conquering king. I want to praise the Sunday God. But for today, I will be thankful that I have a God who suffered. I will hold my tongue, and I will somberly reflect on the God of Friday.
Luke Roberts ’16 is a Religion and Government concentrator in Pforzheimer House.