“But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5
I’m not sure there is a greater day on the calendar for believers in Jesus Christ than Easter Sunday. Our entire faith points towards the remembrance of this day and its significance. Without the resurrection, you and I would be lost in a world of sin, without the hope of glory. Had Christ not conquered sin and death, we would not have life. Oh, to see the dawn of that glorious day when Jesus rose from the dead! I can only imagine that the sun shone brighter as its Creator emerged from the tomb. I can only imagine that the birds sang louder their morning anthem to the King. I am so thankful that I live on this side of the cross. But you can’t have Sunday without Friday. You can’t have the resurrection without the cross.
As Easter approaches this year, I’ve spent some time reading through the stories in the gospels that detail the events of Holy Week. Most of us know the story of Good Friday. Jesus suffered and died. He bore the burden of the cross in our place and carried our shame. His sacrifice satisfied the wrath of God that we deserved, and He paved the way for salvation. Good Friday…and what a good Friday it was. The events, however, were gruesome. The details are difficult to stomach. The reality of it is hard to fathom.
I can remember watching The Passion of the Christ for the first time. I wept through most of it. I couldn’t help but think, “That is the death that I deserve. My sins put Him on that cross.” Watching a representation of what had happened to Jesus nearly put me over the edge. I could barely stomach it. The relentless beating, scourging, mocking, and humiliating of my Savior. I honestly can’t imagine how horrific it must have been to witness first hand. Historical accounts suggest that the flogging alone was intended as a death sentence. A torturous whip was used to mutilate the flesh of Jesus prior to Him facing the excruciating pain and torture of the cross. Tied to the end of each piece of leather on this whip were broken pieces of glass, wood, stones, broken bone…anything that would wound, tear, and shred flesh. The bleeding that followed this torture alone could have killed a man, but the Passion had only just begun. By this point, Jesus had been betrayed by one of His own disciples, denied by another three times, spit on, slapped, accused, mocked. And all of this hatred was directed at the Son of God, the only one without sin, the only one undeserving of it all. From the flogging, a crown of thorns was pressed down deep into His skull, a sign intended for further mockery and shame to this “King of the Jews”. Jesus was then forced to carry His own cross to the place of His crucifixion. The weight of this cross beam would have weighed between 75-125 pounds and would have been far too much for Him to bear, especially in His frail condition. The flesh on His back was beyond marred, perhaps exposing His ribs and organs. The wood beam rubbing against His beaten back would have only escalated His excruciating pain. As unimaginable as the physical pain must have been, Jesus, the Savior of the World, was being rejected by His own people, the very ones for whom He had come to save. The same ones that had exalted Him just days earlier as He rode in on a donkey shouting “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” the ones He had taught and healed and loved. These same ones were screaming, “Crucify Him!” As they drove the nails through His hands and His feet and lifted Him up on that cross, the weight of the sin of the world rested upon our Savior. Beaten beyond recognition, naked and humiliated beyond understanding, and now even the Father had to look away from His own Son. Your sin, my sin weighed upon His shoulders that day. Jesus hung there for hours as the people jeered and taunted Him. Struggling for each breath, crucifixion is said to kill its victims by suffocation. Dehydrated, weak, suffering from loss of blood, and utterly shamed, Christ Jesus hung on that cross in our place. In the midst of his agony, He cries out on behalf of His accusers, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” By His wounds, we are healed. And in His dying breath, He proclaims in victory, “It is finished.”
You cannot have Resurrection Sunday without Good Friday. You cannot have the celebration without the painful reality of the cross. It was my sin that nailed Him there. It was your sin that weighed upon Him. The only sacrifice fitting to cover all sin was the only perfect sacrifice, Jesus Christ. God took sin seriously that day, and He still does. Do you? Do you understand the weight of Good Friday? Do you know why it’s good? Jesus in my place – that’s the message of the cross. You and I deserve that death, but Christ took it for us. You and I have fallen short because of our sin, yet Christ took the blame and bore the wrath of God in our place. There is no greater love. He gave His life. Will you give Him yours?
The simple truth is that the cross should bring every last one of us to our knees in immediate repentance. The sad and unfortunate reality is that it does not. Lord, I ask in your name that today many will come to saving faith in you, Jesus Christ. I ask that you will break down generations of pride that have kept so many from bowing their knees to a Holy God. Cause the reality of Friday to soften hearts, to tear down walls, and to change lives for your glory. Jesus, you went to the cross for us, in our place. You died an unimaginable death that we deserved so that we could live an abundant life with you. Awaken hearts to your truth. Stir up in this generation a passion for your name. May every eye see, every ear hear, and every heart know of the power of the cross!
In Jesus’ name