In the account of Jesus’ death on the cross, we are told that darkness came over the land from noon until three. A physical darkness. A darkness that told the people at the time that this was no ordinary death; that they were killing the son of God. Jesus’ life wasn’t just dark in those three hours though was it? Let’s go back through what Jesus had endured before he even got to noon…
Prior to his arrest, we know in the garden of Gethsemane that Jesus was so distressed, his sweat was like drops of blood, and he prayed that if it be possible, he needn’t go through with the crucifixion. We know he was flogged and hit. We know he had to carry a heavy cross on his back, which thanks to the flogging probably represented ribbons of flesh by this point. We know he had nails driven into his hands and feet. We know he hung from the cross by those nailed hands and feet. We cannot imagine the pain.
It wasn’t just physical pain either was it? He was mocked. The people he was dying for, to give them a chance at salvation, were mocking him! They didn’t believe him, after all the preaching and miracles he’d done. He’d never hurt anyone and yet he was being punished like a criminal. Even in the agony on the cross, one of the criminals next to him, who was experiencing the same pain, mocked Jesus, taunted him. His friends and his mother were watching him suffer on the cross and he must have seen the terrible sadness and agony in their own eyes. It’s quite likely he wanted to end their pain as much as his own…
…And the thing was, Jesus could have ended it. He had the power to come down from the cross. He had the power to end the pain and humiliation. But he didn’t. Why? He knew there was a greater plan. He knew the darkness would end. He knew his sacrifice (and the word hardly does justice for what he endured) would bring salvation for so many.
Yes Jesus knew he would be raised, but he still was a human man, and he would have felt all that pain and sorrow, not just in the hours of his arrest and death, but the dread and fear that surely plagued him as he grew up too. He knew for a long time what his purpose on this Earth was, and what kind of death that would entail. He would have had years of knowing it was coming, what agony he would have to experience…but he stayed on that cross, and he didn’t fight back, because he had more love than we can conceive. He knew this was the way to cover the sin of mankind. He knew that if he endured this, those who would follow him could have an eternal life completely free from pain and sadness. He took that on himself and we can never have enough gratitude for that.
When we hear people call today ‘Good Friday’ do we ever stop and think ‘who was it good for?’ The actual experience of Jesus’s death wouldn’t have felt good to Jesus (to put it mildly) but he knew the good he was doing…and it was good for us. He was fulfilling what God wanted, and his death was the culmination of his work on Earth at that point, which was good for Jesus… but overwhelmingly this was all about us. God had a plan to bring us back to Him, and Jesus was the key to that plan. Jesus took the physical and emotional agony, and God took the terrible experience of watching His son die, so that we could gain something huge and incredible…we could gain the chance to know Jesus and God and at the right time, be permitted entry to a kingdom where we can know them and live with them forever, in a world where nothing is painful or sad ever again.
That time isn’t here yet, and it’s been approx 2,000 years since Jesus went through that death for us. Although he rose to life in triumph (see Sunday’s blog) there must still be some suffering now. For Jesus died for us, and yet so many of us don’t believe in him, and worse, so many of us claim to believe in him and want to do what he wants and yet we constantly get it wrong, and let him down. How must Jesus feel every time he sees one of us, who claim to be thankful for this hope of salvation, doing something so contrary to what Jesus asks of us? A phrase that comes to mind is ‘a kick in the teeth’ .
Yet Jesus’ love and kindness didn’t end with his huge sacrifice on the cross. Despite us letting Jesus down again and again, he wants us to be forgiven through him. We can pray to God for forgiveness and use Jesus’s name as our plea…the same Jesus who has already given us so much, and who we let down so often.
God created us and gave us a life, and asked us to do what He wants. We don’t do that. We get it wrong too often to count. So He gave us a second chance, a way through Jesus. A way that involves pain and suffering for both God and Jesus but in their love they endured it. So let’s try not to keep causing them so much pain. Let’s try and start getting things right. No we won’t be perfect, yes we will still let them down, but we can try, and in doing so we can please them and show Jesus that whilst we can’t fully understand the experience he went through on Good Friday, we can appreciate how much courage and strength and love it took…and how we are very, very thankful that he was willing to do this for us.
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