“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
Every Christian is familiar with the details of the crucifixion. After all, it is one of the elements upon which the Christian faith is founded. Christ died for our sins. But we might do well to reexamine this incredible scene even more closely to gain a greater understanding of God’s wonderful and majestic plan to bring about our salvation.
First, let’s notice the sign Roman governor Pontius Pilate put at the top of the cross. This sign was placed there to state the criminal’s name and the crime for which he was being executed. Pilate’s sign read, “Jesus of Nazareth, The King of the Jews”. The Jewish leaders petitioned a change! Make it say, “He claimed to be King of the Jews”.
Pilate’s answer? “What I have written, I have written.” Is it possible that to Pilate Jesus was the King of the Jews? Did Pilate believe that of all the Jews he had ever met, Jesus was the greatest? Was Jesus that impressive, even to a pagan ruler? Something to consider.
Instead of seeing Friday as just another “day off”, let’s take some time to ponder all that Jesus’ death and resurrection mean to us.
Second, let’s consider Jesus’ commission to John and Mary from the cross. Jesus handed the responsibility for Mary’s care over to John, the apostle He loved. Even from the cross, Jesus’ thoughts were centered on others. He was a thoughtful and dutiful son who wanted to honor his mother, even while suffering horribly.
However, Jesus understood that his Deity was not because of his mother, but because of his Father in Heaven. In no way was Jesus exalting Mary to a position of Deity. God alone is worthy to be praised and worshiped and it is always a mistake to attribute deity to any human being. In our study of Acts, we saw both Peter and Paul refuse worship. “We are only men—just like you!” A huge group of people in the world believe Peter to be the first “Papa” of the church. Yet, anyone who tried to bow down to him was quickly rebuked and we have no record of anyone ever kissing his ring (if he wore one).
Jesus made it clear that, although his earthly family was important to him, his Bride—the church—was most important. He considered his true family to be those who had become his brothers and sisters by faith.
Third, let’s think about Jesus’ statement from the cross when he said, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Is there any statement that better emphasizes the humanity of Jesus and helps us to better identify with him? Jesus is echoing the words of his David. But have we not also echoed those words? Who among us has not wondered why God seems so far away when we are suffering? And yet, God is always with us. He will never leave us nor forsake us. This statement from Jesus was followed moments later by his victory cry, “Tetelestai! It is finished! Mission accomplished, Father!”
Finally, let us note that all three synoptic gospels tell us that at the moment Jesus drew his last breath, the curtain of the Temple was ripped in two, from top to bottom. Matthew and Luke tell us that some of the graves gave up their dead! Some scholars say this didn’t really happen but is instead metaphorical. I take it more literally. If Matthew, Mark, and Luke say it happened, well … I believe it happened.
What we know for sure is that the Temple curtain covered the Holy of Holies—the dwelling place of God. Only the High Priest could go behind that curtain and he could only go once a year. The rending of that veil signified that Jesus—the new High Priest—had opened up a new and better way to approach God. Because of our faith in the new High Priest, we can boldly and confidently bring our petitions to the Father in heaven.
Christ’s death and resurrection also meant that God’s people were no longer held captive by their fear of death. The grave is no longer victorious! The barrier of sin that stood between us and God has been torn down by the blood of Jesus Christ. And now, all who trust Jesus for their salvation are awarded with resurrection from the grave and eternal life through him.
These are just a few of what we might call “tertiary” events surrounding Jesus’ last day on earth as a human being.
Here’s my point with all of this: instead of seeing Friday as just another “day off” from work or school, let’s take some time to ponder all that Jesus’ death and resurrection mean to us as Christians.
- Jesus is our King!
- We are now Children of God, saints in the Kingdom of God, and co-heirs with Christ.
- Like us, Jesus also wondered why God seemed so far away while he suffered.
- Yet, as God, he could shout triumphantly, “Father, we did it! It is finished!”
- His shed blood covers our sins and makes it possible for us to approach our Creator with confidence and without cessation.
- His resurrection means that for Death, the fat lady is singing.
It was no typical Friday. It was a horrible Friday. And yet, it was also the greatest Friday in the history of the world.