It's an incredibly important day today. Today is Good Friday. Today is a day to commemorate the most significant day in all of history. It is the day on which all time is measured. Everything in history happened either before (B.C.) or after (A.D.) the events that happened on the very first Good Friday.
My heart is full of reflection as I think about this most significant day. I wonder when and who began to call it "Good Friday," because I am pretty certain the original day felt anything but good. How must it have felt for the disciples to see Jesus suffer? I know He warned them, tried to prepare them, but I cannot begin to imagine that they actually comprehended what would happen on this day. I wonder what did they think, how did they cope?
What of Simon of Cyrene? A bystander, suddenly pulled into the center of the moment in which all time turns. What must he have thought dragging the cross of this brutalized man down the street. What did he think as he dragged Jesus' cross behind him? Were his thoughts filled with self, of the burden forced upon him, or was he overwhelmed with some emotion at what he must have witnessed, following the back that had been torn to shreds by the cat of nine tails. When they arrived at Calvary and Jesus was hung on the cross, what did Simon do, did he stay, did he go?
Peter, what were his thoughts? He had promised never to deny Christ, and yet he had, just as the Lord told him he would. It was the last thing he had done for the Lord, he had failed Him, and now Jesus was dying, not just dying, but dying a horrible and brutal death. How did Pater's heart ache?
The disciples were his closest friends, what of John? The night before had laid his head against Jesus' chest. His friend, so intimate, now brutalized. What did he think as he stood beside the women, including Jesus' own mother?
And what of Mary, His mother? I think of painful times, watching my children suffer, and how my heart would ache. What was it like for Mary to watch her son be brutally murdered? How did she stand up beneath the heartbreak that surely she felt.
What of the thieves who hung on the cross? The mocker, there are so many like him these days. He laughed at Jesus, ridiculed Him, His power, His position, He did not believe any of it, like so many today. And the other thief, who as he hung on the cross had the scales fall from his eyes. He looked upon Jesus and saw the truth. His eyes were opened. I know he hung painfully on a cross of his own, but when Jesus said the words to him, "Today you will be with Me in paradise," was his heart flooded with peace? Did hope overwhelm him? Two men, looking at this Jesus from very similar perspectives and coming to very different conclusions. That too continues on today.
What of the men who sentenced Him to this brutal end? Were they delighting in it? Did they relish every moment of it? Were they so pleased with their "accomplishment" that they could disregard the brutality? Did it turn their stomachs even for a moment as they whipped him. The one who who forced the crown of thorns into His brow. Was there pleasure as he strained the muscles in his arms to dig the thorns more deeply into the flesh on His face?
These are just some of the things I wonder. I want to watch the Passion of the Christ some time this weekend. Much of it I will watch with my eyes covered, burying my face in a pillow. It's hard for me to watch the re-creation of the crucifixion. The bloodshed, the cruelty, it assaults my senses. It makes me wonder how a crowd of people were able to stand there and watch the real thing. I can only imagine the horror that it was for those who loved Jesus, knew Him, had walked with Him. They must have felt as though part of them died too.
I imagine there were so many selfish thoughts at the foot of the cross, both from His followers and His haters. So many of His followers, even the apostles, maybe especially the apostles, must have been asking themselves, "What now?" They had committed the last 3 years of their lives to this, to Him, and this is what it had come to? Surely they must have asked themselves, in doubt, what they had given their time to, it's human nature. Perhaps a Roman soldier stood there in irritation even, over the crowd, the dark weather, the inconvenience of the day.
What of the witnesses? What kind of fear came upon them when the earth began to shake? Did they make the connection when they discovered that the veil in the temple had been torn, from top to bottom. I know a centurion cried out, "Surely this man was the Son of God." He had heard Jesus cry out to the Father to forgive the very people who'd done this to Him. What did the centurion think when just before Jesus died, he heard Him commit His spirit to the Father. What thought went through his mind in that one moment of silence?
Honestly, I can only wonder. I cannot begin to know or comprehend what any of these people might have been thinking, feeling or experiencing. Their responses and reactions in this lifetime will be nothing more than question and conjecture for me. I honestly do not know.
But there is something I do know. I know exactly what Jesus was thinking, I do not know that I can begin to comprehend what He was feeling and experiencing, but the thought of God, that I at least can begin to comprehend.
He was thinking about me. His thoughts were filled with the importance to Him of making a sway to reconcile me to the Father. He knew all the times I would fail, all the wounds I would inflict, hurts and harms I would put upon others. And His heart broke for me, because He knew how the gap between us would continue to grow more and more wide with every passing day. He knew how I would struggle with selfish thoughts, and at times even evil intentions. I would have lust and greed, I would want to put myself on the throne of my life, even at the expense of others. And with each word, each thought, each action, I would widen the wedge between us. He thought of me, and His heart broke, because He knew there would never be anything I could do to overcome it. I myself would make the bricks and build the wall that would keep me outside of heaven for all eternity.
It actually wasn't just me He thought these things about, it was you too, and Peter and John and Mary, of the centurion, the roman soldier, even both of the thieves He hung between. He thought it about the man who swung the cat of nine tails, and the man who pressed down on the crown. But those are thoughts for each one to ponder for himself. For me, my focus is on the fact that Jesus was thinking of me. He looked at me, and He looked at the gap I created and He knew I could never fix it. No matter how hard I might try to live a "good life" and do the "right things," it would never be enough. I would shock myself with my selfishness, I would astound myself with my own sin, I would miss far more than I would realize and every day I would fall further from eternity with the Lord.
He thought of these things and decided them unacceptable. The night before He was crucified as He prayed to the Father, He asked Him if there was any other way. In His humanness, He feared the pain He would suffer, and He asked, but the Father clearly said "no." No, there was no other way, the blood offering required to atone for my sin, that it would be "finished" could only be accomplished through his suffering. "Once and for all" the Bible says, but the importance of this truth behind it is better stated, "once and for me." You ought to consider for yourself also, "once and for you." The Father clearly said it was the only way, and Jesus said "yes" because it was worth it to Him.
This video I share is graphic. It's only an excerpt from the movie The Passion of the Christ, and it isn't real, it's only Hollywood's best attempt to interpret what happened that Good Friday. But I share it because I am struck by the contrast between the harshness and brutality with what my eyes see against the sweetness of the simple truth my ears hear playing in the background.
Oh Lord, I'm so sorry but thank You. Thank You that you looked upon my situation, my condition, my sentence and took pity on me. Thank You that you looked at the great divide and put yourself upon the cross and built me a bridge across it. Thank You for the reconciliation You made through Your blood and sacrifice. Thank You for Your amazing grace, the grace that saved a wretch like me.
That Friday must not have seemed good at all. They did not know what we know now. They did not know that Sunday was coming. But Sunday did indeed come so I will forever "thank God" for that Friday. It was indeed the best Friday ever.