Good Friday, the Friday of Holy Week, puts to us this question once again: Who do you say Jesus is?
Late Thursday night in Gethsemane, Jesus was arrested—betrayed by one of His own disciples and abandoned by His others. The Chief Priests and the Sanhedrin called for secret trials in the dead of night, and the verdict was handed down that Jesus would be crucified (Mark 14:53-65). This was an official order the Roman Prefect, Pontius Pilate, would have to give. And reluctantly, on Friday morning, he did (Mark 15:1-15).
After a severe beating, Jesus was nailed to a cross where He would remain for six hours until dead (Matthew 27:27-44).
He was crucified between two thieves. As He hung there, weak, bloody, and exposed, people from the crowd taunted and mocked Him—scoffing that if He really was the Son of God, then why didn’t He come down from the Cross (Matthew 27:40)? They could not begin to fathom the irony of their logic. That cross was the reason the Son of God had come, and His place as our atoning sacrifice was one only He could occupy. It was Jesus’ presence on the cross, not His ability to come down from it, that would prove His divinity. They knew not what they did.
One of the thieves started in with contemptuous words of his own, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself. Save us!” But the gravity of the scene settled on the other thief as he watched Jesus take the brutality of His captors to God in the form of a prayer for mercy. The thief also watched Jesus give His own grieving mother to His treasured friend. Seeing the grace by which Jesus received this death, the second thief broke into sobs, saying to Him, “Forgive me. I am here for the wrongs I have done, but You have done nothing. Please, remember me when You pass from this place into Your waiting kingdom” (Luke 23:39-43, my paraphrase).
At around 3:00pm, Jesus died (Luke 23:44-46).
Never before or since has more been lost and gained at the same time as at Jesus’ crucifixion. The world gained the atoning sacrifice of Christ. But for many of those present, their hearts broke because the One they believed to be the Savior of the world was dying at the hands of Rome. They couldn’t stop it, and they didn’t yet realize—He was dying for them. Many had put their hope in Jesus, and though He had told them earlier that He would suffer many things and rise three days later (Mark 8:31), how could they possibly have known this was what He meant?
The reactions of the condemned men crucified on either side of Jesus and those gathered at the foot of the cross tell the story of every man and woman when it comes to what we make of Christ’s crucifixion. The cross of Jesus confronts us all with the question of the true identity of Jesus Christ. Times of desperation can harden us or soften us, but the question of Easter never goes away: Who do you say that Jesus is?
written by Russ Ramsey
adapted from Behold the King of Glory