Today is Good Friday, and I would be remiss if I didn’t remark on the incredible weight of this day. On Good Friday we remember the sacrifice that Jesus made when he died by crucifixion to pay the required blood sacrifice for the sins of the world. We’ve heard that message so many times that maybe we forget to appreciate the enormity. Here are some of the key elements of Easter weekend to ponder and appreciate.
1.Jesus was fully God, and he gave up the majesty of heaven to lead a normal human life: Jesus Christ, the son of God, firstborn of heaven, willingly left his throne on the right hand of his father, put on human form, and left heaven. Heaven! I don’t know about you, but when I get there I’m sure not leaving to come back here if I can help it! He came in the form of a baby, the weakest state of human existence, at a time when the infant mortality rate made adulthood anything but certain. Jesus had physical illnesses in his life, we can safely assume. He went through growth spurts and puberty. He worked with his hands beside his carpenter-step father, Joseph. He loved his friends and endured losses.
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
2. Jesus’s perfect sinless life is an example for us of how to live: From his birth in the stable of Bethlehem until his crucifixion some thirty years later, Jesus never sinned. As a parent and former childcare worker, this is stunning to me. Jesus made it through the terrible twos without lying? Went through his teenage years without stealing or lusting? It’s too late for me and you to achieve perfection, but we can rest easy knowing our high priest, Jesus, knows the temptations of human life and resisted them. He can empathize with us – not mere sympathy but full-on, me too empathy, and he knows how to fight temptation.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
3.Jesus’s undeserved death was a sacrifice he was willing to make for us: As he spent his earthly life in occupied Israel, Jesus was certainly familiar with the slow, torturous death of crucifixion. They didn’t make up this punishment just for him; he and his followers knew Rome’s power and brutality all their lives. By accepting God’s will and his fate, Jesus allowed himself to go through agony because he knew that a blood sacrifice was the only way to pay the penalty for sin and create a bridge between God and mankind.
Matthew 27, Luke 23, and John 19 all tell the story of Jesus’s crucifixion
Isaiah 53:5 (a prophetic statement of who Jesus would be):
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
4.When Jesus’s earthly body died, death did not bring relief from his suffering: Jesus bore the weight of the sins of the world when he died. The deepest pain that Jesus felt during his crucifixion was the separation between himself and God. “Father, why have you forsaken me?” he cried out (Matthew 27:46). Our sins separated Father and son.
The Bible doesn’t say a lot about what happened to Jesus during the three days he was dead, but considering that he was carrying the weight of our sins, and looking at hints left throughout the New Testament, it is generally believed that he went to hell, the logical penalty for sin. So, torture brought death, but death brought no peace. Jesus battled three days and defeated the power of death and hell.
(No single verse really explains this specifically, so I’ll refer you to an article from Christianity Today that sorts through it.)
5.Jesus understood our weak faith and lovingly helps us understand: Jesus defeated death and came back to earth before ascending to heaven so he could tell mankind about his victory. The job was done: sin was paid off, and death was defeated. Jesus could have risen right up to heaven and gone back to his throne, but in his great wisdom, he knew that the disciples and his other followers needed to see with their own eyes. Their faith was shaken by the crucifixion – they had just watched their friend and leader die. It seemed like the dream was over, and they were foundering. Jesus knew that humans are weak like that. When he rose he went to his followers, showed them his scars, hugged their necks, and shared a meal. Then he stuck around for forty days (remember the Lent post? 40 days is significant – he was preparing them for the next part of their journey). He taught and he encouraged, and he prepared the disciples to lead without him before he ascended to heaven.
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
As we end the Lenten season and the festivities of Holy Week, meditate on these truths:
- Jesus was born for the human experience.
- Jesus lived without sin to be our example.
- Jesus was willing to suffer for us.
- Jesus defeated sin, hell, and death.
- Jesus rose and appeared so that we could be part of his victory.
What parts of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection speak to you today? What truths of Holy Week leave you in awe? Share your thoughts in the comments. Happy Easter!