Estimated reading time: 5 minutes:-)
“Above his head they placed the written charge against him: This is Jesus, the king of the Jews.” ~ Matthew 27:37.
Jesus is so radical.
Yesterday, I did a little Bible study and I’d like to share some thoughts. Since yesterday was Good Friday, I focused on the Matthew account of the crucifixion story, and God opened my eyes to some new things, so I wanted to share:-)
I think it’s easy to miss Easter.
Let me explain: life is so chaotic and busy, it’s hard exerting energy to truly understand what Jesus went through every year. I know that seems like a selfish confession, but I know we’ve all, as selfish people, felt the same. It seems to go so fast. On Good Friday, there is sadness and devastation. Then, on Sunday, the church is rejoicing! It’s quite the hard turnaround when you already know the end of the story.
I guess what I’m saying is that it’s hard to get emotionally invested on Good Friday when we already know Jesus defeated the grave and rose again. It’s hard to truly feel the sorrow and heartbreak and tragedy when we know what’s coming. And it takes a lot of energy to try.
But something I saw recently helped me gain perspective on the tragedy of Good Friday:
“Setting Barabbas free makes no sense until you realize, Barabbas is me.” (from a boutique I follow, Salt & Gold Collection:).
I think we try to put ourselves in Jesus’s place when we read the crucifixion story, and that’s why we fall short when we try to understand the magnitude of what Jesus did. It’s frustrating. I’ve read the crucifixion story and tried to cry, tried to fall to my knees, but because I don’t understand it, the anguish refuses to follow.
But I think trying to understand what Jesus went through and apply it to our own lives is a mistake. Because we can’t even imagine.
We can look at the physical suffering Jesus went through. Being scourged with a whip laced with pieces of glass and metal, being spat on by the very people He died to save. Having thorns pressed into his forehead, so His own blood drips down into His eyes. Having to carry a cross after being whipped, so the splinters dig into his open flesh. Being beaten, cursed at, mocked. Stripped naked, His clothes torn off His bloody back just starting to scab over.
But the suffering goes so much deeper.
Matthew 27:42 says, “‘He saved others,’ they said, ‘but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.'”
What I realized yesterday was: Jesus loved those people saying these things to Him. He wanted so badly for them to believe in Him and to be saved. How tempting it must have been, after all the torture, to come down from the cross, end the suffering, and prove to them that He was God. They said they would believe in Him, after all. But Jesus knew He had to die.
I heard a story (I think by Tim Keller) that helped me understand why Jesus had to die.
Let’s say you drove your car into your neighbor’s fence.
The fence is destroyed. I mean, the thing is flattened, totaled, nobody can fix it. Either you have to pay for the damages, being the one who caused all this mess. Or your neighbor, the innocent party, the one who did nothing wrong, has to pay for it. But the fence is broken. Someone needs to fix it. It can’t just be left alone.
Our relationship with God is broken, and we broke it. But God is our ‘neighbor’ in the story. And He chose to fix it. By killing his son.
Jesus didn’t just endure physical pain. His own Father abandoned Him. His disciples, the ones who swore they’d never leave His side, ran away. His three closest friends fell asleep. The people He loved shouted, “Crucify him!” And the weight of every sin committed, every murder, every rape, every assault, every lie, every instance of adultery and theft and dishonesty and pride and selfish ambition and anger and rage and selfishness and addiction and failure and fear and evil—everything rested on His shoulders then.
I don’t think we could ever understand the sacrifice and anguish if we tried.
The other thing is: we’re not perfect. We’re not even close to perfect. So perhaps, if we suffered what He did, we might feel as though we are paying the price for our own shortcomings. But Jesus was perfect. He had absolutely no selfish reason to die. He didn’t deserve death.
We can’t even comprehend it.
But we can comprehend the perspective of Barabbas. We can understand what it’s like to be set free when we don’t deserve it. Because that is who we are.
Maybe you can’t wrap your head around every sin ever committed.
But you can see every sin you’ve committed.
Maybe you can’t comprehend the burden of every sin on Jesus’s shoulders.
But you know how it feels to carry around the weight of your sin alone.
And that’s the radical thing: Jesus died for the whole world, but not the whole world in a sense that God doesn’t know your name. Jesus died for all and for one all at once. He died for every person you’ll ever see in your life and everyone else, too. But—
He also died for you.
Let me add a layer of meaning to that phrase:
Jesus died for the whole world. But if you were the only person left in the whole world, Jesus would have died just the same. Because He loves you more than you can even imagine.
And after I realized this, the phrase “Sunday’s coming” gained so much more power.
No longer do I say it like I’m Jesus, like I’m buried with Him and suffering with Him and dying with Him. Yes, we take up our own cross, but I can’t even wrap my mind around what Jesus did, let alone empathize with his pain.
No, I say “Sunday’s coming” now because I know Jesus, after suffering so deeply I can’t even understand it, will come back to life and do something I can’t understand even more:
Open the gates of heaven so I can walk inside.
Break my chains.
Change the course of history.
Change the course of my life.
Change my heart.
Open my eyes.
Sunday’s coming. But remember Sunday has no meaning if Friday didn’t happen. And remember: You are free because Jesus died for you.