Crucifixion was one of the most gruesome deaths that a person could endure. Because of this, it is difficult to understand why the Christians remember that day as “GOOD Friday.” Let me explain. It is not the torture of the crucifixion that is considered good…but the message of what this death meant to the people of the world.
1Peter 2:24 tells us, “He Himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By His wounds, you have been healed.”
What exactly is crucifixion? Have we ever really given it sufficient thought? Perhaps this description taken from Wikipedia will help:
Crucifixion is a method of capital punishment in which the victim is tied or nailed to a large wooden beam and left to hang for several days until eventual death from exhaustion and asphyxiation… Crucifixion was most often performed to dissuade its witnesses from perpetrating similar (usually particularly heinous) crimes. Victims were sometimes left on display after death as a warning to any other potential criminals. Crucifixion was usually intended to provide a death that was particularly slow, painful, gruesome, humiliating, and public, using whatever means were most expedient for that goal. Crucifixion methods varied considerably with location and time period. The Greek and Latin words corresponding to “crucifixion” applied to many different forms of painful execution, from impaling on a stake to affixing to a tree… Seneca the Younger, a Roman philosopher, wrote: “I see crosses there, not just of one kind but made in many different ways: some have their victims with head down to the ground; some impale their private parts; others stretch out their arms on the gibbet”…In some cases, the condemned was forced to carry the crossbeam to the place of execution. A whole cross would weigh well over 300 lb…Upright posts would presumably be fixed permanently in that place, and the crossbeam, with the condemned person perhaps already nailed to it, would then be attached to the post. The person executed may have been attached to the cross by rope, though nails and other sharp materials are mentioned in a passage by the Judean historian, Josephus, where he states that at the Siege of Jerusalem, “the soldiers out of rage and hatred, nailed those they caught, one after one way, and another after another, to the crosses, by way of jest”…While a crucifixion was an execution, it was also a humiliation, by making the condemned as vulnerable as possible. Although artists have traditionally depicted the figure on a cross with a loin cloth or a covering of the genitals, the person being crucified was usually stripped naked. Writings by Seneca the Younger state some victims suffered a stick forced upwards through their groin. Despite its frequent use by the Romans, the horrors of crucifixion did not escape criticism by some eminent Roman orators. Cicero, for example, described crucifixion as “a most cruel and disgusting punishment”, and suggested that “the very mention of the cross should be far removed not only from a Roman citizen’s body, but from his mind, his eyes, his ears”…Frequently, the legs of the person executed were broken or shattered with an iron club, an act called crurifragium, which was also frequently applied without crucifixion to slaves. This act hastened the death of the person.
From the writings of those who heard the last words of Jesus, He said these sentences as the hours past and He eventually died on the cross:
- “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34
- “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43 This was said to the thief dying on the cross next to Him.
- “Woman, this is your son.” (Said to his Mother, Mary, who had given Him birth)
- “This is your Mother.” (Said to His disciple John to take care of His mother Mary) John 19:26-27
- “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46 (This was after 3 hours of darkness, which was only 3:00 o’clock Judea time in the day.)
- “I thirst.” (This was the expression of his human suffering. He had been scourged, crowned with thorns and was losing blood.)
- “It is finished.” John 19:30
- “Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit.” Luke 23:46
It was by His death that we are redeemed. “For there is one God. There is also one mediator between God and the human race, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave Himself as ransom for all.” 1Timothy 2:5-6
The Biblical Text of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ taken from Matthew 27:33-56 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull),
they offered him wine to drink, mingled with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots; then they sat down and kept watch over him there. And over his head, they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus the King of the Jews.” Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now if he desires him; for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.'” And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way. Now from the sixth hour, there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “This man is calling Elijah.” And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” And Jesus cried again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom; and the earth shook, and the rocks were split; the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe, and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” There were also many women there, looking on from afar, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him; among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
(Turn up sound)
Jesus had just performed the miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead. People around this event had actually seen this miracle happen after Lazarus had been buried four days. There was no doubt about it. Throughout His ministry on earth there had been many miracles: water to wine, healing the leper, the blind and the sick.
The word of this particular miracle spread quickly and when Jesus found a donkey to ride through the streets, the crowds came out to meet him in a frenzy. Surely this man was going to save them from the Romans and become their King and Messiah.
They called out to him, giving him the name of not only “king”, but also “Prophet, Son of David, the Messiah, and the Hope of Israel.” There was great excitement and expectation that things would change for them through this man who did great and wondrous things. The crowd threw down palm branches before him as they would a great leader or someone they were ready to make their ruler. They shouted “Hosannah!” Many Christian churches reenact this event on Palm Sunday.
Since previous posts have been about LENT and MAUNDY THURSDAY, perhaps it would be good to put into sequence the main Christian days of the Easter Holy Week prior to Easter:
- Ash Wednesday (Ashes placed on the forehead for prayer, fasting and sorrow for sins in repentance) Job, Jerimiah, Daniel, Mathew and Luke are a few scriptures where this is described.
- Palm Sunday (Triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem)
- Maundy Thursday (The Last Supper, washing of disciple’s feet, praying in the Garden of Gethsemane and the arrest by the Temple guards of the Sanhedrin )
- Good Friday (The Crucifixion)
- Easter Sunday (The Resurrection of Christ, the Messiah)
The Jews knew the Holy Scriptures. David had taken an oath to Saul that he would make certain that the descendants would not be destroyed. (1st Samuel 26) Jesus Christ, being from the line of David, could possibly in their minds be the Messiah or Mashiach which means the “anointed” one.
Original Hebrew Word: מָשִׁ֫יחַ
Phonetic Spelling: (maw-shee’-akh)
Jesus knew what was going to happen to him and that He had not come to be an earthly king, but to be a Savior and the Messiah for Whom the Jews had been waiting.
Many Jews, even today, have through the study of the Holy Scriptures, both old and new, have found Christ to be their Messiah. These are often referred to as Messianic Jews. (For personal stories of Messianic Jews, see the link after the video.)
VIDEO (Turn up sound)
CRUCIFIXUS by Antonio Lotti
Music and Art by the Masters for Good Friday
Antonio Lotti (5 January 1667 – 5 January 1740) was an Italian Baroque Composer.
Was there more than one resurrection?
When reading over the events that led up to the crucifixion of Christ and the Crucifixion itself, one may completely ignore what happened while Christ was on the cross. These events certainly would have made anyone take notice for the whole land was filled with darkness even at three in the afternoon. Perhaps they thought, as they mocked and jeered Him that it was simply a storm coming up. However, the land began to shake and they were in the midst of an earthquake. Those who were in the holy Temple saw something else that would have jarred them to the core. The heavy curtain that hung in the Temple, that was the place where the high priest went, tore from the top to the bottom. This curtain separated the holy place from the Holy of Holies in the temple (Heb. 9:2-3) The people surely wondered in the midst of darkness, the earth moving and the screams of the people, how did this happen? (We know, in hind site, that this was great symbolism that God was opening the way to all people to worship Him. The price for sins had been paid by His Son.)
There was more to come to rattle the senses of the people that day… and it was going to be witnessed by many. There was a number of resurrections before the Resurrection of Christ. (Some theologians place the resurrection of believers at the time of the Crucifixion and others after Christ rose again.) Regardless of when it was, the witnesses who saw those who once were dead…then saw them alive.
These people who were resurrected may be overlooked by readers of the Scriptures …but not by those who were there. The earthquake continued; rocks fell, and graves of believers who had died were opened. Many of the people were buried in a rock tomb, perhaps like the one shown below.
Let us read the Holy Scripture together from Mathew 27:
Would he have believed that there was a God if he had seen a real miracle? He was looking to religious organizations to show him the truth and to prove to him something that only God can give…the miracle of personal faith and new birth.
” Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.”
(John 5:28, 29 English Standard Version)
A prayer from Syrian Clementine Liturgy
O God, the unsearchable abyss of peace, the ineffable sea of love, the fountain of blessing and the bestower of affection, Who sends peace to those who receive it, open to us this day the sea of Your love and water us with plenteous streams from the riches of Your grace and from the most sweet springs of Your benignity (kindness or tolerance toward others.). Make us children of quietness and heirs of peace. Enkindle in us the fire of your love ; sow in us Your fear; strengthen our weakness by your power; bind us closely to You and to each other in one firm and indissoluble bond of unity.
Recently I heard a comparison of two men, both with the name of Jesus. On this Good Friday when we consider the crucifixion and all that it means, we may want to look at the position that Pilate found himself in as he addressed the angry crowd.
Pilate asked a question of the crowd. “Whom do you want me to release…Jesus Barabbas or Jesus, the one called the Messiah?” He wanted them to make the choice. (Matthew 27)
We know that the demands of the crowd grew stronger to release the man Jesus Barabbas. Pilate’s wife had a terrifying dream concerning Jesus, the Messiah…and warned her husband. The politically correct thing to do at the moment was for Pilate to distance himself from the situation and as he washed his hands…he told them that he was” innocent of this man’s blood”. Backing away from being a leader was the position Pilate took. The rioting world often brings leaders to their weakest point. Fear had a strangle-hold.
Yet the crowd persisted and Barabbas was released. Jesus, the Messiah, was thrown to the crowd to be humiliated, tortured and put to death on a cross…the worst of all deaths during this time. He hung there with two thieves beside Him. What had He done? He had preached the love of God; healed the sick; and drove out those who would dishonor God’s house of worship. He had stepped on the toes of the those in charge. Everyone had to make their choice. The disciples ran and hid. Earlier Peter wept that he had not had courage…and had denied his Lord.
Pilate did not want to choose. When one is in a “hot spot”, it is easier to try to fade away behind those who are vocal. The crowd knew what they wanted. It is also easier to shout with other voices rather than to allow our own voice be heard alone.
The choice had been made. The one Jesus (Barabbas) represented the sins of the world…a man convicted and jailed for his wrong doing. Jesus, the Messiah, was feared by the governing body of His era and the religious, who did not understand His message of redemption also feared him.
We, too, have a choice…to join the ways of the crowd and those of the world who do not understand what Jesus was doing when He died on the cross. The other choice is to identify ourselves and our souls with Jesus, the Messiah. Could it be a costly decision? Yes, as it was for the disciples who all died a martyrs’ death. Choosing the Cross has never been an easy path. It wasn’t for the Savior and it is not today.
Even after His death, his followers had to make decisions. Mary Magdalene could have been fearful to go to his tomb, but she went. God honored her decision by allowing her to see the angels at the empty grave. She then became the first witness who went back and told the others that He was no longer there.
In parts of the world, Good Friday is already here. Tomorrow will be our Good Friday in the USA. The only “good” thing about Good Friday is that God had a plan for redemption. Jesus, the Messiah, would not stay buried in the tomb. His suffering was in our place.
Today, we drape the crosses in black…but Easter morning is coming. Not Jesus Barabbas, but Jesus, the Messiah is the RESURRECTED Jesus .
Which Jesus do you choose?
How shallow we are when it comes to the suffering of our Lord. No one knows what that agony was like even though it has been portrayed on stage and in theater. Hollywood tried to show us the depth of it in Passion of the Christ and now the production, The Bible, tries to relive it again.
The person playing the part of Jesus Christ is nothing like I would imagine Christ to have been. I did not want to see a handsome model, but a man who looked very much like any Jew would look from that area of the world. For some people,however, who do not know the Bible or the Gospel and would not read the Bible , this dramatizations may be a good thing. We should remember that this excruciating death is not entertainment. Who could be entertained by such an event? It should not be treated like any other story. It is much more than that.
For me the death of Christ and His resurrection is very personal. I want to simply sense His presence and to know that what He did is really unimaginable. Dying on a cross with nails in the hands and feet would have been so awful that it can never really be understood. Crucifixion was a typical execution by the Romans of the day. Only those who have experienced it really know the true meaning. The closest to understanding may be the martyrs, who gave everything for their faith. Many were tortured and burned at the stake. They understood His suffering.
For Jesus, it was not only the dying that He knew He had to face. He also knew that for that time, He would be separated totally from his Father in Heaven. This is why He cried out, “Why have You forsaken me?”
The Christian church around the world observe the day of crucifixion in different ways. In the USA, the day is called Good Friday. In Ireland and Germany it’s called Black Friday; in Romania and Croatia it’s called Big Friday; in Norway it’s referred to as Long Friday and in Spanish-speaking countries it’s Holy Friday; and in Brazil it’s Passion of Christ Friday.
All of these terms seem better than “Good Friday” since there seems to be nothing good about the Son of God dying. Nevertheless, the term “good” could also project what was about to happen just three days later….the rising from the dead and what resurrection means to all of us who will one day also die….a looking forward to that same resurrection.
This day is also shown differently within the church sanctuaries as some place black drapes over statues. It is time also to go to each station of the cross to remember Christ carrying His cross to Calvary. It is a quiet, reflective time of prayer to contemplate what our Saviour has done for us.
Below is some music to help in prayer as we come to the close of this special day.
(Click to play and read the words being sung below:)
Behold the wounds in Jesus’ hands, The marks upon His side, Then ponder who He meant to save When on the cross He died. We cannot see the love of God Which saves us from the fall, Yet know that Christ from wood and nails Built mansions for us all.
Behold the outstretched hands of Christ Our God, who came to save, Whose love and grace redeems ours souls And lifts us from the grave. Though bruised and battered as we stray His guiding hands caress, He washes and anoints with oil Then in His arms we rest.
Behold the wounds in Jesus’ hands, Look to your Lord and live He yearns to bless you with His love And all your sins forgive. Oh empty is the heart of man When it is filled with sin. Come open wide your broken heart And let your Savior in.
Behold His wounded hands and feet! Come touch and see and feel The wounds and marks that you may know His love for you is real. Then as you fall to worship Him and wash His feet in tears Your Savior takes you in His arms And quiets all your fears.
Your Savior takes you in His arms And quiets all your fears.
IT IS FINISHED
As I walked outside the main gate of Auschwitz in Poland, a man sat by the roadside. He carefully held a piece of wood. It was a part of a birch tree and carved in the middle was the face of Christ. Large, sharp thorns had been placed across the forehead. This man looked at me with the hopes that I would buy this from him, which I did. The workmanship was extraordinary, even though crude. It said so much about this man and what he had made, but more so about this place where he sat.
Just inside these gates, millions of innocent Jews had been put to death. This man had made the carved face of a Jew Who was put to death and no one could find any wrong in him. As Pilot said, ” I find no case against him.”
THIS WAS A SUFFERING JEW CARVED ON A TREE OUTSIDE THE GATE OF SOME OF THE WORST OF HUMAN SUFFERING.
Jesus also sat outside the gate where he would be taken before a mob, mocked, and put to death. He prayed for the people of the world who would believe in Him, saying His hour had come and His work on earth was finished. Even though He knew the suffering that He was to endure, His thoughts were of protection and love for those who believed the words He spoke and saw the miracles He performed. Jesus said:
“Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me so that they may be one, as We are One….
I have given them Your word and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world…I ask not only on behalf of these but also on behalf of those who will believe in Me…
Father, I desire that those also whom you have given Me may be with Me where I am… to see My glory which You have given Me because You loved Me before the foundation of the world.”
Inside the gate of Auschwitz, just a few feet from where the man was sitting…many years before… horrors happened. One of the things that I saw in one of the torture chambers was a wall where someone had scratched a cross. We know that Christians suffered and died there also. Nothing in Auschwitz can be romanticized. Neither can the crucifixion of Jesus.
Even though great art masters have painted beautiful portraits to inspire us, the crucifixion was real torture given perfection by the Romans. The preparation for a glorious Easter Sunday when Christ rises from the dead is a solemn time. This is why the altars of the churches are stripped bare of all ornamentation or flowers. There was nothing lovely about death.
The video below is realistic with the music asking a question, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” Perhaps we need realism when we actually consider what Christ endured.