Scripture Reading: John 18 – 19
Created by the Persians but perfected by the Romans, this method of execution was reserved only for the most despised criminals. It was a punishment so cruel that it sought to not only bring pain to the victim but humiliate him in his final moments. In fact, the word excruciating means “from the cross” and rightfully so. This punishment was widely feared throughout the Roman Empire and served as a powerful deterrent to anyone that may consider going against Roman law.
In crucifixion, the victim was either nailed or tied to a wooden cross by his hands and feet. The cross was then raised up to let him hang with only the strength in his arms to keep him up. As he would grow weak, the victim would start to slump down while he arms remained nailed to the horizontal bar. This would restrict his breathing ability and ultimately cause him to suffocate while he hanged and the only way to bring relief was to push up against the nail located in his feet to raise his already weak body to a standing position. This would go on for days and sometimes weeks while the victim suffered on display as people would stop by only to mock, jeer, and sometimes attack until eventually he died. The actual death could be from dehydration, malnutrition, infection, or asphyxiation either by becoming too weak to hold himself up or giving up and just wanting the suffering to end. This was the manner in which Jesus was chosen to die.
After a betrayal from his friend, a night filled with false accusations and lies, and a morning filled with some of the most unbearable torture, the Son of God was sentenced to die in the manner reserved only for the most hated of criminals. It’s odd that we have come to know this day as “Good Friday.” What exactly is so good about it? The same man who was given a parade earlier in the week, defied the corruption brought to the temple, who spoke with an authority that could only be given by God, and who showed such humility to wash the filth off of his friends was sentenced to share an execution with between two guilty criminals as onlookers shamed him. Why would we ever call this good?
Jesus told his disciples that “No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded,” (John 10:18 NLT). Jesus wasn’t forced to go to the cross, he went willingly. He did so because he knew that this was what was necessary to bring hope and salvation to the world. Thousands of years earlier, our earliest ancestors turned their backs on God and ever since, humanity has felt the sting of death. Through this despicable cross, Jesus made life a reality. That is what makes this Friday so good. While the price was high and filled with pain and sorrow, it bought you the opportunity to be made right with God and to have the stain of your past no longer hurt you and as we know, the story does not end on Friday…
- What makes this Friday so “Good” to you?
- Read John 19:30. What did Jesus mean when he said “It is finished?”
- Does knowing how crucifixion worked change how you viewed this story? How?