What is called ‘Good Friday’ by Christians is the most solemn day in the ‘Christian Year’. This year it is on 2 April. This is the day for deep spiritual meditation and self-examination. On this day, Jesus was killed by his enemies on a Cross. Like many other peoples in the ancient world, the Romans used the cross as in those days as the instrument of punishing criminals for most grievous offences. Jesus was crucified by the Romans at the instigation of the Jewish leaders. When Constantine was the emperor of the Roman Empire, the first emperor to become a Christian, the practice of crucifixion was abolished in the empire. The spiritual insight is that all of us have our part in the crucifixion of Jesus. It is how God dealt with the universality of human sin and alienation of man from God himself. It was planned from eternity past by eternal and omniscient God. In the Old Testament, there are 28 prophecies about the death of Jesus on the Cross. God’s love surpasses all knowledge. The cross of Christ covers even the very gate of hell. Medically viewed, Jesus endured five basic wounds before and during the crucifixion. Contusion (beating on the head), laceration (flogging by leather pellets), penetration (crown of thorns violently put on his head), perforation (nailing to the cross), incision (piercing his side by a spear). All these Jesus suffered taking our place, becoming the ransom for our sins: propitiating God’s wrath and atoning for human sin. Christ was tried as many as six times for mock trials. Finally, Pilate, the Roman governor declared him innocent. However, he had to succumb to the Jewish religious leaders and then handed over to them for his death. The 8th Century B.C. prophet Isaiah had prophesied about him in one of his 4 great Servant Songs thus: “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds, we are healed” (Isaiah 53: 4-5).
John the Baptist proclaimed Jesus before his hearers thus: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1: 29). For no animal, sacrifice would cleanse man from sin. All sacrifices in the Old Testament were but shadows or types for the One and the only true and acceptable by God and they all point to Jesus Christ. Name ‘Jesus’ (same as Joshua in the Old Testament) means ‘Savior’, and ‘Christ’ (Greek ‘Christos’, Hebrew, ‘Massiach’) is Messiah, meaning ‘the One who is anointed by God’.God is a thrice-holy God. God’s holiness is to be seen against the sinfulness of man. No other attributes of God are mentioned three times in the Holy Bible other than his holiness. The heavenly hosts were heard singing of God the doxology, “Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD Almighty, the whole earth is full of his glory.” The last book in the Bible, the book of Revelation mentions the same hymnody sung in heaven as St. John has the heavenly vision, about the Holy God day and night, unceasingly (Chapter 4:8). In the eyes of the world, the cross is a scandal. But Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God, bore our sins on it. God is so holy that he cannot even look at sin. Prophet Haggai acclaimed, “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong” (Haggai 1:13). God is God of righteousness and justice. Sin must be punished anyhow. This is the moral principle for God to be God. But God is also a loving God. He loves man, the crown of his creation whom he created in his image. He longs for man to get reconciled to him. But man being sinful he cannot, of his own, get near to God. No amount of human righteousness, good deeds or any other achievement or effort would do to atone for his sin. Christ, the sinless Son of God only would meet this end. His sacrificial death of the cross is the only acceptable offering to God for the propitiation of our sins. Jesus Christ took our place under God’s judgment. Sin is rebellion against God, it is spiritual and moral pollution, a violation of God’s standard and is wicked in nature and purport. Sinful man can never, on his own, approach God. So loving God sent his Son to man as a human person. But he was without sin. In 2 Corinthians 5:21, it is written that “God made him, who did not know sin, sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God.” Only Christ, who is sinless, could take our place suffering the punishment that was due for us for our sin. A man is reckoned as justified and is made righteous in God’s eyes only by God himself. Apostle Peter exhorted Christians saying, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you as an example that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth” (1 Peter 2: 21-22).
Sin has erected a wall between God and man. Christ, Son of God became man so that he could offer his life in his death. God cannot or does not die. So he became man so that he could die as the supreme sacrifice as the penalty for our sin, and also could be resurrected from death to show that he has authority and dominion over death. One who conquers death is also the forgiver of sin. Death is the wage or result of sin. Only a sinless man can offer perfect repentance for sin and obedience to God, thus a perfect sacrifice for sin. A renowned Theologian Karl Barth remarked, “ God’s grace—his grace for our humanity, the kindness, compassion and condescension in which he is our God and as our God befriends us—is Jesus Christ, he himself and absolutely alone.” Christ has borne all our iniquity and for that matter our enmity with righteous and holy God upon himself upon the cross. This is how God upheld the standard of his righteousness and manifested his grace on the cross of Christ. Thus Christ became the Mediator between God and Man. The salvation that Christ’s death wrought is spiritual and personal with implication and reflection on the temporal life of people. It is deliverance from the sin and eternal death accompanying the positive gifts of transformation of the life of the person culminating in eternal life. Sin has a pervasive effect on man: it has corrupted man’s will, intelligence, emotion and aspiration altogether. Christ came to transform all these and reconciled to God alienated man. There are 300 promises and prophecies concerning the death of Jesus. All people are born with the idea or hope to live, but it only Jesus Christ, who was born to die. He died on our behalf that we might receive eternal life, that death might no more rule over us.
Jesus died the death of a slave. Death by crucifixion was the most barbaric and indescribably horrendous, cruellest and hideous form of punishment. Roman statesman and lawyer Marcus Cicero observed, “If we are to be threatened with death, then we want to die in freedom; let the executioner, the shrouding of the head and the very name of the cross be banished from the body and life of Roman citizens, and from their thoughts, eyes and ears.” Christ’s apostle Paul said, “For Jews demand signs and Greek seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified—a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength” (1 Corinthians 1: 22-25). But this was the way that God chose for the death of his innocent Son. God’s way and the human way are different, of course! Man cannot get salvation by means of human wisdom or strength. That has to come from his Maker, from God as his gift of grace only. The price of our Salvation is finally and fully paid by Christ.
The writer is a Christian Theology teacher and a Church leader