Today is Good Friday. To be honest, the meaning of the cross and all Christ accomplished for us there is never far from my mind, but since I had a chance this morning to once again ponder the humility of our Savior, it seems appropriate to share a few impressions. Or rather, to let the subtleties of the Gospel accounts speak for themselves.
This isn’t an explanation of penal substitution. We’ve studied the atonement, heard sermons on it, read the heavyweights like Spurgeon, Sproul, Macarthur and Packer…perhaps so much that it's become rote. Stop and ponder again what Christ experienced in His humility and identification with us. This morning, I read once again Matthew’s account of the last night of Jesus’ earthly life while waiting for my patient in dermatology, who never showed up. Oh well; no biggie. It gave me an extra hour to spend with the Lord without being constantly interrupted by a three-year-old. Let me share with you what I find to be, possibly, the three most heartbreaking verses in the Bible:
Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, "Greetings, Rabbi!" and kissed him. Jesus replied, "Friend, do what you came for." (Matt. 26:49-50)
“Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.” (Matt. 26:56)
“Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him…” (Matt. 26:67)
Can you honestly read that without cringing? The spitting continues in the next chapter, by the way. The first ones hawking it back were the Jewish “religious” leaders; this time it was the Gentile thugs in the Governor’s army: “They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again.” (Matt. 27:30)
Betrayal by a “friend”. Abandonment by everybody. Does it get any worse than that? Actually, yes it does. Spitting. The idea of people spitting on someone – anyone – horrifies me. Makes my skin crawl. Knowing it was done to the Author and Creator of life by those He came to save is mind-boggling. What’s more – He knew exactly how it would happen (see Isaiah 50:6).
They SPAT on Him.
Let that sink in for a moment. Spitting can't inflict physical pain. It's about the lowest, basest, vilest, most derogatory means possible of heaping humiliation on an individual. But in a spiritual sense, we often "spit" on Christ without even realizing it - each time our words, thought or outward behavior dishonors Him.
It’s hard to articulate how much these details of what
they we did to Christ bother me; there was simply no limit to the depths to which He would go to redeem us. He chose to identify with every human emotion and carry our shame.
None of the Gospels focuses on the physical sufferings of Christ, they just report the horror as factually as a coroner’s report. This is in keeping with the fact that the primary agony of the cross was the spiritual separation from the Father. However, a crucial aspect of the Incarnation is that, while never relinquishing His deity, Jesus was (and is) fully, 100% man. Read the Passion account again with that in mind; it’s just staggering. Back when I was a Catholic, we walked the Stations of the Cross and it really caused us to reflect on the fact that while grace is free, it certainly wasn’t cheap. It gave me pause, even as a middle-schooler. The biblical account and time to reflect, pray and just thank my Savior personally for what He did serves an even fuller purpose.
When I read some of these verses, like the ones listed above, my instinctive reaction is to whisper, “I’m sorry.” It just comes spontaneously; I’m not trying to be pious. “I’m so sorry…thank You.” That’s all there is to say, really. It's reflexive - like the foot shifting from the gas to the brake pedal when I see a cruiser in the rear-view mirror. Automatic.
I used to muse, ‘How do you thank someone for dying for you?’ It’s all there; so clearly spelled out. In light of who we are and what He’s done, is it any wonder He said “my load is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:30)? As Spurgeon said, “If you do not lie prostrate on the ground before that cross--you have never seen it! If you are not humbled in the presence of Jesus--you do not know Him. You were so lost that nothing could save you--but the sacrifice of God's only begotten Son. Think of that, and as Jesus stooped for you--bow yourself in humility at His feet.”Thank You, once again. From the bottom of my heart.