It’s Friday… By the time we got up this morning most of what Jesus went through on Good Friday had already happened. Before dawn, He had already been taken to the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Supreme Court, and stood “trial.” As the sun came up, He was sent from the Sanhedrin to Pilate; from Pilate to Herod; from Herod back to Pilate; and from Pilate to the mob. The verdict? Guilty of blasphemy. The sentence? Death by crucifixion.
But, as Jesus said, “No one takes [His life] from [Him], but [He] lays it down of [His] own accord” (John 10:18 ESV). And indeed He did. Jesus gave His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). Jesus gave Himself over willingly to His accusers, the leaders, and the officials. “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away” (Isaiah 53:7-8a ESV). And Jesus did this because this was all a part of God’s plan. Indeed, “it was the will of the Lord to crush him” (Isaiah 53:10a ESV).
Jesus willingly embraced false accusations, a corrupt trial, ridicule, beatings, being despised, rejected, spit upon, and so much more… And then, “for the joy that was set before him [He] endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2b). And that’s where the true suffering began. On the cross, “For our sake [God] made [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV). Upon the cross, He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows (Isaiah 53:4). Jesus cancelled “the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14 ESV). And He canceled it and nailed it to the cross by taking it upon Himself and allowing Himself to be nailed to the cross in our place.
Jesus, “was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5 ESV). But how? How did Jesus’ crucifixion save sinners? How does Jesus dying by the hands of sinful man bring us peace and healing from sin? The answer: Jesus didn’t merely suffer by the hands of sinful man, He suffered for sinful man under the wrath of God. As Isaiah 53:4 says, Jesus was stricken and afflicted by God.
According to God’s Word, part of what it means to be to be under God’s wrath is to be cursed. And we all, in Adam, are cursed… For we “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 ESV). We all have failed to live in line with God’s Law rightly, and have failed to live for God’s glory rightly. And God’s Word says, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them” (Galatians 3:10 ESV). So we are all, by our nature in Adam, cursed and therefore rightly deserving of God’s wrath. That’s why God’s Word says that we all, “were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Ephesians 2:3b ESV).
But, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’” (Galatians 3:13 ESV). On the cross (the tree), after suffering under the wrath of sinful man, Jesus suffered under the wrath of God due sinful man. The sky went dark, and for three hours Jesus hung there… nails through His hands, nails through His feet, thorns stabbed into His face and head, His body bruised and ripped open… bleeding, tired, thirsty, and utterly alone… And then He cried out with a loud voice, “‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Matthew 27:46b ESV).” You see, in those moments, in those dark hours Jesus was suffering under God’s wrath.
Jesus had prayed earlier, asking the Father to let this cup pass from Him, if there was any other way. But there was no other way for God’s people to be saved… Jesus is the only way (John 14:6). So He went to the cross and He drank down the cup of God’s wrath. And in that time God’s gracious presence that had always been with and on Christ left Him, and there was only wrath. Jesus was forsaken so that we could be forgiven. And in and through all of that, Jesus drank down the cup of God’s wrath to the dregs, and then cried out, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up His spirit (John 19:30b ESV).
You see, Jesus is God the Son. He is the second person of the Trinity. Jesus is eternal, because Jesus is God. But, Jesus took on flesh. Jesus came to earth and became a man while staying truly God. And then He lived the perfect righteous life that we have failed to live, perfectly obeying God’s Law in every way. And then He went to the cross and died the death we deserve, suffering under the wrath that we deserve, and satisfying God’s wrath for all who would turn from their sin and trust in Him. Because Jesus is truly man He was able to live and die in our place; and because Jesus is truly God He was able to satisfy God’s wrath in our place.
Every sin we’ve ever committed has been an infinite falling short of God’s glory, and an infinite offense against an infinitely glorious God; and thus every sinner deserves an infinite punishment, namely God’s wrath in an eternal hell. But, because Jesus is eternal and infinite Himself, He was able to satisfy God’s wrath, to pay an eternal price in a few hours on the cross. And that’s why this dark day in history is called Good Friday. Because through the ultimate evil, killing the Son of God, the ultimate good came, magnifying the glory of God in Christ and redeeming sinners for God to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.
So, this Good Friday, I hope you feel the weight of all of this. I hope you are amazed by all of this. I hope you are trusting in Christ, or that you will now. And I hope that you see the ugliness of sin and the beauty of Christ, and long to be with Him forever. And I hope you see that something is missing in what all I just laid out. Hint: Jesus didn’t stay dead… It’s Friday, but Sunday is coming…
Until Sunday, may we all feel the words of that old hymn:
Man of Sorrows what a name
For the Son of God who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim
Hallelujah what a Savior!
Bearing shame and scoffing rude
In my place condemned He stood
Sealed my pardon with His blood
Hallelujah what a Savior!
Guilty vile and helpless we
Spotless Lamb of God was He
Full atonement can it be
Hallelujah what a Savior!