Bethel Evangelical Lutheran worshiping Jesus at 8th and N. East Ave. in York, NE.402-363-0022

Good Friday Meditation

Click HERE for an audio version posted on our Facebook page.

Mark 15:25-32

Dear Friends in Christ,

The cross is a very popular decoration these days. Crosses come in all shapes and sizes. I like this one that Pastor Kronebusch made. It’s rough, not smooth and that seems more authentic to me. It reminds me of the song, “The Old Rugged Cross.” Many pastors wear a cross around their necks over their gowns. People have crosses dangling from their ear rings, or on necklaces. It’s hard to go anywhere without seeing a cross. This gives us an opportunity to witness. Thinks about it, how many people who have a cross displayed in some way, really know what it means? If you ask some people why they chose to wear a cross they often answer, “Because I thought it looked nice,” or “because it was given to me by my Grandmother,” or “because it gives me good luck.” We have the opportunity to share with them what the cross really stands for.

If someone from the first century AD were to walk around today and see people wearing crosses as jewelry, or using them as decorations in their homes, they would be mortified. They would have great difficulty understanding why we would want to wear or display an instrument of torture. They would think of it as we would if we saw someone with miniature electric chairs hanging from their ear rings, or a hangman’s noose framed and hanging on their walls. For us, the cross has been sanitized. The sight of a cross doesn’t produce in us the fear and revulsion it did for the people of Jesus’ day. That’s both a good thing and a bad thing.

When we see the cross we never want it to be too sanitized for us. We never want to see it as just a decoration, or a pretty piece of jewelry, or think of it as a good luck charm. We don’t want to forget that the cross was the cruelest form of execution ever invented. It was intended to bring about a slow agonizing death. When the nails were driven through the hands and feet care was taken not to hit any important arteries. The nails were not intended to cause death, but to be a part of the torture. Imagine the burning pain that would be caused by a dirty piece of metal sticking through your hands and feet and not being able to pull it out. Imagine having the weight of your body resting on those nails. Imagine having your arms stretched out for hour after hour, sometimes for days. Exposure, dehydration, starvation, the mockery of those passing by, all contributed to the torture; but the cause of death was usually suffocation. Ultimately the person being crucified became too weak to take a breath.

Jesus suffered all these things and more. In addition to the physical torture of the cross, God laid on him the iniquity of us all. With the sins of the world heaped upon him Jesus became the magnet for God’s wrath. He cried out, my God, my God, why have you forsaken me? He suffered the punishment we deserve—he suffered the torments of Hell in our place.

We don’t want the cross to become too sanitized. When we see the cross we need to be reminded that it was a place of torture, a place where Jesus endured the torture we deserve for our sins. When we see the cross we ought to feel sadness. We ought to think, “look what I did to Jesus. Look at the pain and suffering my sins have caused him.”

Many of the crosses we see today are empty. That’s not because Jesus gave in to the temptation of those who mocked him, who hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!” Although he had the power to come down from the cross he chose to stay there. He prayed for their forgiveness because they didn’t understand why he was there or why he would not come down even though he could have. He stayed on the cross and he died there. But, those who were paying attention noticed that there was something strangely different about his death. It wasn’t the eerie darkness or the earthquake, the things he said, or even that he died so quickly, after only a few hours on the cross. The most unusual thing about his death was that, just before he died, this crucified man who should have had great difficulty breathing, called out in a loud voice, it is finished, and Father, into your hands a commit my spirit.

We often display an empty cross because Jesus loudly proclaimed it is finished. Everything necessary for our salvation has been accomplished. Jesus doesn’t need to be crucified over and over again for the sins of each generation. He sacrificed himself once for all time. He successfully completed the mission the Father had given him. The fact that he was buried and that he rose again on the third day proves it. There is nothing left for us to do in regard to salvation, Jesus has done it all for us.

The chief priests had it right when they looked at Jesus on the cross and mocked him, even though they didn’t know it. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! How right they were! Because he wanted to save others he didn’t save himself even though he could have. Because he stayed on the cross and suffered in our place we are saved! The cross has become for us a sign, a wonderful assurance of our salvation.

For many in our world today the cross has lost its meaning. To them it’s just a decoration, or a good luck charm. May that never be the case for us. Whenever you see or display a cross may it first of all remind you that your sins caused Jesus to suffer. May it move you to acknowledge your sins and your need for salvation. But, may it then assure you that Jesus has paid for your every sin, that he stayed on the cross until he could say, it is finished, and then he rose from the dead just as he said he would. May the cross never be just a piece of pretty jewelry, or a decoration on a wall. May it always be for us an assurance of our salvation.