Nothing would be good about Good Friday if it were not for the glorious victory on Sunday. Because of Easter, Friday’s cross is actually good. For you and me Friday’s cross is the greatest event of history. Because it was on that cross that the punishment for our sin was paid.
Reading the events of the Friday of Passion Week brings to light a great diversity of characters. Picture each one in your mind. There is Pilate the politician who tries to please both groups, the crucifiers and the crucified, vainly washing his hands. There is Pilate’s wife who warns her husband not to give Jesus up. There is Judas who shows his true colors and dies a violent death. There is Simon who helps bear the cross. There are the Pharisees who are careful not to break their ceremonial laws while murdering the innocent Messiah. There is Peter, warming his hands, who denies and cries. There are the women who watch and weep from a distance, faithful to the end. There is the conversation of the two thieves on either side of Jesus – one believes the other dies in unbelief. There are the Roman soldiers who mock and murder but in the end profess Jesus as the Son of God.
And there is Jesus. He silently bears it all, crying at the last while the Father places the sin of the world on His shoulders to kill Him in our stead. What pain He bears on Friday! The pain of separation that He felt cannot be overstated. None has suffered so. None has born such weight. And yet in His pain and suffering He still… takes care of His earthly mother, witnesses to a dying thief and gives Him confidence of eternal life, pleads with the Father to forgive His murderers.
“Man of Sorrows, What a Name!
For the Son of God who came.
Ruined Sinners to reclaim.
Hallelujah what a Savior!” (Philip Bliss)
Observe one more person. He is in custody too, just like Jesus; he is awaiting death. His heart is racing. Perhaps now he is regretting his actions. No doubt his thoughts turn to what happens in death and how quickly he will face the end of life. We don’t know much about him. From the text we learn that he is a murderer in an insurrection against the government. He was deserving of capital punishment. And yet he is released. Read again the Biblical account.
“Now at the feast he used to release for them any one prisoner whom they requested. The man named Barabbas had been imprisoned with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the insurrection. The crowd went up and began asking him to do as he had been accustomed to do for them. Pilate answered them, saying, ‘Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?’ For he was aware that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to ask him to release Barabbas for them instead. Answering again, Pilate said to them, ‘Then what shall I do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?’ They shouted back, ‘Crucify Him!’ But Pilate said to them, ‘Why, what evil has He done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Crucify Him!’ Wishing to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas for them, and after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified” (Mark 15:6-15).
More than any of those mentioned above, I identify with Barabbas. Because Jesus died, Barabbas went free. Jesus was his substitute. He was guilty and deserved to die; Jesus was innocent and deserved to be set free. In a real sense all of us deserved to die there. Because we have all sinned, we all deserve the death and separation from the Father that Jesus endured on the cross. We are all Barabbas, deserving death while receiving life.
Thank you Lord and Savior, Jesus, for taking my place on the cross and freeing me from the curse of sin and death. Thank you, Father, for sentencing your Son to death instead of me.
“Therefore there is now no condemnation (sentence of judgment) for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:1-3).