When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.) These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, “None of his bones shall be broken.” And again another passage of scripture says, “They will look on the One whom they have pierced.” John 19:30, 33-36
Most Lutheran and almost all other Protestant churches do not display a crucifix in the church. Jesus is risen, and we don’t want to focus on the gory reality He suffered to purchase our redemption and freedom.
Yet His suffering was both necessary and costly. Our freedom and redemption was not bought without a price. One Lutheran church I belonged to displayed both the crucifix and the empty cross, because our pastors believed we need to acknowledge both Jesus’ sacrifice and the miracle of the empty tomb. We cannot have the glory of the Resurrection on Easter without the passion and sacrifice and pain of Good Friday.
We should pray and meditate on today’s sorrow and passion, but we should not dwell upon the suffering of Jesus without the realization that it culminates in resurrection, and that we share in that resurrection. Even as we stand at Golgotha, there is hope.
Today is a day in which we should take a long and loving gaze on the One we have pierced. Our sin put Jesus on the Cross. While we should not go around guilt tripping about that, because sin is part of the human condition we were born into, we should realize that it wasn’t just the Jews or the Romans who killed Jesus. Every one of us has His Blood on our hands, but it is blood of atonement rather than guilt. Blood freely shed to cover our sin and shame. Blood freely shed to set us free and to give us life.
Today is a day in which we can learn from the iconography of the crucifix, even though that image itself is sanitized. Yes, the crucifix depicts Jesus nailed on the Cross, but the reality of crucifixion is much bloodier and more gory. The Mel Gibson movie, “The Passion of the Christ” is extremely graphic, but it is probably the closest we can see to the actual horror of scourging and crucifixion. Sometimes our hardened hearts need to see that image Isaiah gives us of the Suffering Servant:
Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account.
Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole,and by his bruises we are healed. Isaiah 53:1-5 (NRSV)
He didn’t have to do it /He could have set Himself free /He didn’t have to do /But He stayed there just for me /Surely, surely, surely He died on Calvary
Surely, Died on… He died, he died, on Cavalry – Richard Smallwood, from the song “Calvary”