Psalm 22 • Isaiah 52:13–53:12 • Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:7-9 • John 18:1–19:42
In depictions of art, and in the lyrics of hymns, we sometimes proclaim that Jesus was lifted “high on the Cross,” as if elevating him put him a little closer to Heaven—and a little farther from us.
But that is not how it was on this day we now call “Good Friday.” The Cross the Romans used for executing prisoners was low to the ground so that people walking past could see the horror up close. That was the point, you see. We are your God, the Romans declared. There is no other.
For the followers of Jesus, it wasn’t supposed to end this way. Jesus had entered Jerusalem something of a local hero. He had cured the sick and confronted the corrupt. For months, he taught every day at the Temple, and he shared his table with outcasts, tax collectors, lepers and even women. He exploded the social taboos.
It seemed like he could do anything and get away with it.
But then the Romans got their hands on him, and all of their brutality spilled forth to break him—and break anyone who believed him. We are your God, the Romans declared. There is no other.
No one likely venerated that cross or collected splinters as relics.
Devout Jews walked on the other side of the road and averted their eyes. And why wouldn’t they? It was a hideous way to die.
There was another reason to avert the eyes from the executioner’s cross. Death on the cross was a sure sign that the condemned was headed to Hell itself.
Christians in a later time would develop theological theories that Jesus died on the Cross to pay a “ransom” for our sins—to “atone” to a bloodthirsty God for our wrongdoing. But what kind of God is that?
Maybe we should look at this another way.
By dying in the worst way a human being could die, Jesus shows us the very nature of God—that God dwells not just in the sunlight, but in the dungeons where people are tortured.
It is God who weeps.
— The Rev. Jim Richardson