Whipped, beaten, broken physically. How could this man, shamed for rebellion against religious authorities, bring good for anyone?
We would at least have preached a sermon from our painful vantage point: "Don't you know what is happening? This is IT! IT, as foretold by our prophets! The salvation of the world looks like THIS! God purposed my death since the formation of the world, so I'm dying to save you. YOU are the ones who deserve to hang here. This pain and mockery? It's what YOU deserve! I'm doing a great thing here - can't you see it?"
Instead, Christ hangs quietly in our place for six hours. A few phrases escape the agonized throat as scoffers laugh and talk. His family and friends stand in shock, crying. Jesus talks only to his Father about the scope of what they are accomplishing. "Forgive them. Please, Father. We know they don't have a clue what they are doing. Don't hold this against them. I'm entrusting my spirit to you."
We've grown up with Easter. It's easy to shrug off history as a story that hardly seems real. As the story of "blah blah blah... and more preaching and healing... and then a few miracles... and oh yeah, don't forget this and that..."
But a real man grew up from infancy into childhood and became an adult. God lived among us, demonstrating God's character and love in the middle of ordinary human life. (Click on the link for an art photographer's view.) Then he suffered disgrace, unimaginable pain, and rejection from political and religious rulers, as well as betrayal by his intimate friend. He was put to death to reconnect us to our Creator. That's the good news in the horrors of Good Friday.
*A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.
“Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate, knowing it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.
“What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them.
“Crucify him!” they shouted.
“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified. The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!”
Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.
A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.
It was the third hour when they crucified him. The written notice of the charge against him read: THE KING OF THE JEWS. They crucified two robbers with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by 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!”
In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.” One man ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.
With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. And the temple curtain was torn in two, from top to bottom. Now when the centurion, who stood in front of him, saw how he died, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!” Mark 15:7-39 NIV