He was despised and rejected by others a man of SUFFERING and acquainted with INFIRMITY; and as one from whom others hide their face 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.
Today is called Good Friday, but what is good about this Friday? Is it the condemnation by Pilate? Is it the scourging at the pillar or the crowning with thorns? Is it the heavy cross and the long trek to Calvary? Is it the jarring of the crowd and the mockery of the soldiers coated with spittle and slaps. Is it the eerie atmosphere of that macabre Friday that ended with darkness in the middle of the afternoon? Is it the nailing to the cross or the final death on that infamous gibbet when IT IS FINISHED?
Can someone tell us why this Friday is termed GOOD when nothing good has been mentioned? My brothers and sister, we have come to the culminating point. We have come to the crucial point of human history with God. In spite of the gory details of the Lord’s suffering, in spite of the chastisement, suffering and death, this day is still GOOD. This Friday is Good because we are HEALED by all that happened to our Lord Jesus Christ. We are made WHOLE by his death. We are redeemed by his passion.
Suffering is not what many of us would willingly like to accommodate. The effort most of us make in life to get gainfully employed is a conscious effort to reduce or even to extinguish suffering. Most parents work hard to make their children comfortable so that they may not fall into the misfortune of suffering in the future as they (the parents) experienced in the past. However, one question remains ever relevant: “is suffering a curse?” and another is: ”can we completely run away from suffering?” Many of us would readily adopt the defensive position and blatantly reject even the slightest necessary suffering. Most of us wish to have a life filled with roses from birth to death. There are still many Christians who do not accept the fact that there must be a Good Friday before an Easter Sunday. Yes, I can bet some people would even exclaim with defiance “suffering is not my portion!” Then whose portion should it be; that of Jesus Christ perhaps; the one who deserves to suffer, to be beaten, chastised and to die?
The suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ is a redemptive one. His suffering was in accordance with God’s will because it is a valuable suffering. Often, some of us suffer for the wrong things and for no value. Our Lord Jesus Christ suffered and died so that we on our own side would be liberated and have life. This Good Friday is strategic enough for us to understand the concept of suffering which can actually be an avenue for us to gain the better future we desire. However, if we must suffer it must be for the sake of Christ Jesus who first suffered for us and never for any evil (1 Peter 4:14-15).
Today, we reflect on the suffering and affliction our Lord Jesus Christ had to undergo in order to save us. I often sit and ponder why God had to go so far as to save us: becoming like us in all things but sin (Heb.4:15). Why was it extremely needful that our salvation should come through the suffering and death of God the Son our Lord Jesus Christ?
We can only understand why the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ was the only precondition for our redemption if we understand how valuable our souls are to God, and how grievous the sin that brought the fall was. The blood of animals were not even half enough to purchase our souls back again to God. There was need for something of higher value and that could only come from God himself. If God had merely forgiven us by a wave of hand, we may not appreciate what He did for us and what we lost by our sins just as the price may not have been adequately paid.
We shall be taking an active and deeper look into the suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ on the way of the cross and fill our minds with helpful lessons for the season and for our lives.
- Jesus is Condemned to Death.
What an irony! The innocent one was condemned to death by those he came to undo their condemnation. Nobody stood for his defence. Even his close disciples deserted him. One betrayed him and another denied him. He was subsequently scourged at a pillar, beaten severely and was crowned with thorns. What matters in life is not what people say to condemn you but what God thinks about you and how his mercy reaches out to you. You have a sure assurance today that in Christ Jesus you have no condemnation (Romans 8:1).
- Jesus Carries His Cross.
It is actually the load of our sins he carried. As the scripture say “he took the punishment that was meant for us” (Is.53:5). The most significant fact here is that he accepted the cross. Often life presents us with some crosses. Let us know that the cross is not just a burden. In the cross also we see a plus (+) sign. The cross is also a ladder that can help us climb higher. Do not be afraid to receive and carry that cross. It will eventually lead you somewhere.
- Jesus Falls the First Time.
Failure in life in not actually the incidence of falling, but the inability to rise when we fall. This fall is all about the weight of our sin which he bore. Our Lord went ahead and continued on that journey of faith. For every fall there must be a corresponding rising.
- Jesus Meets His Mother.
In the midst of the punishment and pain, Mary the mother of Jesus appeared with that friendly and calm face to encourage his son. You can imagine the agony of the mother at this excruciating point. We need Mary in our lives at all times and especially at that point when everyone and everything seem to turn against us. Mary represents family and she is here teaching us to stand by our family when the going gets tough. “Can a woman forget her own child (Is.49:15)?” Even all do our mother Mary will not forget us.
- Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus to Carry his Cross.
God knows how long and tedious the journey could and he often plant helpers on the way to assist us. In the same way, we are expected to become helpers for people we meet on their various ways of suffering. We don’t need to wait to be compelled to help like Simon of Cyrene. Our assistance should be spontaneous and with love and joy.
- Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus.
The name Veronica is actually a combination of two words “vera” (true) and “icon” (image). So from Veronica we have “true image”. Veronica represents the true image of care, empathy and fellow feeling. She used her personal handkerchief to wipe the face of Jesus. It could have been her best treasure. We learn from her the need for us to be true images of Jesus Christ to others in their needs. One word of consolation, even a smile can be a source of encouragement to someone who is suffering.
- Jesus Falls the Second Time.
That you have fallen before is not a guarantee that you may not fall again. What is important is not falling but rising up again. Do not be afraid or shy to stand up and move ahead. God’s grace is sufficient for you in the journey of life (2 Cor.12:9).
- Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem.
Mothers know the pain of child birth and to see a child suffer gruesomely would be an emotional experience for any good mother. The women of Jerusalem wept for the Lord and our Lord in spite of the pain of suffering stopped to console them. Often we feel that our situation is so bad that we cannot spare a minute to attend to others. St Peter would tell us that our brethren all over the world are suffering the same thing (1 Pet. 5:9).
- Jesus falls a third time.
Ahhhh! There is yet another fall after the second one. This is an indication and lesson for us that we are imperfect and we have to keep trying. We fail people and we also fail God. With God, there is a chance for us to rise again and move on. Do not give up! Rise up. You are almost there at your destination. The greater the sin, the grater the mercy. When we judge others for their failures let us also remember that we are fallible and we even fall more.
- Jesus is stripped of his Garment.
The soldiers removed the garment of Jesus Christ and cast lot upon it. By doing this, they left our Lord naked and unprotected from the elements. Our Lord actually came to clothe us after Adam and Eve lost their innocence and became naked (Gen. 3:7). It is thus ironical that those he came to clothe went ahead to strip him naked. Whenever we sin we repeat this shameful act of the soldiers. We are called on this day to strip ourselves of all traces of sin in our lives.
- Jesus is nailed to the Cross.
The cross is the summit of the passion. As the soldiers nailed our Lord on the cross, they symbolically nailed our frail and falling humanity to the tree of salvation. That nailing was painful and heart rending but it was necessary for our redemption. The nailing on the cross was the most sorrowful of the stations. It was at this point that our Lord was mocked by one of the thieves to save himself and save them. It was on the cross that he was pierced with a lance and water and blood came out. It was on the cross that he was given vinegar to drink when he was thirsty. It was on the cross that he felt being forsaken by God. We are called upon today to nail our sins to the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ!
- Jesus Dies on the Cross.
Our Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross after going through the most gruesome passion that can only be imagined. Before he died, he forgave his executioners a lesson we must learn; we must let go in order to let God. Before he died he provided for his mother by handing her over to one of the apostles; John the beloved (Jn.19:26). The death of Jesus Christ marked the expiration of the debt we incurred through the fall of Adam. This remarkably happened when our Lord exclaimed: “It is finished”. That means the debt has being paid in full.
- Jesus is Taken Down from the Cross
Whatever goes up must by necessity come down. The situation may be calamitous but give it some time it will become calm. Do not waste your time questioning situations around you; just be assured of the fact that you will not be in that situation forever. There are many things we need to take down from our lives if we must get to the next level.
- Jesus is Laid in the Tomb
A man called Joseph of Arimathea offered his tomb for our Lord to be buried, though he would have it back in some hours. It is only at critical points like this that our real friends are see and known. We need to reproduce that Joseph of Arimathea in our lives by our selfless giving to others. The burial of our Lord should remarkably bring about the burial of unholy things in our lives so that at the time of rising, we get completely transformed.
May this Friday be truly Good for you!