A Good Friday Reflection: Look to the Cross
The disciples were shocked and terrified when Jesus was arrested. But they shouldn’t have been. Jesus had told them exactly what was going to happen.
“Listen,” he said, “we’re going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence him to die. Then they will hand him over to the Romans to be mocked, flogged with a whip, and crucified. But on the third day he will be raised from the dead.” (Matthew 20:17-19, NLT)
But Rome was known for brutality. They made their executions as long and painful as possible.
Pontius Pilate ordered that Jesus be flogged before His crucifixion with a lead-tipped whip.
This type of whip, often used in Roman torture and execution, was braided with metal balls and pieces of jagged glass.
It tore the flesh to ribbons – from the shoulders all the way down to the back of the legs. The merciless flogging cut down to the bone and even exposed the organs.
When the flogging was finished, the soldiers threw a purple robe over Jesus’ raw back. They pounded a crown of sharp thorns into His skull. They struck His already bleeding head with a reed stick they had used as a royal scepter in their mockery. They bowed down before Him in feigned worship. “Hail! King of the Jews!”
When they finally tired of their barbarous game, they lifted the heavy crossbeam onto Jesus’ bloodied shoulders and led Him through the busy streets of Jerusalem to be crucified.
The Romans were crucifying five hundred or more Jews every day, so it was more efficient to leave the vertical beam in the ground and force their victims to carry the horizontal crossbeam.
The flogging depleted Jesus’ strength. Every step felt heavier than the last. Every slight stumble along the way sent shooting pain through His beaten body.
The Roman soldiers called to a passerby – a man named Simon of Cyrene – and demanded that he carry the cross the rest of the way.
Then the soldiers nailed him to the cross. They divided his clothes and threw dice to decide who would get each piece. (Mark 15:24, NLT)
The nails were driven between the bones in His wrists and through His feet. His arms were stretched just far enough to dislocate His shoulders. As His body weakened and the pain intensified, He could no longer lift His body up to draw in air.
It was excruciating.
We often imagine that Jesus was crucified on a distant hill far from the bustle of the city.
On the contrary, the Romans were fond of crucifying their victims right outside the city gates, along the road, at eye level. It was humiliating.
See, crucifixion wasn’t just a method of execution. It was a message.
Don’t mess with Rome.
A sign was fastened above Jesus’ head, announcing the charge against him. It read: “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” (Matthew 27:37, NLT)
The sign was intended to mock Jesus’ wild claims. But they got it right.
He is, indeed, the King.
He is the King who stepped down from His throne to take up the cross for His subjects.
If you ever wonder if you matter to God, look to the cross.
If you ever wonder if you are even seen by God, look to the cross.
If you ever feel insecure, inadequate, worthless, abandoned, hopeless, isolated, alone, disappointed, disregarded, or marginalized, look to the cross.
If you are ever in doubt about the love of God, look to the cross.