When the soldiers arrested Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, it was all a ruse. He was to stand trial and answer to the crimes of heresy. But this trial was rigged from the very beginning. The verdict was delivered before the trial took place. Jesus was guilty. The trial was just a formality to allow them to execute Jesus.
When you look upon Calvary’s cross, what is you see? You see a man on the cross! You see Jesus. This is His purpose. This is why God is man. This is why the eternal Second Person of the triune God has taken human flesh. This is the reason. Behold the man on the cross, bleeding, gasping, suffering, dying.
Behold His hands, which the night before were washing His disciples’ feet. Now they are pinned with nails to the rough crossbeam of this instrument of torture and execution. Behold the hands that scooped Adam out of the dirt but are now stained with blood and dirt. Behold the fingers with which He touched lepers, stuck into the ears of a deaf man, and picked up bread to declare it to be His body. Now they jerk uncontrollably every time He has to pull Himself up on the nails through His wrists to take a breath.
Behold His feet, nailed to the cross, bearing His weight as He dies. Behold the feet that walked from town to town as He taught His disciples, healed the sick, and preached the good news of man’s release from captivity to sin and death. Behold the feet that Mary anointed with a pound of expensive ointment, washed with her tears, and wiped with her hair. Behold the feet that are now bound in place. Behold the feet that must endure stabbing pain as they push up on the nail pinning them in place. Behold His heel, which in this act of dying is crushing the head of the serpent, destroying the kingdom of Satan, answering for mankind’s sinful rebellion.
It is truly a sight to behold. It’s bloody and gory and downright uncomfortable, and we aren’t even looking at it; we’re just hearing the various accounts of the Evangelists. This was a spectacle to behold, and indeed, that’s what it was. Christ’s hanging upon the cross was the Roman entertainment of the day, and seeing a beaten and bloodied and dying Jesus was exactly what His opponents wanted. And they got exactly what they wanted.
Not only was Christ crucified, but two criminals alongside Him. Luke records for us the railings of one of the criminals: “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” What this criminal could not see, what the Pharisees and others could not see is that that was exactly what Christ was doing – saving them. The only way to save them was for Him to die and He was close to death. It was quickly coming. But with His death came life – life for all who believe in Him.
To get to this point, the point of making full atonement for creation came at great cost. We know the cost of Christ – His life. But it also came at cost to the Father. “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”” God watched as His Son, the Lord of Life, lost His life. He watched as the blood poured out from Him. God watched. He did nothing to intervene. Those that want to say that God is a God of love and it’s not a loving act by letting Christ die, then you don’t understand who God is. God is love so much that He lets Jesus die. God is love so much that He doesn’t do anything except watch because Christ’s death is what redeems creation, it is what redeems you. That is why we sing, “What Thou, my Lord, has suffered/Was all for sinners’ gain….”
It is for your sake, the poor, miserable, wretched sinner that you are, that Christ has died. It is for you that Christ pours out His blood in a lavish washing away of sin. And it’s not just some sins that Jesus forgives. It’s not just the sins of the Jews that Christ forgives. It’s not the sins of the innocent that Christ forgives, for there are none who are innocent of sin. If you think that Good Friday, God’s Friday, isn’t a big deal, then you don’t understand what takes place, who this is for in the first place.
The hymnist right summarizes for us the reality of today’s events: “Ye who think of sin but lightly/Nor suppose the evil great/Here may view its nature rightly,/Here its guilt may estimate./Make the sacrifice appointed,/See who bears the awful load;/’Tis the Word, the Lord’s anointed,/Son of Man and Son of God.” There is no sin that we think of lightly, for even the smallest of sins earns for us death. But for you, for you, God makes the ultimate sacrifice. This sacrifice isn’t a “forgiven until the next sin” sacrifice like all the sacrifices of old were. This sacrifice is that one and done, once for all, never needing to be sacrificed again, perfect Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, sacrifice. He cries out from the cross, “It is finished.” All that is needed to forgive you your sins, past, present, and future, is accomplished for you on the cross.
For you and for the all of creation, the blood of Jesus is poured out. Behold His blood, which pours from His lifeless body, staining the wooden beams of the cross, spilling onto the dirt, reddening the soil, watering His creation. Behold the blood that He first shed when He was an eight-day-old boy. Behold the blood for which the crowd thirsted and ironically asked for exactly what they needed, “His blood be on us and on our children!” Behold the blood that was foreshadowed on every Day of Atonement when the blood of the sacrifice was splattered on the mercy seat, on the altar, and on the people. Behold the blood He gave to His disciples in the cup the night before, telling them its function: shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins. Behold the blood that proves that this God was also truly and fully man, a Brother in blood to us sinners. This is the blood by which this eternal High Priest enters once for all into the Most Holy Place, giving sinful men access to a holy God.
Here is your God. Beaten and blooded, hanging lifelessly upon the cross, with His blood washing over you, giving you life. This is why God is man: not to teach you how to be good, not to show you the right way to live, not to set a perfect example, not to impart His wise teaching. God is man so that He can die for men. He has a life so that He can lay it down in exchange for yours. For you, “It is finished.” Amen.