Crucifixion by Mexican Artist Octavio Ocampo
Holy Week Reflections for Friday
Read Matthew 27:32-56
Those who passed by derided Jesus, shaking their heads, and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the son of God, come down from the cross.” Matthew 27:39-40
Crucifixion was always done in public spaces so that Rome could demonstrate its power. Thus Jesus was crucified out in the open, naked and humiliated, for all the world to see. This was no private affair, like John the Baptist’s beheading inside King Herod’s palace. Anyone and everyone mocked Jesus: the religious elite from the temple, those who passed by, even those hanging on the cross next to Jesus. (In Luke’s gospel, one thief repents, Luke 23:42-43.) The public humiliation added to the pain and suffering.
An amazing aspect of the taunts was that they held truth. Jesus could have saved himself and stepped down off the cross, but instead chose to save us and stayed nailed to the cross. The sign above his head mocked him as ‘King of the Jews;” yet the cross becomes Jesus’ throne of mercy, his royal decree of forgiveness and hope. He was “the temple of God,” where God’s Spirit resided.
When I was in confirmation, I remember taking a test that asked for the name of the day on which Jesus died. The answer had two blanks. I knew that the second blank was Friday, but I could not remember what word filled the first blank. I racked by brain, “blank Friday, blank Friday.” Finally I filled in the blank with the word: Bad, Bad Friday. My thinking was that it was certainly a bad day for Jesus with his suffering and death.
Of course I was wrong. We know the day as Good Friday, because it was good for us. God turned humanity’s total rejection of his love into the final victory for us.
How does Jesus’ death tell the truth about our lives and world? How does it give us hope? Where do you see God at work to redeem creation?
Prayer: Lord God, on the cross you suffered the very depths of our human brokenness and sin. Your humiliation on the cross became our path to You. Help us to remember the depth of your love and the powerful hope you give.