Photo by GospelMessage on Morgue File.
Last Friday, Good Friday, I sat with my five-year old (the three-year old was still fast asleep!) and we watched a children’s video about the meaning of Good Friday. The video showed Jesus entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and performing miracles and teaching the people. It showed his last Passover with his disciples in the upper room and his instituting the Lord’s Supper. It went on to show his betrayal and crucifixion. Of course, it did so with a sensitivity to children, so the images were not overly graphic. Even still, the message was clearly proclaimed.
One scene the video portrayed was the jeers of the people standing around watching Jesus die on the cross. It showed some standing around saying, he saved others, but he cannot save himself. Without hesitating my daughter screamed out, Yes he can! She said it with such gusto, such passion. I could tell she was a bit perturbed by the words of the heckler.
It struck me. My five-year old daughter understood fully that Jesus could have saved himself at any point, at any second of the ordeal. At any moment in his life, when the crowds were clamoring for another sign and the leaders were questioning his authority, he could have ended it all! At any point, during that last week, he could have said, that’s it, enough is enough! At any time as he stood before the Sanhedrin or before Pilate or Herod; at any second as he took the blows of the soldiers or the taunts of the crowd, he could have ended it.
Of course, as D.A. Carson points out in his message, The Ironies of the Cross, this is the one thing he could not do and still redeem fallen humanity. Yes, definitely he had the power and authority to end it . . . that is, save himself at any point; but, if he had done so, if he had saved himself, he would not have saved us! He had to die, he had to not save himself, in order to die in our place, so we could be saved. The one criminal asked him to save himself and them, but if he had come down from the cross, the only person he would have saved would have been himself! Jesus, out of love for us and devotion to his Father, in unimaginable grace, did not save himself!
Another scene that drew the ire of my daughter was the general taunts that Jesus experienced that day. The video showed several people wagging their heads and fingers at Jesus. It showed some laughing at him. It showed others mocking him and gesturing towards him.
As this was playing out on the screen, I noticed my daughter becoming agitated. I paused the video and asked her what was the matter. (She is a redhead and her cheeks turn rosy red whenever she is upset!)
She kept her eyes fixated on the screen and answered, Daddy, I am so angry! Daddy, I am so mad!
I responded, At what baby?
She replied, stills staring at the paused screen, Daddy, I am so angry at those people! I am so mad at them! I am so mad at them I just want to punch them in the face!
She made sure she articulated every syllable with a righteous indignation tone. She was visibly upset. She was almost to the point of shaking in anger.
I understood her emotion: raw and innocent.
Yet, while I too share it, it was not the emotion of Christ that day. He was not mad at them . . . he loved them! While we were still enemies . . . Paul reminds us. Christ didn’t want to punch them in the face, he wanted to embrace them in love and grace.
And yet, I think, there is something pure in my daughter’s reaction. There is something childlike and innocent in witnessing a unjust act and feeling angry about it. We as adults sometimes become too familiar with such tragedies and no longer pay much attention to them. We turn the other way. We pretend we don’t see it. We slumber in apathy.
But my daughter could not keep quiet. There was a fire that boiled from her little heart that came out and lashed against the injustice of it all.
Christ’s death was an injustice. He was an innocent man . . . not only innocent before men, but innocent (completely and perfectly) before God! And yet, there he hung on a cross. And yet, there he died a criminal’s death. Here is another irony of that event on that first Good Friday: through the injustice of Christ’s death comes our justice−our right-ness before a holy, glorious God!
Barabbas had been freed by the will and shouts of the people. In his stead, Jesus had been led away and crucified. But Barabbas was merely one amongst millions, who was turned away that day so that Jesus could suffer on his behalf. I too was there that day. I too played the part of Barabbas. And in my place, Christ bore the cross and gave his life for my sins!
My daughter was right. He could have saved himself, but in grace he did not. He could have, like my daughter wanted to do, lashed out at the crowd in wrath and judgment, but in grace he did not. The angels remained on the ready, for he never called them. Instead, he obeyed his Father’s will until the end, and by his death, gave to all those who believe in him, life eternal!