Our Savior Is Crucified
Open Your Bible
Mark 15:20-22, John 19:19-22, Luke 23:32-43, Matthew 27:45-54, John 19:38-42, Isaiah 53:12
This is it.
This is the question and answer, the moment, the hinge upon which all of history sits.
Did Jesus, fully man and fully God, die on the cross, not just as a Jewish rebel and teacher in ancient Rome, but as the promised Messiah and Savior of all humanity? Did He?
Do you believe it?
I have a very vivid memory of standing in the emerald-green-tiled shower of our charmingly dilapidated St. Louis apartment, a year and a half into seminary, water washing over me and tears rushing down my face. I asked myself, “Do you really believe this is true? Do you?” The questions, the concepts, and the reordering of my heart and mind were almost too much.
I have an equally vivid memory of driving to Target the afternoon our little friend-family experienced unspeakable tragedy, and of whisper-screaming with every breath I took, saying, “Jesus, be real. Jesus, BE REAL. Jesus, please be real.”
I have just as many if not more moments of deep assurance, of knowing Christ to be true. I resonate with John Wesley’s words describing his own faith: “I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”
All this makes me wonder, reflecting on today’s Scripture, how many people who were there at Christ’s crucifixion found themselves feeling the terror of unbelief? And who felt the sweet, blessed assurance of faith? What would it have been like to be a witness to this moment, to believe that all the promises of the ages were coming true? Or to be a blind witness, without faith, and to feel nothing more for Jesus than for the criminals who hung next to Him?
The terror of unbelief settled on Peter, who denied Jesus three times. Disbelief motivated the scoffing Jewish leaders, and the insulting criminal on the cross. It led Pilate to apathy.
But the repentant thief on the cross next to Jesus believed. The centurion gasped at the sudden darkness and knew this was not just another prisoner hanging nearby.
Joseph and Nicodemus believed, and acted in faith to care for the broken body of the Son of God. Chapters earlier we read that Nicodemus, a pharisee, wasn’t sure if he believed in Jesus; but in today’s reading, we suddenly find him doing the humiliating work of preparing the Lord’s dead body for burial—work typically reserved for women and slaves. Nicodemus knew it was all true.
This is it. And it is all true.
It is true on the days I am blindsided by the terror of unbelief. And it is true on the days I feel it doubtlessly in every bone and blood cell in my body.
My Good Friday prayer, in this between-Friday-and-Sunday life that we live, is that I will always remember and proclaim, “Truly, this man is the Son of God” (Matthew 27:54).