Today is the most solemn day of the year in my opinion. It is a very conflicted day for me. The most horrific murder in the history of humanity (the death of Jesus on the cross) and the greatest act of love and kindness (again the death of Jesus on the cross) both occurred on this day.
As we enter into this solemn day, I think we should look at Jesus’ own words.
John 10:11-18 (HCSB)
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired man, since he is not the shepherd and doesn’t own the sheep, leaves them and runs away when he sees a wolf coming. The wolf then snatches and scatters them. 13 This happens because he is a hired man and doesn’t care about the sheep.
14 “I am the good shepherd. I know My own sheep, and they know Me, 15 as the Father knows Me, and I know the Father. I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 But I have other sheep that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice. Then there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 This is why the Father loves Me, because I am laying down My life so I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down on My own. I have the right to lay it down, and I have the right to take it up again. I have received this command from My Father.”
On Good Friday, Jesus made a choice. Jesus is the shepherd and we are the sheep. Jesus made the choice to take on all the sins of all of humanity and die in our place so that we could be forgiven of our sins. It was His choice. He chose to be crucified. It wasn’t Pilate’s choice. It wasn’t Herod’s choice. It wasn’t Caesar’s choice. It wasn’t the high priest’s choice. It wasn’t the crowd’s choice. It certainly wasn’t the choice of you and me.
Jesus gave his life so that we could have ours. He made that choice for everyone who walked the earth in His time on earth. He made this choice for you and me to forgive the sins we would commit almost 2,000 years after He died. That just blows my mind when I really stop to think about it.
Jesus made this decision for one simple reason. Love. He loved us so much, that He didn’t want us to bear the cost of our sins. He wanted us to be able to have the type of relationship with God that He had. The problem is that if our sins were not paid for, we could never have that kind of relationship. Jesus knew that we were not worthy of His sacrifice, but He chose to do it anyway. It was the greatest act of love that has ever or will ever occur. That day, His cross was stained the color red from His blood that He shed for us.
Today the cross has become the most widely recognized symbol in the world. It marks more graves, graces more jewelry, and sits atop more churches than any other design. The making of the sign of the cross is known from basilicas to baseball diamonds around the world.
The cross’ very ubiquity causes us to forget what a strange symbol it really is. Crucifixion was the most humiliating means of execution available to Rome at the time. The cross was the instrument that was used to inflict this pain upon its victims. Imagine today choosing an electric chair or gallows or guillotine as an icon for anything.
The cross was changed from the symbol of a human empire’s power into a symbol of the suffering love of Jesus. It was changed from an expression of ultimate threat into an expression of ultimate hope. It came to express the very opposite of its original purpose. It demonstrates that the power of embraced sacrifice is greater than the power of coercion.
How in the world did all this happen?
It all happened because Jesus chose it to. He chose to die on that cross. After that Friday so many years ago, neither the cross nor the world would ever be the same again. We remain forever changed.
Take a moment today to say a little prayer to Jesus and thank him for making the choice to save your life. He is the only One who could have done it and the fact that He did is amazing!