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“Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. 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?’ And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, ‘This man is calling Elijah.’ And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, ‘Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.’ And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. (Matthew 27:45–50)
For a world that prizes material wealth, earthly power, and outward beauty, it is difficult to see how Friday of Holy Week could be good news. After all, why would anyone want to follow a Man who was rejected, spat upon, beaten, flogged, mocked, and crucified? This is not the kind of Messiah we would come up with on our own.
It is fitting that darkness covered the land while Jesus Christ of Nazareth hung on the cross. The One through whom the world was created (John 1:1–3) was hanging in agony on a tree. This was the God the Son. And the fact that He was fully divine did not lessen His suffering, for He was also fully human, the “Word made flesh” (John 1:14). Christ’s body was shot through with pain. But the physical suffering wasn’t the worst of it.
In His body, Jesus bore the judgment of God (1 Peter 2:24). Echoing the words of the psalmist, He cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46; Psalm 22:1)
We can hardly get our minds around these words. Christ was forsaken by God. But it wasn’t for His own sin: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree . . .” (1 Peter 2:24, emphasis added).
Christ died in our place. This is why He came to Jerusalem. Better yet, this is why He took on flesh––to endure temptation, rejection, and ultimately death––all so that we might be reconciled to God. He was bringing salvation to sinners and glory to the Father.
As we reflect on Christ’s death and what He accomplished for us, at least two truths are worth meditating on. First, the cross reminds us of the magnitude of our sin and of God’s holiness. Too often we treat sin casually, as if our rebellion against God were a light thing. Yet nothing short of the death of God’s Son was necessary to remove our guilt and free us from sin’s power. God’s absolute purity and His inflexible justice were on full display. Our response should be humility and repentance.
Second, for those who have put their trust in Christ, the cross also gives us a rock-solid ground of assurance before God. The death of Christ was a sufficient payment for our sins, regardless of how unworthy we may feel. And we are forever united to Christ, which means His death on Good Friday was our death. We have been crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20). We can rest assured, then, that our sin will never be held against us.
Our hope is not ultimately in ourselves, but in the One who died in our place. We are forgiven because Christ was forsaken.
(This article created with the assistance of David Burnette.)