The Witnesses of Jesus’ Death
Text: Luke 23:26-49 | Listen to Message
Witnessing Jesus’ Death
On Friday, Christians around the world reflect and remember the death of Jesus. We call this day “Good Friday.” But why is it good? Why is remembering Jesus’ horrific torture and death good? In the end, how are we supposed to remember Good Friday? And how are we supposed to respond to this news of Jesus’ death on the cross?
Prior to Jesus’ death, he had been awake all night, paraded to various houses, and experienced mock trials. Jesus was in emotional and mental anguish. He was then ordered to be tortured. He was scourged or flogged, which many times killed its victims. Jesus was repeatedly whipped with specifically designed whips to rip open his back, and in many cases break bones, expose organs, and leave the victim so mangled that you could barely recognize who they were.
Jesus was then forced to carry his cross bar to the place of his execution. His arms were raised and nails were driven through his hands or wrists. Similarly, nails were driven through his feet, ankles, or heels. His entire body weight was suspended by these nails and closed his rib cage, making it difficult to breath. The only way to get a full breath was for him to push down on his nail-pierced hands and feet, driving excruciating pain through his body.
Of Jesus’ torture and death, the prophet Isaiah prophesied in Isaiah 52:14, “His face was so disfigured he seemed hardly human, and from his appearance, one would scarcely know he was a man.” Jesus’ body was so disfigured, mangled, and broken that he barely looked human. This is what our sin did to Jesus.
Those that witnessed Jesus’ death had one of two reactions, typified by the two criminals that hung on crosses on either side of Jesus. One criminal rejected Jesus and distanced himself from Jesus. The other repented of his own wrongdoing, his sin, and believed that Jesus was sinless and had the ability to save him from eternal punishment.
In pain and short of breath, the angry criminal mocked Jesus, and scorned him for not physically saving him from his punishment. Along with this angry criminal, the religious leaders, the Roman soldiers, and Pilate rejected Jesus’ message. They hated him for threatening their control and power. They distanced themselves from Jesus, and rejected his claims of divinity.
Conversely, the other criminal converted. In his pain, he cried out to Jesus to save him, not from physical death but spiritual death. This convert on the cross, as well as the Roman Centurion, were convicted of their own depravity and sin. They saw Jesus as innocent and perfect. They cried out to him to save them.
Similar to the women that Jesus interacted with at the beginning of the passage, Jesus calls us not to weep for him. Not to grieve over the death of Jesus, but to grieve our own sin. This Friday we are to weep and mourn our own sin, and to grieve that because of our sin, Jesus died. But our mourning and weeping is to turn to joy and celebration! Because Jesus died, we don’t have to! Because Jesus died in our place for our sins, if we believe in Him, we no longer bear the weight of our sin! Jesus has taken our punishment on himself. This is good news! That is why Christians call this Friday “Good Friday.” Because in Jesus’ death, we have the hope of life and an eternity with Him.