So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.
So they took Jesus,  and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha.  There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.  Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”  Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek.  So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’”  Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”
 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic.(1) But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom,  so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says,
“They divided my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.”
So the soldiers did these things,  but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.  When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!”  Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
Jesus the Great High Priest
 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (ESV)
Today is Good Friday. It is the day according to legend and history that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified for leading an insurrection against Rome claiming to be the true King of the Jews. But for many of us who are Christians, his life and death is so much more than mere politics. It is the story of forgiveness and mercy where Jesus became the “scapegoat” of all of humanity. He was killed by the unholy triumvirate of politics (Pilate), prosperity and wealth (Herod), and position and religion (the Sanhedrin) (Acts 3:15) According to Richard Rohr:
For our purposes here, the image of scapegoat powerfully mirrors and reveals the universal, but largely unconscious, human need to transfer our guilt onto something (or someone) else by singling that other out for unmerited negative treatment.” (Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ)
The chief priests had their scapegoat. It was overheard and recorded about Jesus that the phrase “let one man die, and a nation survive” is exactly what scapegoating looks like (John 18:14; Matt 27:25). The cross becomes our symbol of scapegoating. “The cross reveals every act of human barbarism, war, torture, starvation, disease, abuse, oppression, injustice, early death, and absurd lives ‘from the blood of Abel the Holy to the blood of Zechariah who you’ve killed (Matthew 23:35)” (Richard Rohr, Wondrous Encounters: Scripture for Lent).
In a great reversal, the cross which is the symbol of human evil becomes a symbol of love and forgiveness when Jesus uttered those famous words, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing,” (Luke 23:34); these are the very same words that the high priest uttered and prayed to God on the Day of Atonement for the sins of wayward Israel. In this way, Jesus became the high priest when he offered the ultimate sacrifice of himself for the sins of the world (John 1:29; Heb. 9:26). As the Apostle Paul has eloquently stated, Jesus redeemed us from the curse by becoming a curse (Gal. 3:13), and became sin so that we can become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21).
When this occurred, the curtain in the temple that separated the people from God’s presence was torn symbolizing that the barrier between the unholy and the holy. Jesus body became the doorway to God’s presence (Heb. 10:20) which is precisely what the writer of Hebrews means by which we can enter into the “throne of grace to find grace and mercy in our time of need.“
The significance of Jesus death is not that he dies for us in a mere transactional sense, but dies with us and in solidarity with all of humanity with its pain and issues. This is what Jesus means by “overcoming the world” (John 16:33). The cross is both an external exposing (the ugliness and evil of humanity) and eternal holding of the great mystery of God’s love for us by becoming a propitiation of sin for the whole world (1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10). This is exactly what the Apostle Paul means when he wrote in his epistle to the Romans, “but God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8)
According to Brian Zahnd:
“The cross is where we gain the clearest revelation of what God is like. The cross is not what God inflicts upon Jesus in order to forgive, but what God in Christ endures as he forgives. Hans Urs von Balthasar said, “Being disguised under the disfigurement of an ugly crucifixion and death, Christ upon the cross is paradoxically clearest revelation of what God is like.”
Collect of the Day
Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
God, thank you that Jesus died for our sins, and created a doorway into your presence. Thank you that you bore our evil and ugliness on the cross and became our scapegoat. As I gaze to the cross, help me see where you enter with my own pain and suffering. Give me hope to find grace in my time of need as I look to your cross.