Today, for those of faith, represents the darkest day in human history. The day where it seemed all hope died. Good Friday remembers the day when Jesus Christ, Son of God, was crucified by the Roman government.
He suffered through the mockery of a trial, in which the prosecution presented trumped up charges to a judge who found no fault but still sided with the mob and gave into their demands. He was beaten, tortured, and jeered. Stripped and dressed in a costume designed to mock the charges against him. He was forced to carry the beam of his cross in a walk of shame through the city where the same people who cheered his arrival now gawked at the parade of criminals as they worked their way to the site of their execution. He was then nailed to that beam, in both his hands and feet, raised between two criminals and left to die.
Crucifixion was one of the most cruel forms of death that humans have ever created. It was public and designed to dissuade its witnesses from perpetrating similar crimes. Victims were sometimes left on display after death as a warning to any other potential criminals. The death it provided was particularly slow and painful, leading to the term excruciating, or literally "out of crucifying." The person executed was usually attached to the cross by a range of methods including rope and nails. The executed could be tied to the cross such that the ropes would cut into his skin. To support the weight of a body, nails would be driven into the arm just above the wrist, between the two bones of the forearm. Nails would also be driven into the feet, also to support the weight of the body, usually without the foot-rest or the seat that is placed on our decorative crosses. The entire weight of the body would be placed on those nails as the body would continue to pull downward in gravity, keeping the person in continual pain.
When the whole body weight was supported by stretched out arms, nailed to that cross, the typical cause of death was asphyxiation. The executed would have severe difficulty inhaling and would have to draw themselves up by the arms, leading to exhaustion and pain at the nail sites. This process could be sped up by the soldiers breaking the condemned's legs, preventing them from pushing up, leaving them to die choking for air. The executed could further suffer cardiac rupture, heart failure, hypovolemic shock, sepsis, acidosis, arrhythmia, and pulmonary embolism. The scourging before the crucifixion would exacerbate the potential for sepsis. Add in dehydration and you have a slow, agonizing death on display for all to see.
And Jesus willingly chose that path. He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, willingly going to cross to redeem his creation.
To his followers, this day marked the end of the ministry they had committed their lives to. Their leader, their friend, and confidant had been executed. Now their lives were in danger as well. Would they be labeled as dissidents and rounded up? We can see this fear in Peter's denial.
For Jesus, this was also an unprecedented day. The day when Jesus, the pure, spotless lamb would bear the sins of the world, past, present, and future. It would be the one time Jesus was completely separated from His Father. Where God would turn His back on him, for he could not see his son stained with sin. Eloi; Eloi; Lama; Sabachtha. My God; My God; Why have you forsaken me?
But we - we celebrate that Friday is not the end of the story. Things may look at their absolute darkest, but morning is coming. Friday may be death, but Sunday is resurrection.
No matter the outlook, it gets better.
It's Friday, but Sunday is coming!
Praise the Lord!