He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 1Peter 2:24 ESV
(Today’s post is an excerpt taken from the sixth post in Desiring God’s 2014 Holy Week series “The Final Days of Jesus,” inspired by the new book of the same title by Justin Taylor and Andreas Kostenberger. Holy Week illustrations provided in partnership with Crossway Books and Adam Greene. Excerpt and photo SOURCE)
Morning wanes as Jesus stumbles out of the Praetorium, horribly beaten and bleeding profusely. The Roman soldiers had been brutal in their creative cruelty. Thorns have ripped Jesus’s scalp and his back is one grotesque, oozing wound. Golgotha is barely a third of a mile through the Garden Gate, but Jesus has no strength to manage the forty-pound crossbar. Simon of Cyrene is drafted from the crowd.
Twenty-five minutes later, Jesus is hanging in sheer agony on one of the cruelest instruments of torture ever devised. Nails have been driven through his wrists (which we only know about because of the doubt Thomas will express in a couple days (John 20:25)). A sign above Jesus declares in Greek, Latin, and Aramaic who he is: the King of the Jews.
The King is flanked on either side by thieves and around him are gawkers and mockers. “Let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” some yell (Luke 23:35). One dying thief even joins in the derision. They do not understand that if the King saves himself, their only hope for salvation is lost. Jesus asks his Father to forgive them. The other crucified thief sees a Messiah in the mutilated man beside him, and he asks the Messiah to remember him. Jesus’s prayer is beginning to be answered. Hundreds of millions will follow.
It is mid-afternoon now and the eerie darkness that has fallen has everyone on edge. But for Jesus, the darkness is a horror he has never known. This, more than the nails and thorns and lashings, is what made him sweat blood in the garden. The Father’s wrath is hitting him in full force. He is in that moment no longer the Blessed, but the Cursed (Galatians 3:13). He has become sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). In terrifying isolation, cut off from his Father and all humans he screams, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani,” Aramaic for “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46, Psalm 22:1). No greater love (John 15:13), humility (Philippians 2:8), or obedience (Hebrews 5:8) has ever or will ever be displayed.
Shortly after 3 PM, Jesus whispers hoarsely for a drink. In love, he has drained the cup of his Father’s wrath to the dregs. He has born our full curse. There is no debt left to pay and he has nothing left to give. The wine moistens his mouth just enough to say one final word: “It is finished” (John 19:30). And God the Son dies.
It is the worst and best of all human deaths. For on this tree he bears our sins in his body (1 Peter 2:24), “the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). And now it is finished.
A bright irony on this darkest of days is that the men who step forward to claim the corpse of the Christ for burial are not family members or disciples. They are members of the Sanhedrin: Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. It is one more unexpected thread of grace woven into this tapestry of redemption. They quickly wrap Jesus’s body in a sheet and lay it in a nearby tomb. Evening is falling and they don’t have time to fully dress it with spices.
Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses accompany them, careful to note the tomb’s location. They plan to return with more spices after the Sabbath, on the first day of the week, to make sure that it is finished.