Remember when Jesus said take my yoke on you, for my yoke is easy and my burden light? Imagine a thick wooden yoke with slots for a pair of oxen and Jesus strapped into one side. He not only offers to help shoulder the burden, but I think he carries the bulk of the weight, gives us the “light” end. He positions the wood across his shoulders in such a way as to lighten our load. I love that picture.
It’s Good Friday and I’m reminded that Jesus carried another piece of wood across his shoulders for me—alone. Not a yoke, not a shared burden, but a lonely task. To bear the weight of all my sin.
Before I realized this week’s post lands on Good Friday, I was planning to write about why I dislike being accused and unfairly blamed. Yes, it hurts and angers me when my motives are under false suspicion or when my character is doubted. But since I’ve made mistakes and given valid reason to be doubted, I don’t have much right to get too indignant. The only person who never deserved any of the accusation, judgment or suspicion directed at him was Jesus.
Jesus lived a sinless life, making him the only person eligible to be an acceptable sacrifice for the sins of the world. He was the only one capable of fulfilling the righteous requirement of a holy God. If he had given into one temptation, one lustful thought, one word of gossip, one tiny white lie, he wouldn’t have qualified, and we would be without hope.
God made him who had no sin
to be sin for us,
so that in him we might become
the righteousness of God
Even if we wanted to spare Jesus the trouble and pay for our own sin by offering ourselves to die on a cross, we could never qualify as an acceptable sacrifice. We are blemished. Isn’t that a nice sounding word for what it really is? On our own, we are hopeless.
But because we are hopeless, God came to earth and took on the form of a man willingly. Resolutely. Jesus never wavered, not once. He suffered temptation, poverty, hardship, and sorrow just as we do, to feel our pain, to sympathize. But that wasn’t all he came to do. Jesus also came to serve, teach, heal, lead, touch, deliver, love, feed—but that also wasn’t all he came to do. Ultimately, Jesus came to qualify. He came to die.
Let’s look at the first “Good” Friday. (Isn’t calling that day “Good” a terrible oxymoron? Yet isn’t what he did by far the greatest good ever done for mankind?) Even as plots were forming for his betrayal and murder, Jesus spent the evening with friends, preparing them and himself for his death. Praying alone in the shadows, without the comfort of his sleeping friends, overwhelmed with sorrow, his agonized heart laid bare before God, Jesus asked to be spared, and yet yielded to his Father in loving surrender.
He was betrayed, disowned, deserted by his closest friends, and then arrested. He was falsely accused, conspired against. Condemned. He was beaten, whipped, and forced to carry his own instrument of execution. He was insulted, cursed and humiliated. He was nailed to a tree and left to die a slow, excruciating death. Even those condemned beside him heaped insults on him.
His response? “Father, forgive them.”
I sometimes wonder what Jesus was asking God to do in that moment. Pardon them? Reconcile them? Perhaps he was asking God to spare them the fire-shower certain to fall for their blasphemy. Or, maybe in his final plea to God, he was thinking about me. Maybe in that moment, when Jesus said, “Father, forgive them,” Jesus was asking God to look at him instead of me, to transfer the focus of righteous wrath onto himself.
And then, because he who knew no sin became sin, Jesus suffered the most agonizing sorrow: separation from God. Utterly abandoned, in every way broken and alone, Jesus died.
He didn’t deserve any of this.
Yet he went willingly. Took the beatings. Answered insults with silence. Let them nail him to a tree and then stayed on that tree when he could have called down a firestorm from heaven to destroy them all and save himself. He would have been fully justified to punish his tormentors, silence the blasphemies, expose the lies, demand justice.
He had every right to let all hell break loose on the lot of them but he didn’t. He didn’t waver in his purpose.
In hopes to win my heart and yours. To make us whole. To give you a chance to spend eternity with a fiercely adoring God who loves you enough to go to hell and back for you.
This to me is the mind-blowing, breathtaking, unwavering love of God.
Please Lord, may I never forget.