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The ‘Good’ in Good Friday

Here we are on the eve of Easter. I think probably the most significant date in our calendar. Why probably? Because it is a package deal, Of course for many, Easter has become just that, the chance for an early holiday package deal in the sun, but I’m not talking about that sort of package deal, I’m talking about Christ’s birth, death and resurrection. You can’t separate them out; all three are required. I want to look at the Cross of Jesus Christ; what was it like? We as Christians sometimes refer to “Good Friday”, but what’s so good about Friday!

Crucifixion sometimes began with a scourging or flogging of the victim’s back. The Romans used a whip called a flagrum, which consisted of small pieces of bone and metal attached to a number of leather strands. The number of blows given to Jesus is not recorded; however, the number of blows in Jewish law was 39. During the scourging, the skin was ripped from the back, exposing a bloody mass of tissue and bone. Extreme blood loss occurred, often causing death, or at least unconsciousness. In addition to the flogging, Jesus faced severe beating and torment by the Roman soldiers, including the plucking of His beard and the piercing of His scalp with a crown of thorns.

After the flogging, the victim was often forced to carry his own crossbar, or patibulum, to the execution site. The patibulum could easily weigh 100 pounds (45kg). In the case of Jesus, the record shows that He may have carried His patibulum the distance of over two football fields. In a weak and tormented state, it’s no wonder the record establishes that Jesus needed a great deal of assistance. Once the victim arrived at the execution site, the patibulum was put on the ground and the victim was forced to lie upon it. Spikes about 7 inches (175mm) long and 3/8 of an inch (10mm) in diameter were driven into the wrists. The spikes would hit the area of the median nerve, causing shocks of pain up the arms to the shoulders and neck. Already standing at the crucifixion site would be the 7-foot (2.1m)-tall post, called a stipes. In the centre of the stipes was a crude seat to “support” for the victim.

The patibulum was then lifted on to the stipes, and the victim’s body was awkwardly turned on the seat so that the feet could be nailed to the stipes. At this point, there was tremendous strain put on the wrists, arms and shoulders, resulting in a dislocation of the shoulder and elbow joints. The position of the nailed body held the victim’s rib cage in a fixed position, which made it extremely difficult to exhale, and impossible to take a full breath. Having suffered from the scourging, the beatings and the walk with the patibulum, Jesus was described as extremely weak and dehydrated. He was probably losing significant amounts of blood. As time passed, the loss of blood and lack of oxygen would cause severe cramps, spasmodic contractions and probably unconsciousness.

Ultimately, the mechanism of death in crucifixion was suffocation. To breathe, the victim was forced to push up on his feet to allow for inflation of the lungs. As the body weakened and pain in the feet and legs became unbearable, the victim was forced to trade breathing for pain and exhaustion. Eventually, the victim would succumb in this way, becoming utterly exhausted or lapsing into unconsciousness so that he could no longer lift his body off the stipes and inflate his lungs. Due to the shallow breathing, the victim’s lungs would begin to collapse in areas, probably causing hypoxia. Due to the loss of blood from the scourging, the victim probably formed a respiratory acidosis, resulting in an increased strain on the heart, which beats faster to compensate. Fluid would also build up in the lungs. Under the stress of hypoxia and acidosis, the heart would eventually fail.

Such was the agony of the death that to show some macabre sense of mercy the Roman soldiers standing guard would usually break the legs of the crucified person to aid their death. But in Jesus case the soldier thrust a spear under His protruding ribs into the base of the heart and blood and water flowed out. There was nothing good about this Friday.

So why do we as Christians refer to it as “Good Friday”? because, there are many things about that day which are good for us and the whole of mankind. God chose this means of death to redeem us. Redeem is an old fashioned word, but it means to buy back, to purchase someone who was in slavery and to bring them into freedom. The Word of God teaches that our sin holds us in bondage; we are unable to escape its effects upon our life through our own means. Nothing we can do could ever negate the effects of sin upon our lives. We needed someone to pay that price for us and that happened when Jesus Christ “The Lamb of God” paid the price for our sins with the shedding of His blood. You see, He suffered and died that we might have life and life eternal, He died to give us freedom.

John 3:16 (NASB) says:

‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believed in Him should not perish, but have everlasting (eternal) life’

God had an eternal plan right from the very beginning to redeem us. Many times the Old Testament gives imagery and prophecy of the death of the Messiah. If we were to read Isaiah 53, it is very graphic in its prophetic nature towards the death of the Messiah. Even now as I write this, my heart begins to get excited at what Christ did that day. You see, I had no chance of making it on my own merit; I needed a Saviour, someone to pay the price and God did it for me through the death of His Son. It is the same for each and every one of us, it doesn’t matter how good we think we are, our good is not good enough:

‘For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God’ Romans 3:23 (KJV)

The bible also says we fool ourselves if we think we have no sin in our lives. We all need a Saviour; we all need to accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour to allow Him to redeem us. He exchanges all of our sin for all of His righteousness. I sometimes describe it this way, that He takes our filthy sin stained clothes and exchanges them for a Teflon coat which is His righteousness and nothing can stick to His righteousness. The devil might try to remind me of my past, but I remind him that I am clothed in the righteousness of Christ and nothing he throws at me can stick.

Maybe, this Easter Friday can become your Good Friday. If you do not know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour, then the opportunity is there for you to ask Him to come into your life and to take your sin and exchange it for His righteousness. For those of us who have already made this decision, let us once again think about all that Christ has accomplished on the cross for each and every one of us.