It seems chaotic. Crowds moving, people hollering. Some are mocking and laughing. Others simply shake their heads as they pass by. For many there, vicious — almost indescribable — anger is thinly veiled beneath jeering and taunting. Never has laughter been so spiteful.
And then there are a few — just a few — who stand still. Silently, mournfully, disbelievingly, gazing upward at a bloodied and broken man, still hoping that any moment now they will awake to find this has been a horrific dream. But it’s not. It won’t go away. Nothing has ever been more real. Nothing has ever seared the eyes of his loved ones and friends like this sight. And nothing will ever look the same.
The crowd itself is diverse. There are young and old, male and female, rich and poor. Some people just happened to be passing by on the way into town, some are there for the show, and others are there to make sure that death truly transpires. There are many Jews, but also Romans. Soldiers and government officials, to be precise.
Everything about the moment seems wrong. A man who had been righteous, merciful, gracious, and kind is now maligned. He who had preached love is hated. The one who had claimed to be a king is strung up as a criminal. The one who was supposed to save the Jews from their oppressors has been handed over by the Jews to their oppressors to be killed. The only human who has ever tasted true innocence or breathed true righteousness is condemned and suffering death for sin.
It is as if nature can’t bear the burden. People who died long ago are raised. The earth quakes. The day becomes dark. The holy place of the temple is exposed as the curtain tears in two from top to bottom.
Here, in this moment, the most bizarre convergence of wills of all time takes place: the will of man for the death of God and the will of God for the life of man. Death approaches for Jesus as life draws near for us.
He has been betrayed, falsely condemned, beaten, mocked, beaten again, stripped naked, nailed to a cross made of wood that he holds together. He is dying.
And it just won’t end. His breathing grows heavier. Sometimes he cries or gasps. The blood… the blood keeps pouring out from wounds that have now been opened and will never heal over. And yet even now, while mocked, abandoned, rejected, and hated, his words pour out his love as his wounds pour out his life.
To his Father: ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’
To one who deserved death: ‘Today you will be with me in paradise.’
To us: ‘It is finished.’
And his eyes: where does he look? Does he look at you? Is he beholding his Father? Does he look at his mockers? What do his eyes see? What does his face say? How are we to make sense of this moment?
And then, slowly, deliberately, he breathes his last. ‘Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit.’ And in a single instant, death wins.
And in that very same instant, death dies.
From the moment Jesus’s public ministry began, many have beheld his power and asked, ‘Who is this?’ They offered many guesses: A prophet, like the prophets of old! Elijah! John the Baptist!
But according to Mark, it is in this moment, watching him die, from the viewpoint of the foot of the cross that the first human — a Roman Centurion of all people — finally sees Jesus for who he is.
‘Surely this man was the Son of God’ (Mark 15.39).
There is no vantage point in all of human history that allows us to see Jesus for who he is like the foot of the cross. Do you want to know him? Behold him here.
Good Friday is coming up in a few weeks. Precisely because the foot of the cross is where we most clearly see our Saviour, this weekend (Good Friday and Easter Sunday) is the most important weekend of the year.
If you are in or near the Greater Toronto Area, would you consider joining our church and several other Toronto churches as we celebrate the death of our Saviour together? Will you come behold him at the foot of the cross with us? Will you come and worship him there?
Will you consider coming to see Jesus with me?