There is another dimension of the cross that we sometimes overlook on Good Friday. We see this dimension clearly in Ephesians 2:14-16, where the death of Christ on the cross brings reconciliation not only between people and God but also between alienated people groups.
In many Christian traditions, foot-washing ceremonies provide a way for brothers and sisters in Christ to express their deep commitment to and care for each other. Foot washing can feel almost sacramental for those who give and receive it.
Because of the cross, the day will come when creation is restored and renewed. In that day, we will experience work as God intended it to be. That is part of our future hope in Christ.
But then something happened to corrupt the goodness of work. Sin happened.
But today I want to focus on something rarely mentioned among commentators: the centurion encountered God in his work. It’s not particularly unusual for people to meet God in their work. This happens – and should happen – all the time. But what is so striking in the case of the centurion is the kind of work he was doing when he had his divine encounter.
Several years ago, while visiting a church on Sunday morning, I saw a striking communion banner. It featured a creative and tasteful weaving together of wheat stalks and bunches of grapes. I appreciated the artistry that went into the design and production of the banner and was glad to have seen it.
The basic meaning of Jesus’s statement is clear. He was entrusting care of his mother to one of his most intimate friends and followers. He was making sure that she would be loved and cared for after Jesus’s death. Jesus knew he could trust his beloved follower with such an important responsibility.
Three men being crucified, suffering excruciating pain, literally. (The word “excruciating” comes from the Latin cruciare, “to crucify.”) One man begins taunting Jesus, sarcastically calling out for salvation he believes Jesus can’t deliver. The other, sensing something that he has never felt before, defends Jesus as an innocent victim. Then, in desperate hope, he cries out: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” In response Jesus says a most astounding thing, a most encouraging thing, a most curious thing: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
“They crucified Jesus.” “They,” in this case, refers to the Roman soldiers. Rome alone had the authority and the audacity to crucify people, one of the cruelest forms of execution ever devised. Crucifixion was so disgusting that Roman authors rarely referred to it. It was better left unmentioned.
Luke 23:27 notes that “a great number of people followed [Jesus]” as he walked to Golgotha. Luke gives no indication that they were crying out for Jesus’s death. In fact, by mentioning the women weeping for Jesus, Luke implies that at least many among the “great number of the people” were upset by what was happening to Jesus.
Christians from all over the world come to Jerusalem to walk along the Via Dolorosa, the way of suffering, the way of the cross. This path through the streets and alleys of Jerusalem is believed to be the path Jesus actually walked on the way to his crucifixion.