4/22/2019 10:55:03 AM
Good Friday Traditional: See Jesus Walk
George Meegen once walked from the southern tip of South America to the northern part of Alaska, over 19,000 miles. It took him 6.5 years. He wore out 12 pairs of hiking boots. It’s considered the longest “uninterrupted” walk in history. But that is mere trivia. Forty years after he accomplished that feat, you don’t see George Meegen in the news, on social media, or late-night TV. Besides his name on the Guinness website of world records it has no real value at all. You’ve never seen his name before. You don’t really see that world record anywhere. It means nothing for you.
But what do you really see when you look at Good Friday? We see man at his worst; we see God at his best. We see what sin did to Jesus; we see what Jesus did to sin. We see a dying sinner; we see a dying saint; we see a dying Savior. Most of all we see Jesus in all those things. Today we see him walk to the cross. We see him walk alone. We see him walk ahead of Simon from Cyrene. We see him walk with the women. And we see him walk in our place.
WE SEE JESUS WALK ALONE
After probably about two hours early Good Friday morning in front of Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor finally gave the order for Jesus to be executed. It was likely between 8:00 and 8:30. The Apostle John tells us that Jesus carried his own cross. Whether it was entire cross or just the crossbeam we don’t know. But at first there was no one else to help avoid the splinters and slivers from that rough wood on his bare, bleeding back. There was no one else to relieve the shooting synapses of his nerves to his brain screaming his pain. There was no one to give him food to satisfy his hunger, or something to drink to quench his thirst and relieve his dehydration, or help revive a body so badly beaten and bloodied that was already near death.
This was God the Father’s will. It was how he answered Jesus’ prayer nine hours earlier. Jesus walked alone.
WE SEE JESUS WALK AHEAD OF SIMON
But soon the muscles in his legs couldn’t take another step. He fell forward and down and fast. Surprisingly the soldiers didn’t beat him at this point but grabbed a man named Simon who just happened to be there. But we know he was there by God’s perfect divine providence. Either originally from the north African city of Cyrene (in modern day Libya) who had moved to Jerusalem, or he had traveled the 1100 miles to celebrate the Passover. He didn’t volunteer to carry a fellow Israelite’s cursed execution device. No, the soldiers made him carry it. There was no discussion and no other option.
Jesus walked ahead and Simon walked behind him. We have no way of knowing if Simon knew Jesus or not, but Mark in his gospel mentions Simon’s two sons and later the Apostle Paul would mention one son and Simon’s wife. So this random pedestrian the Roman soldiers grabbed and barked at had to watch Jesus for that half mile walk to Golgotha. And by God’s Holy Spirit – at some point – Simon from Cyrene became a believer. The cross he carried changed his life.
You see, that morning Simon was not the helper but the one helped. Jesus walked ahead of Simon and would complete that trek to the place of the skull so Simon would “walk”… out of God’s courtroom, that is, as a free man, forgiven for all eternity. With his name recorded in God’s eternal Word, Simon was honored – one out of thousands upon thousands of people there that day – to carry the cross of Jesus. He carried the literal cross of Jesus. Every believer today carries a figurative cross of Jesus, saying “No” to our sinful nature that tempts and attacks us every day of our life. Jesus made it clear that carrying that cross – our cross – is honoring the Savior who carried his cross. Jesus’ cross is the only cross that can save us from all the times we haven’t carried our cross.
WE SEE JESUS WALK WITH THE WOMEN
The crowd walking along what many Christians now call the “Via Dolorosa” (“Painful Way” or “Way of Sorrows”) from Pilate’s outdoor court site to the crucifixion site west of Jerusalem was made up of the “Crucify him!” chanters, but others tagged along joining the parade of the three condemned men and twelve soldiers. Among them were women whose heart, compassion, and decency brought them to tears as they saw this horror in front of their eyes. Their sadness and sympathy were directed toward Jesus who was suffering as the worst of criminals would.
But Jesus’ words must have shocked them. “Do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children.” He goes on to explain that a time is coming when women with no children will feel grateful that they don’t have children. In just forty years the Roman army would surround Jerusalem, literally starve out the city (to the point of cannibalism), massacre people, and burn down God’s temple never to be built again. That horrendous event was merely a sample of God bringing his just and righteous anger and eternal judgment to humans who aren’t interested in his grace.
Jesus continued, “If people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” The comparison is quite simple: green wood can burn in a fire but dry wood really burns in a fire. The sinless Jesus, the Son of God, is the green tree/wood. But those on the other side of him – including those Hebrew women, including the vast majority of their nation who scoffed at their own Savior that God sent them, including anyone who does not repent of their sins – we might instantly think of the wrong things we have done, the unimaginable things we have imagined, the self-centered choices we have made – anyone who doesn’t seek shelter in Jesus will end up suffering worse than the suffering Jesus would endure the next six hours.
Jesus in his love was sending a warning of love and urgency, a call to repentance to all mankind, to every one of the 7.6 billion people on the planet today, to wake up before it’s too late. It’s bad enough that the green tree would burn. But God doesn’t want the dry tree to burn. Being sad and mournful on this Friday we call good (even wearing black and leaving in silence) should not be out of sympathy for Jesus. It should be a real sign of true repentance on the part of every Christian – out of humble gratitude for the only way you and I will escape God’s eternal judgment and enjoy his eternal love. That way is Jesus, and we see him walk in our place.
WE SEE JESUS WALK IN OUR PLACE
That means that what you see today – you see Jesus walk – is the eternal difference maker for you. That means that the one person responsible for Jesus’ death but whose name is not recorded in the Bible, whose name you could recite if you looked in a mirror and said the name of the person you see….that person will not walk to eternal suffering because Jesus did for us. Jesus walked alone so you never will. Jesus walked ahead so we would enjoy the mercy and forgiveness that he leaves in his wake. Jesus walked with the women so you would know that he will always walk with you.
The walk that Jesus took would end with Jesus perfectly fulfilling the Old Testament (saying “I am thirsty”), declaring that our debt is paid in full (saying “It is finished!”), and offering his soul to his Father (“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”) for three days of safe-keeping in heaven. All because we couldn’t do that. Jesus did. And he did it for you, in your place, as your substitute. He wants you in heaven that badly! His desire to die so you could live was that deep! His longing for you to be close to him every day of your life and forever in heaven was lived out step by step as he walked…..all for you and me. Yes, God placed all your sins on Jesus and he paid the entire price for you on Good Friday.
In just a few moments when we join in the visual confession of sin, realize with humility your part in Good Friday’s steps. See the nail you place in that cross as not just one sin that you committed once but every single sin you’ve ever committed, that Jesus was willing to suffer for. They were all nailed to the cross. Then see the cross as the difference maker for you – like it was for Simon from Cyrene. See your Savior take the longest walk ever that brings you forgiveness and peace and eternal life. Seeing Jesus walk…to the cross… is all we will ever need to see. Amen.