Good Friday: The Agony and the Irony

Good Friday: The Agony and the Irony April 7, 2023

Today the Christian church celebrates Good Friday, commemorating the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. Each of the four Gospels tells the story of Jesus’s arrest, trial, torture, crucifixion, and burial—the specific details are slightly different but they correspond amazingly to one another.

This morning I spent time listening to Matthew 27:27–56 on the So Much More podcast hosted by my friend Jodie Niznik. She split the passage into three sections and included time to meditate on each set of verses, then read the whole thing aloud in one sitting. The Lectio Divina process made space for consideration. It was new to me, but I liked sitting with this text on this day. It seems fitting to meditate on my savior’s suffering for my sake.

I came away with a few big thoughts to share.

The Agony and the Irony

Matthew 27:27–31. Jesus had just been flogged, and the soldiers took him inside the Praetorium, the residence of Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor over Judea. There they stripped him, put a robe on him, fashioned a crown of thorns, then beat him over the head “again and again” (v 30) with a staff while they mockingly bowed to him.

His flesh was torn, bloody, not even scabbed over yet. Then they added another way to torture him. The details Matthew gives highlight the physical agony Jesus was experiencing. It also reveals the power differential. The soldiers dominate the action—taking, beating, stripping, mocking, taking. Jesus receives it all.

The irony? He really was the king of the Jews. The king of the world, even. Their mockery in dressing him in kinglike garb and bowing to him was meant to shame him. Yet they are the ones shamed.

More Mockery, More Irony

Matthew 27:32–44. As Jesus hung on the cross, the soldiers continued their mockery by taking his clothes and dividing them up as spoils. But it’s the religious leaders who, in their smugness, quoted scripture at the author of scripture. They believed the sign over his head, “Jesus the King of the Jews,” was mocking his outrageous claims. In reality, of course, the sign declared truth. But in their hard-heartedness, the teachers of scripture relished the image of Jesus on the cross, utterly shamed in the eyes of the world. The ones who knew that God’s law included “love your neighbor as yourself” virtually rubbed their hands in glee to see their enemy seemingly vanquished.

The irony.

Two criminals hung next to Jesus, men whose crimes had earned them the harshest punishment Rome could mete out. Yet even they, suffering their own agony, found the energy to mock Jesus for his claims to divinity. At their lowest, they found a way to go lower in their self-righteousness.

The Irony and the Power

Matthew 27:45–56. As Jesus approached his final moments, he cried out “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” Onlookers heard “Eli” and assumed he was calling out to the prophet Elijah. The irony here? The religious leaders likely recognized that Jesus was quoting the opening line from Psalm 22. After someone offered Jesus the wine-soaked sponge, they said to leave him alone and see if Elijah would come save him. Their mocking words echoed Psalm 22:8:

“He trusts in the Lord,” they say,
“let the Lord rescue him.
Did the religious leaders hear Jesus’s cry and begin reciting Psalm 22 in their minds, continuing his words? If so, they would have come to verses 16–18:
Dogs surround me,
a pack of villains encircles me;
they pierce my hands and my feet.
All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me.
They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.
Jesus quoted a psalm that pointed to him! Yet the religious leaders were blind.

The irony.

After Jesus breathed his last, creation erupted in reaction: the sky was already dark as he hung there, and then an earthquake rattled the region. The God of creation is also the God of life, and he opened graves, sending the dead out alive, appearing to many in Jerusalem. The God of salvation tore the curtain in the temple that separated the Holy of Holies from the outer areas, revealing the holy place to all. No more sacrifices needed—the ultimate sacrifice had been made out on Golgotha.

Remember Psalm 22? I wonder if the religious leaders thought it all the way through when they heard, a few days later, that Jesus had risen.
You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
For he has not despised or scorned
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.
All the ends of the earth
will remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
will bow down before him,
for dominion belongs to the Lord
and he rules over the nations.
All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
those who cannot keep themselves alive.
Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord.
They will proclaim his righteousness,
declaring to a people yet unborn:
He has done it! (Ps 22:23–24, 27–31)
"Sounds like you’re afraid of Alberta’s conclusions. And the article you linked to is a ..."

Review: The Kingdom, the Power, and ..."
"Apparently you don't know much about the author, nor have you read the book."

Review: The Kingdom, the Power, and ..."
"Yes, Evangelicals are more a political movement than a cause for Jesus Christ.This book sounds ..."

Review: The Kingdom, the Power, and ..."
"I agree with the points you make in your review. Alberta's book is very significant ..."

Review: The Kingdom, the Power, and ..."

Browse Our Archives

error: Content is protected !!