The cross is a glorious, God-ordained, tragedy. The young Jewish Rabai would be arrested in the dead of night, trialed by a lynch mob, and given up to be crucified to pacify a blood thirsty crowd. Jesus would be beat. He would be whiped. His skin would be swollen from pain and his muscles exposed as he is flogged. A crown of thorns would be shoved on his head, cutting into his skull. He was forced to carry a rugged cross on his bloodly exposed back to a hill called Golgotha, which means place of the skull. On that hill Jesus wouldld hang, nailed to a tree among other criminals. The perfect son of God hung naked as he suffocated, chocking on his own blood. All the while the crowd of people stand jerring, mocking, hurling insult after insult. That was the day humanity killed God. God himself hung on that cross. The horrific suffering of the cross is enough even to make the most hardned heart tremble.
When we think about the cross we must remember one thing. Jesus paid it all. On the cross, Jesus was enduring the wrath of God that you and I deserved. Jesus did this in our place. He was flogged instead of you. He was nailed instead of you. He was suffocating instead of you.
In the 13th and 14th century there were a group of radical Catholics who began to whip themselves in order to make pennace for their sin. This self-flagelation was done in order to purify the body for sins. They were doing it to punish themselves because of their sins. In fact, there are some who even attempt to do this today.
Although must of us don't particpate in self-flagelation, often times we do try to punish ourselves for our sin. We try to make ourselves pay for our short comings, punishing ourselves for our disobedience. We want to experience what Christ experienced. We want to suffer like Christ has suffered.
I suggest to you that this is a very dangerous practice. There is some truth to these desires. Our sins do deserve punishment. However, the beauty of the Gospel is that Jesus has bore our punishment for us! We do not have to make penance for our sins, Jesus has. We don't have to suffer for our sins, Jesus has done it for us! We must be so very carefeul lest we add our own piety to the Gospel. Our sins do deserve punishment, but God has provided a scape goat - Jesus Christ the righteous one.
As you dwell on the events of Good Friday, remembering the death of Christ, praise God that Christ has endured the sufferings of the cross for you. For those who have faith in Christ, your sin has been paid for. Jesus has paid it all. There is no punishment for your sins, because Jesus was punished instead of you. This is why the tragedy of the cross is glorious! Because in the tragedy of Jesus God-ordained death, we have been washed clean by His blood. We are forgiven once and for all. There is no more work to be done and no more price to be paid. As Jesus cried out with his dying words, "It is finished!"