Following the question “Whom do men say that I am?” Jesus turned to His disciples and asked, “But whom do You say that I am?” Peter responded with his sterling confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:13–16). The word of Jesus and His ministry had left a mark on Peter’s heart. On Calvary the word and cross of Jesus also made a mark on the heart of the Roman centurion who concluded, “Truly this was the Son of God” (Matthew 27:54).
As we observe the Passion culminating in Good Friday, we ask with the hymnwriter:
Do we pass that cross unheeding,
Breathing no repentant vow,
Tho’ we see Thee wounded, bleeding,
See Thy thorn-encircled brow? (TLH #145:2)
After his fine confession, Peter manifested a not-so-sterling confession as he “rebuked” Jesus for saying that “the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.” Peter then demonstrated that he had not been listening well or that perhaps he was not ready to accept what he heard. He said, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You” (Matthew 16:22).
Does this not happen to us frequently? We fail to listen or do not want to believe what we have heard. Somehow the conclusion of Jesus’ statement—“and after three days rise again”—failed to register with Peter.
But consider what our circumstance would have been if Jesus—true God manifested in the flesh as true man—had not died on Calvary. We would still be dead in trespasses and sins and thus cast out from the kingdom of God.
Our society is obsessed with fairness. At times we hear the plaintive cry from someone whose reaction to a circumstance or event is, “But that’s not fair!”
If anyone could have made that complaint, it is Jesus, the perfect Son of God in whose flesh there was no sin and upon whose lips there was no evil. He might have said, “Why, Father, must I die for something I did not do? Why must I bear the sins and the condemnation that was pronounced upon man? Why should I die for people who had been told the consequences of sin and disobedience, but nevertheless choose to do what they were told not to do? It is not fair that I should suffer and die for them.”
When we contemplate that, does not the Savior’s willingness to go without complaint make an imprint on our hearts? Surely it must unless our hearts are hearts of stone!
We have heard the account of Jesus’ trial many times and how it concludes: “And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him…” (Luke 23:33). And why? Because it had been foreordained that innocent Jesus should die the death of the guilty. The wrath of God against ungodliness was meted out upon Jesus.
Make it personal! Say it for yourself, “He who knew no sin took my sin, and paid the penalty for me! When Jesus commended His spirit into the hand of the Father and died, He did it for me.” Does this not make an imprint on our hearts?
It was only through death that life could be restored—but not just any death. It took the death of an innocent Victim. If the Savior’s prophecy of His rising again was to come to pass, Good Friday had to happen.
Where the imprint of the Savior’s cross is on the heart, there will be a heart ready to fight the good fight against sin and evil, so that God may be glorified. And yes, there will be a penitent person who will look forward with yearning to the third day—the day of resurrection—as well as to the final call when all who believe will be with the Lord in the glory of heaven.
Yet Thy sinless death hath brought us
Life eternal, peace, and rest;
Only what Thy grace hath taught us
Calms the sinner’s stormy breast. (TLH #145:2)