What happened that first Good Friday? Well, the biblical account of the Passion is quite simple – Jesus was handed over to the Romans from the High Priests who then whipped up a crowd to call for his death. Pilate eventually gives in to the pressure and gives him over to be crucified until he is dead.
But what happened? Was sin forgiven? Was the sin of the world undone so that the world could be reconciled to God? Was some sort of price or debt paid? Was an ancient rite (passover or atonement) truly fulfilled?
I think before we can make any theological conclusions about Jesus’ death we have to be quite straightforward about what happened that day – MURDER. Human beings took God’s own Son, God Himself incarnate upon the earth and they killed Him in a most brutal fashion. God came amongst us, and we couldn’t handle what He said and did, so we did what came most naturally to us – we did away with Him.
And what is Jesus’ response to this? Well, we read (in other gospel accounts) that He forgave those who had tortured and killed Him. This wasn’t forgiveness before He was killed, or after He was killed, but right in the middle of the long, slow death of crucifixion.
Even if we draw no more theological conclusions from the crucifixion, this is frankly STUNNING. God comes to dwell amongst us in human form, we abandon, deny, betray and reject him and we murder him on a cross. And He forgives us for doing it!
This is who God really is: the God who dies for us, indeed is killed by us, but Who forgives us even as we’re doing it.