Several years ago I responded to Oswald Chamber’s admonition in My Utmost for His Highest to “consider bare spirited the tragedy of God upon a cross.” To me, “bare spirited” meant letting down my emotional defenses and engaging with the crucifixion with new vulnerability—a grisly challenge indeed. I’ve experienced several poignant moments on this journey.
I began in 1 Corinthians 2, where Paul instructed that considering and understanding the work of the cross began with the help of the Holy Spirit. He explained that the message of the cross was full of wisdom that had previously been hidden. It has now been revealed to us by His Spirit so that we may understand what God has freely given us (2:12, NIV). Allowing the Holy Spirit to guide my journey provided the foundation for engaging the depths of the “good” about that Friday.
The next discovery truly amazed me. Even though I was aware that some women stood near the cross, I’d never noticed the gospel accounts mentioning all the women standing in the distance, watching. I realized I now had a perspective, a vantage point for considering the crucifixion. I could stand with the women at a distance (Luke 23:49, NIV). I could actually envision myself interlocking our arms as we stood and waited and struggled within our hearts.
I wrestled with Jesus’ submissiveness to the Roman soldiers. It looked like victimization to me, and in the eyes of many others. I emotionally agreed with Peter who asked Jesus to not go to Jerusalem—until I read Jesus’ response. Jesus perceived those words as a temptation from Satan to resist following through with the very reason He had come to earth. He swiftly responded to Peter with “Get behind me, Satan!” (Matthew 16:23, NIV), and as the Gospel of Luke said, He set his face (9:51, KJV) to go there.
I shuddered at the foul words of those passing by. How could anyone say such things, much less to an innocent man! I squirmed at the shame of nudity, the ultimate humiliation for a Jew. Fortunately, Scripture records how Jesus responded to these disgraceful experiences. He despised them. He rejected them. He didn’t accept them.
Because of my own sons, it felt unbearable to me to witness Mary’s confused agony, the sword piercing her heart. Observing Mary as she watched her dying son, a mother who had experienced Gabriel announcing His conception, tempted me to zip up my heart, unlock arms, and run from the scene.
The blood, oh my, the blood felt so foreign to me; but the women I stood with were familiar with it. They observed sacrifices at the temple, the draining of the blood, and even had it sprinkled upon them for purification after childbirth. I wrestled, though, that Jesus offered His own blood, so precious, so sacred, so pure, so freely given. The author of Hebrews would later clarify the purpose and power of the blood I witnessed in the crucifixion: how much more, then, will the blood of Christ…cleanse our consciences (Hebrews 9:14, NIV).
This year as I consider “bare spirited” the Friday called “good”, I feel joy in recognizing how far I’ve come in emotionally engaging with what God accomplished through this sacrificial act. I feel freer to move out of the crowd of women in the distance and come closer to my Savior. What can I offer up to Him this year as my gift? What might you want to offer Him as your personal sacrifice: your anxieties, uncertainties, unforgiveness, shame, fear of death, unconfessed sin, a yielded life, a desire for a sprinkled-clean conscience, or a restructured understanding of the crucifixion?
Maybe you need to come into that Holy Place, God’s very presence, made available to us when the temple curtain ripped because the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin (1 John 1:7, NIV). Or, perhaps, you just desire to draw near (Hebrews 7:19, NIV) with a prayer of yielding as you begin a personal and intimate relationship with this same Jesus.
The author of Hebrews reminds us in a beautiful way another reason why the Friday called “good” was truly an eternally Good Friday. Because of that day, the redeemed now stand together with eager anticipation awaiting our Savior’s return!
So, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess…let us encourage one another—and all the more as (we) see the Day approaching (Hebrews 10:22-25, NIV).