There’s been a dramatic shift in my understanding of the cross and of the day we call Good Friday.
My parents are Christians and so the crucifixion and resurrection were familiar to me from early on. I remember as a small child growing so frustrated that Jesus didn’t just call down His angels from heaven to rescue Him off the cross and “show those bad guys” who was boss.
In elementary school and high school, I attended a private Christian school, and began to understand a little better why Jesus had to stay on that cross. I started to learn about life, death, love and sacrifice.
But I’d still frequently ask myself, “But why the cross specifically?” Why a cross? Why a death so agonizing and brutal? Couldn’t Jesus just have died in His sleep?
I started unlocking the answer to this question when I was around 10-12 years old. I had endless weeks in the hospital and four spine surgeries, too many complications to count, and nerve damage that would significantly impact me for the rest of my life. All of these things began to teach me why the cross was so important.
The answer revealed itself in the form of my own physical pain. Specifically, I remember being alone in my hospital bed one night. My dad, most likely, was sleeping on the couch/chair next to me, but I felt so alone. I was exhausted and tired of hearing people say they were “sorry about what I was going through.” How sorry could they really feel for me when they had never experienced the pain that I was experiencing?
That’s when I decided to start talking to Jesus. From everything I had heard growing up, the pain He went through while being crucified sounded much worse than mine, so maybe He was capable of understanding mine. I found peace and comfort there in those quiet heart conversations that I had with Him amid the humming and beeping of machines.
I’ve continued to wake up each morning with progressively more physical pain than the day before. I’ve kept up this habit of talking to Jesus about it – He really does hear me.
I’ve grown to realize the necessity of why He died the brutal death that He did. I think it was in part for people like me who struggle constantly with pain.
I can tell you honestly that I would have no interest in serving a God who had never experienced the pain that is capable in this human body. But my God came down and took on the same flesh I have.
I think God knew we’d need that. I think He knew He’d need to suffer the most agonizing and excruciating death possible, so that I’d believe that He really “gets it,” and that His pain wasn’t wasted, but was redeemed in the most perfect way possible.
The cross is the most beautiful picture of what is possible through pain and suffering.
And do you know what I find even more amazing? He kept His nail scars! Even in His redeemed body He decided to keep a visual reminder that He knows our pain. And the Bible says He’s up there, seated at the right hand of God, advocating for us because He gets it.
Romans 8:34 says, “Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”
So as I contemplate the complexities of Good Friday once again, I realize afresh how personal Jesus’ death was. He got down and died “at eye level” for us, so not only would we know He understands our pain, but also that beauty can come out of it.
And that is why I will never just gloss over Good Friday, but will instead contemplate it, and be eternally grateful for it.
*First published in Just Between Us magazine, Spring, 2016 edition.
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Adriana Hayes is a freelance illustrator, professor, writer, and speaker who finds joy in helping others discover how God can bring “chronic hope” into their lives. She lives in Milwaukee, Wis., with her husband, Chris, and daughter, Promise.
Photo courtesy of Robyn Vining Photography.