by Erik Ritland
“If Jesus is the truth, then he sets us free from the guilt of our wrongdoing. He sets the world straight. He makes it so that even the most unbearable things in life can be bearable. He makes it possible for us to become the best version of ourselves, to be fully alive.”
Fully Alive’s Lenten Scriptural Commentary helps Christians get more out of Lent by taking God’s word seriously.
Mostly avoiding personal stories and anecdotes, our commentary dives deeply into the scripture readings for each day and applies them to the broader context of Lent. We use the daily Mass readings from the Catholic lectionary.
If possible, read each passage slowly, taking in each word. If you find that you’ve hurried through a reading, read it over a few more times. Let the words reverberate in your heart. After you’ve let it sink in, read our Lenten Scriptural Commentary.
Isaiah gives a vivid description of the crucifixion – several hundred years before it happens. The reading from Hebrews gets to the crux of the crucifixion, and we hear John’s description of exactly what happened.
Readings: Is 52:13—53:12/Heb 4:14-16; 5:7-9/Jn 18:1—19:42
Click here to read the complete text from the USCCB website
Yet it was our infirmities that he bore,
our sufferings that he endured,
while we thought of him as stricken,
as one smitten by God and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our offenses,
crushed for our sins;
upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole,
by his stripes we were healed.
We had all gone astray like sheep,
each following his own way;
but the LORD laid upon him
the guilt of us all.
(cf. Is 52: 13- 53:12)
For we do not have a high priest
who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses,
but one who has similarly been tested in every way,
yet without sin.
So let us confidently approach the throne of grace
to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.
(cf. Heb 4:14ff)
Much ink has been spilled attempting to answer questions like, “What exactly does the crucifixion mean? What exactly did it do? What exactly does it mean for us?” The scholarly words for the study of such questions are Christology and Soteriology.
The deeper down you get the more questions there are, but on the surface the answer from Scripture is clear: in the crucifixion, God Himself takes on all the evil of the world to disarm it of all of its power. This is the only way that the power of evil can be taken away completely and for good.
Yes, we still live in a fallen world. But no matter what terrible things happen to us, we can call on a God who has been to the very depths, and can thus relate to the depths of the problems that we go through, and can help us through them in the most intimate way.
So Pilate said to him,
"Then you are a king?"
"You say I am a king.
For this I was born and for this I came into the world,
to testify to the truth.
Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."
Pilate said to him, "What is truth?"
(cf Jn 18:1-19:42)
This is possibly the most enigmatic scene in all of Scripture.
When Pilate asks Jesus, “Then you are a king?,” he isn’t simply trying to get to the bottom of what is going on. He's trying to see if Jesus poses any political threat. If Jesus claims He is a king, then he is indeed a rebel who needs to be put to death. As the crowd so eerily reminds us, Romans are to have no king but Caesar.
Jesus’ answer gets to a deeper truth: His Kingdom isn’t of this world. He poses no threat to Pilate’s temporal, temporary, illusory power. His Kingdom transcends such petty concerns.
“What is truth?” Pilate’s direct answer is another contrast to Jesus’ otherworldly words. It's such a stark, profound question. It jumps out at you from the page, catches you off-guard when you hear it read out loud.
From the Christian perspective, Jesus is the truth, adding a layer of irony to Pilate’s question. He asks “what is truth” as he is literally staring truth in the face.
What does it mean that Jesus is the truth? Most fundamentally, it means that He is God, and that He brings God’s message and God’s Kingdom into the world.
If God exists, and if Jesus is God in human flesh, then this is not some great mystery – it is intuitive. What else would God bring to the world other than truth?
If Jesus is the truth, then he sets us free from the guilt of our wrongdoing. He sets the world straight. He makes it so that even the most unbearable things in life can be bearable. He makes it possible for us to become the best version of ourselves, to be fully alive.
And that is the good news of Good Friday.
Erik Ritland is a writer and musician. The founder of Fully Alive Christian Media, he also created The Minnesota Sport Ramble and is a writer and copy editor for Music in Minnesota. He was Lead Staff Writer for Minnesota culture blogs Curious North and Hometown Hustle. Reach him via email.
Erik Ritland received his MA in Theology in 2017. He's the founder and content manager of Fully Alive Christian Media and Rambling On, copy editor and writer for Music in Minnesota, and an acclaimed songwriter.