Category Archives: Art by Glenn Coker

Death Row – A Good Friday Story

A man squatted in a dingy prison cell, his features hidden by the deep shadows of his dark imprisonment. Only a thin plane of morning sunlight penetrated the darkness, revealing countless dust particles floating around rows of disheartened men. The man was seated, away from the light, staring motionless into the darkness.

On a hill outside the prison stood the place of execution, where condemned men were put to death. Today would be this man’s turn.

 In a way, death was a welcome ending to his pain. But more strongly the condemned man felt the fear of death’s mysteries. His soul, it seems, had died long ago, but the fear of physical death consumed him.

As he waited in the cruel anticipation of a violent death, his mind raced across the span of his life. What would have made a difference? What could have changed his inclinations towards evil? The answers to these questions could only be tossed out into his universe of despair. Like always, he knew no answers would come. There was no hope.

Slowly and ever more increasingly, the  man became aware of the sounds of a great number of voices and footsteps. There were shouts and roars, but none of the words could be recognized. The noise increased and erupted past him like a huge ocean wave. An enormous mass of shouting people had passed just outside his cell and were proceeding toward execution hill. 

The time was near. He couldn’t remember so great a crowd ever gathered to witness a death before.

Just then the outside door of the prison was slammed open hard against the wall. Keys jiggled and the main security door was unlocked. Prison guards streamed towards his cell. The hopeless man trembled and recoiled in fear. Death was pouncing upon him.

The guards unlocked his cell and converged upon him like as many wild tigers. They seized him, and drug him out into the morning sun outside the prison. When they had cleared the outside door, he was slammed face down hard on the ground, sand and dirt exploding into his eyes, nose and mouth. 

The impact dazed him. In a semi conscious state, he waited for the first sting of the lashing whip.

After awhile, he slowly opened his eyes, spitting dirt from his mouth. He tilted his head slowly, expecting his flesh to be ripped open with a whip at any moment. But he was alone. Turning his head, he could see the guards joining the crowds flowing toward execution hill. He was left unattended on the ground.

Slowly at first, but with increasing urgency, the freed man got up and made his way into a stable filled with livestock, across the block from the prison. Looking around as he fled, he expected his fantasy to end at any moment. 

Within the safety of the dwelling, he flung himself upon the straw and sobbed.

After awhile, the sounds from execution hill softened and the man’s curiosity moved him out of his safe zone. He left the building and circled around the back of the mountain of murder, called the “place of the skull”.

He came up upon the crowd and mixed himself safely among the masses. With much effort, he fought his way through until he could see what the commotion was all about.

Three men hung dying on crosses, pain etched across their faces. Two of the men he knew from his time in prison, but he didn’t recognize the man in the middle. This man seemed much weaker and closer to death than the others.

As he stood watching, he noticed the blood gushing down the wood of the middle tree.  He followed the trail of blood up to the man’s face. Though he was among a mass of people, the man on the middle cross was looking directly at him.  His  eyes were not desperate and frantic, but peaceful and loving.

After a few moments the freed man turned and walked away. As he fought his way back through the crowd, he overheard someone asking about the man on the middle cross, “Why are they killing him? What has he done wrong?”

“He’s done nothing wrong,” the answer came. “He’s dying in place of a man set free.”

Luke 23:19-20  (MSG)  At that, the crowd went wild: “Kill him! Give us Barabbas!” (Barabbas had been thrown in prison for starting a riot in the city and for murder.) Pilate still wanted to let Jesus go, and so spoke out again.

2 Corinthians 5:21 (NASB) He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

God Doesn’t Want us Better; He Wants us Dead

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

John 12:24

We won’t experience true life until we embrace our death.

Imagine your shock, if while walking through a grave yard, you came across the following tombstone:

Here Lies your name

Born your birth date

Died Approximately 2000 years ago (exact date unknown)

 As disciples of Christ, embracing our spiritual death is critical to the flowing of Christ’s life.

When Christ died on the cross two thousand years ago, as believers, we were crucified with Him. Our sin nature and every sin we would eventually commit were put to death in Him. This was a complete work, performed by the only person worthy to undertake it. When Christ cried, “It is Finished,”[1] all human striving for religious achievement was put to rest; all sins washed clean in the flowing of His life blood.

The reality of our death with Christ is worked out day to day by denying ourselves. Jesus says to follow Him, we are to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily and follow Him.[2]  Denying ourselves has to do with avoiding evil, but it also has to do with avoiding good.

Evil:  Denying evil is about remaining in the love of Christ. We are able to love God and our neighbor because God first loved us. When we are saturated in the satisfying love of Christ, we have no need of anything vile. His power in us allows us to consider ourselves dead to any evil.

Good: Denying good is much harder to understand, but  just as vital. We are to avoid “religious” activities rooted out of a desire to live a “good” life for God. We are to deny any attempt to earn God’s love with our own righteousness. If righteous could be obtain by our efforts, Christ died for nothing.[3]

The Christian life is not about us trying hard to avoid being evil and striving to do good. It’s about bringing ourselves to the cross of Christ, reckoning ourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus; dead to the sin of evil and dead to the sin of trying to earn a righteousness of our own by living a good life. Out of our death flows His life.

The Christian Life can be summarized in one very powerful verse:

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I life by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.

 Galatians 2:20

Challenge: Pick a failure area of your life. Bring it to the cross of Christ and consider it dead. Depend upon the life of Christ in you with that area.

Lord, I’m sorry for trying to do “good” things for you. It seems the more “I” try, the more I’m prone to evil. Please show me every time I slip back into relying on myself, that I might deny me and depend upon you. I must decrease and you must increase.[4]


[1] John 19:30

[2] Matthew 16:24

[3] Galatians 2:21

[4] John 3:30