January 30, 1649 was a bitterly cold day in Whitehall, London which is why King Charles I wore two shirts to his execution where his head would be separated from his body by an axe.
You might wonder why someone would care about cold weather while on his way to die. For the king, he did not want the weather to cause his body to shake and give an appearance of fear in front of onlookers.
The king was committed to dying bravely.
Charles I did indeed go to his death confidently, as calmly as anyone could expect. In a brief address to the crowd, he reportedly said:
“[As for the people], truly I desire their liberty and freedom as much as anybody whomsoever…”
Since 1925, the most prized artifact in the Museum of London has been the undershirt worn by Charles I during his execution. I once read that Queen Elizabeth II has taken guests to see the shirt worn by the only English monarch ever to be executed.
The murder of a monarch is called regicide and the course of human history alters in the wake of these executions.
On Good Friday the world remembers the torture and execution of Jesus of Nazareth. Some consider the events spiritually with reverence; others recognize a well known historical event that reset the world’s calendar. Jesus was a carpenter and teacher, yes, but the course of humanity does not simply turn on the execution of one simple man. As Josh McDowell famously wrote, he was more than a carpenter. Many call him the king of kings. According to such a definition, his murder was regicide.
What makes the death of Jesus, called the Christ, so significant is the historical veracity of prophecies leading up to it and the resurrection that followed. That’s what Easter is all about for Christians, a celebration in the belief that Jesus wasn’t just a man or even an earthly king.
He was God incarnate who defeated death and broke history in half when he was broken on our behalf.
I love how Bob Goff puts it:
Day turned to night, His friends scattered and death thought it had won. But heaven just started counting to three.
— Bob Goff (@bobgoff) March 29, 2013
There is a horrific romance in the observation of executed royalty. A shirt believed to have been worn by a slaughtered king still wows a queen centuries later.
Symbols and remembrance matter. For Christians, the symbol is not a shirt but a cross–the most recognizable image in the world.
Jesus desired our liberty and freedom.
Unlike Charles I or anyone else who’s ever lived he was able to guarantee it in an ultimate sense.
Back in 1649, the doomed king of England’s final words echoed what took place in Golgotha.
“I needed not to have come here; and therefore I tell you (and I pray God it be not laid to your charge) that I am the martyr of the people…”
But Jesus did need to come here for our sake. And he didn’t wait until we were remorseful or good enough. He saw us picking up rocks and sharpening blades, murder in our eyes as we glared back at him. He couldn’t stop shaking in anticipation of what we were about to do to him, yet he stretched out his arms and moved towards us.