This is a day when we remember an act of supreme righteousness. Christ himself stated "greater love hath no man" than to lay his life down for others. Over the generations there has been a surfeit of kings and generals willing to lay down the lives of others; the King of all laid down His own life.
The ancient heroes foreshadowed such sacrifice. Achilles, Hector, Hercules thought nothing of their own lives; but in laying down his life the hero believed he would be raised to glory. The King of Peace was indeed raised to Glory; but that was not his intention in walking the path to execution as a slave, morphen doulou.
Did He know the extent of His great purpose when He declined to offer a defence to Pontius Pilate, when He allowed Judas to embrace him and betray him? He did not need to know; for execution on the cross was designed to exact the maximum toll of anguish. If, as is said, the sins of the world were laid on Him at that point, He could scarcely have felt more misery than did the thieves pinned to stakes to his right and left. He spoke of being in Paradise but in His last awful cry spoke of being foresaken by his Father, by God; such was the death cry of a righteous man executed as a slave.
This was love incarnate; this was an end to fine phrases, an end to wise exhortations to unselfish actions, leaving the world in no doubt that this man who had been unstinting in life in service to others delivered even greater gifts to mankind in His death. So on this day we celebrate the unusual humanity of Christ while on Sunday we will mark His unexpected divinity.