The night has been long and tenuous. There is no way to describe the torture of being falsely accused, falsely abused, and falsely sentenced. Peter’s loyal, although unwise, attempt at fighting back is the last time Jesus is with most of his disciples. Only Peter and John will he seen soon after. Jesus will soon meet the eyes of Peter when he denies knowing the Lord for the third time. Peter will run away, weeping. Soon enough, Jesus will wipe those tears, but there is still much to suffer.
John, on the other hand, has been meandering around the crowds as much as possible to catch a glimpse. For the most part, the Christ has been alone while the religious leaders have hurled insults at him. Yet, unlike previous encounters, Jesus is not responding. He hasn't made a defense for himself. The claims are ridiculous; they say he desires to be King of Israel and lead a rebellion against Rome. If they only knew how preposterous and far-fetched that sounded to the disciples who knew him. Countless times he had been offered a crown, and denied it.
Now, Jesus stands waiting his execution, wearing a different crown, one of thorns. He is not only weary from the trials, the lies and no sleep, but his body has been beaten beyond recognition. Pilate, in hopes to dissuade the blood-thirsty crowds from killing Jesus, had him beaten with the "cat of nine tails” back and front. His body has been in shock. He can barely stand. Jesus peers through the light between the planks above his cell and asks the Father for strength. He is reminded that it had to be this way. The Scripture had to be fulfilled:
“As many are astonished by you - his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind -“ Isaiah 52:14
“He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:3-5
This strengthened the Lord as he set his eyes on Calvary. This, the final hour, is the darkest. He hears the rustling of the guards outside, and the doors to his cell swing wide. A crack of the whip meets the side of his face as they walk in. They place the cross bar of his crucifixion on his back and tie his flesh-torn wrists to each end.
He will carry his instrument of death the whole way.
The road is long and arduous. The dirt grinds against his back as he stumbles through the disdainful crowds. He is spat on, despised, rejected, and scorned. They have dressed him in royal robes to humiliate him. The thorny crown juts against the wooden burden he carries and drives the spikes into his skull.
The misery of the world’s sin has been placed on Jesus. He feels it. He knows it intimately. He despises it. Yet, he carries it.
His muscles scream in protest as he staggers to the hill of death. He falls face first, and for a moment, he is tempted to simply lie there and let them beat him to death. His body cannot be willed any further. The pain has gone beyond calculation and now he longs for death. A man of Cyrene has been called from the crowds to help him. The Lord is dragged to his feet. Not too much further now, and the hill will be conquered.
As he takes the last step atop Calvary, he falls on his back with the wooden cross bar landing first. Sand, dirt, and splinters are driven into the wounds on his back. His body shudders. It is in shock. Soon, his captors attach the upright pole to his cross bar. Soon, he will be lifted up from the earth.
An iron nail is placed at his wrists. He is pierced for our transgressions. Next, his feet are stacked and nails are plunged through the both of them. His cross is raised and set upright.
Jesus looks down and sees his mother. With tear-stained face, Mary clings to John’s side. Inwardly, Christ is mindful of his loving mother. What sorrow there is to lose a son, but what greater sorrow to know all your life that he was born to die. In his physical anguish, he calls down to them both
“Woman, behold your son!” he said looking to Mary.
Looking to John he says “Behold, your mother!”
From that day on John would take Mary into his own home.
The broken body of the Lord hangs on the tree of suffering, the tree of salvation. It is noon, and now darkness falls on the earth. It is as though night has come. The guards become uneasy; the crowds weep and wail loudly. Surely this man is no ordinary man.
Jesus peers through his swollen eyes and sees the guards gambling for his clothes. The criminal on his left cries “Save yourself and us if you can!” On his right, the other criminal rebukes him “Do you not fear God. since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” Turning to Christ he pleads, “Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.”
“Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise,” says the Lord.
It is now the third hour. Jesus, absorbing the full cup of suffering and sin, cries out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!”
Suddenly, a great earthquake shakes the foundations of Jerusalem. All at once, many things happen. The temple veil, near where the religious elite are preparing the passover lamb to be slain for the sins of the people, is torn in two. The rocks of Golgotha are split, and many of the dead who were in their tombs are seen roaming the streets of Jerusalem.
The city is in an uproar. Who is this man that we condemned to die? The guards that stand by shake in their armor. Jesus, having done all that the Father asked of him in the world, lifts his head to heaven.
“It is finished,” he says.
He does not shout it. He simply states it. As a matter of fact, as though he were reading an Encyclopedia or explaining simple mathematics to a child, it is as though he is as certain as any man has ever been in the history of the world. It is done. Our Lord and Christ has done everything that had to be done to put sin away and defeat Satan forever. It is finished.
With that, he bows his head and commends his spirit to the Father.
In a tantrum, the religious elite are eager to get the bodies down so that the Passover can continue. Their temple is in disarray, and the people are befuddled. To keep from starting a riot, they must bring this “Jesus of Nazareth” off his cross now! To ensure his death, the soldiers run a spear under his side, and blood and water flow from Immanuel, a fountain that forever flows from his side.
Out of fear that the Jews would defame his body, an upright man watching nearby, Joseph of Arimathea, pleads for his body and lays him in a tomb that no man had ever been laid. His body is prepared, wrapped in linen, and the tomb is sealed over with a stone of great weight and size. The Lord is dead. For now….
Today we celebrate Good Friday. As seen through the events of this dark day, many would not consider it to be good. But just as this blog has been a series, Good Friday cannot stand on its own as good. It is part one of a two-part story. Good Friday is good because Easter Sunday is coming. If you have not already made plans to attend an Easter Sunday gathering, please do join us this Sunday as we tell the other half of this great story.
Today, as we soberly remember the length that our Lord was willing to go to defeat sin, death, hell, and Satan forever, let us kneel in gratitude for the Man of Sorrows. What a Savior we have! He loved us until the end. Today we stand forgiven, justified, and righteous even, because of the suffering of our Savior on Good Friday. We are like the criminal by the Lord’s side. For us to be crucified would be just, but instead our Lord stood in our place! What a wonderful God, who made a way for us to be reconciled again to him, who stood in the way as the hammer came down, and who cried out for our forgiveness, even as we cried out for his death. I will leave you with this today as we celebrate:
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”-Revelation 5:12