It happened one Friday...
Passover. Approximately 33 A.D.The Upper Room of the home of John Mark
"One of you will betray me."
Jesus' words sank like stones into the hearts of those listening. Can it be? Who would do such a thing? Confusion and sorrow mingle. Grief overwhelms. At last, slowly, as if awakened from a dream, they ask, one after the other, "Is it I, Lord?" Each one relieved, when He puts their minds at rest, when the betrayer is revealed.
Later that same night
"This very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times." (Jesus' words to Peter.)
No! Impossible! "Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you." How bold Peter's words. How impossible to keep them. How bitter his tears when he did exactly as Jesus had predicted. How much reassurance he needed from the Lord before he felt forgiven and restored.
The Governor's Praetorium - Jerusalem
"Are you the King of the Jews?" Pilate looked into the eyes of the accused, curious, amazed at his bearing, and at the authority that shone in his gaze.
"You have said so," Jesus said, then fell silent when the Jewish leaders hurled accusations at him, in their desperate attempt to get Pilate to agree to put Jesus to death. How trapped Pilate felt between the Jewish leaders, whose only motive as far as he could tell was envy of Jesus' popularity, and warnings from his wife, who had suffered terrible dreams on account of the very man the Jews wanted executed. How miserably his political solutions had failed. The crowd stood on the verge of a riot until he asked in frustration:
"Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?" What shall I do with your King of the Jews? Your Messiah, the one you have been praying would come to save you?
"Let him be crucified!"
"Why, what evil has he done?"
"Let him be crucified!"
Pilate called for water, and in the presence of the unruly crowd called out, "I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves."
"His blood be on us and on our children!"
Then he had Jesus scourged, and delivered him to be crucified.
Golgotha - Outside Jerusalem
Jesus hung suspended between heaven and earth on an excruciatingly painful Roman torture frame (the cross), disfigured from the scourging, bleeding from his head, his hands, his feet. And yet. They mocked him.
"He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, 'I am the Son of God.'" (This from the Jewish leaders.)
"If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself." (This from the Roman soldiers.)
"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
The Jewish leaders knew exactly what they were doing. But the people did not. They were incited to a frenzy against the very man who had spent three years healing their diseases. How quickly they had forgotten...
And I wonder how easily we forget what this day represents. People wear the cross on gold and silver chains about their necks - a piece of jewelry - a symbol. But do they really understand what it means? Do we stop to think that we are wearing a symbol of torture, and that the Man whose blood dripped down the sides of that wooden cross was more than a man, was more than we can even begin to understand?
Pilate, the Jews, the Roman soldiers, the mockers and scoffers, the disciples who fled, and the one who stayed, the women who wept and watched him die, none were innocent bystanders because He came to die for them. He could say, "Father forgive them," because that was the very purpose of His torture, His death.
It is good Friday, not because what they did to Him was good. On the contrary. It was horrifying, and at the end, those who knew Him could barely recognize Him, so disfigured was He by the torture He had endured. And yet.
It is good Friday because He endured that torture for the joy that He saw coming. The joy of being able to stand before His Father and present His life as the payment required to restore us to God, the ransom redeemed, the sentence paid. He could restore Peter's denial because of the cross. He could forgive the blood on the hands of the Jews and the Romans because of the cross. He could face those who mocked Him because of the cross.
""Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!" And having said this he breathed his last.
"Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, "Certainly this man was innocent!"
"And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things." (Luke 23:46-49 ESV)
Some are watching still...
But it happened one Friday, that in watching, we might see, and in seeing, we might believe...