Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Passion Week: Good Friday

Sorry for the lateness of this post - I'll comment later on the holdup.

A question I get consistently at this time of year is why we call Good Friday "good". Jesus died and that's good? For Jesus, no. But for us, yes! It was through his death on the cross that we have life. We're bought with the shed blood of Jesus, giving his life for ours at the cross.

While we slept Thursday night, the events leading up to Jesus' crucifixion took place. He was arrested (Luke 22-23) although he made it clear he was no ordinary man. He identified himself as "I AM" (John 18:6) causing these hardened soldiers to fall to the ground in fear. By identifying himself that way, Jesus linked his identity with that of God himself as drawn from Exodus 3:14.

Jesus was taken before Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas the high priest, in an illegal trial (Jewish trials were not allowed at night). After enduring Annas, Jesus was delivered to
Caiaphas the high priest where he was formally charged with blasphemy and treason and sent on to Pilate since the Jews had no authority to carry out the death penalty (John 18:19-24). After Peter had denied Jesus a third time (John 18:25-27), Pilate interviewed Jesus. Although he recognized the real root behind this charge was envy, he didn't have the courage to step up and deny their desire for Jesus' execution (Luke 23).

Trying to engender pity for Jesus, Pilate had him flogged (John 19:1). Flogging was a severe punishment, labeled cruel and unusual centuries ago. A cat-o-nine tails whip was used to beat the victim as they were either laid over a stump or pulled up by their arms from above. The tails of the whip had shards of glass, iron or bone. According to Josephus, a famous Jewish historian from that time, many times, people did not survive such a beating. Pilate had Jesus brought back out before the people, hoping people would be sickened by their own blood-lust. The rabble had been so inflammed with jealousy, it only aroused a desire for more. On cue, they cried out for the release of Barrabas, a treasonous murder with a checkered past, and called for death of Jesus (John 19:4-16). Finally, Pilate relented, trying to wash his hands of the matter (Matthew 27:24).

Jesus was compelled to carry his cross to Golgatha, an Aramaic term meaning "The place of the skull." (Perhaps you can observe the "face" of the man in the hillside. Google the term and you'll find it much easier in larger images) Unable to do so, the soldiers forced Simon, a man from Cyrene and thereby likely an African, to take the cross of Jesus and carry it for him (Luke 23:26). When they arrived at Golgotha, they drove nails through his wrists, right below his hands and through his feet, pinning them together. Many times, people didn't die from blood loss but from suffocation as the upper body was unable to bear the weight of the rest of the body and continue to breathe properly. His sinless death was pre-figured by the death of sinless lambs and goats. When lambs died, however, it was only a partial payment. When Jesus died, he uttered the phrase "It is finished" (John 19:30). In Greek, this is all one word: tetelestai. It's an accounting term, used when one has completely paid back a debt or a note has been cleared. In my translation, I've got it "Paid in full."

The earth was dark for three full hours that day, from 9 AM until 12 Noon. Some have said it was an eclipse and perhaps they're right. Regardless, it's symbolic of Jesus Christ, the light of the world, in the deepest of darkness - for us.

After Jesus died, Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin (the rulers of the Jews, just below the Romans), asked Pilate for permission to bury Jesus. They laid Jesus in a new tomb - but not for long!

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