Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Reliving Good Friday

Have you ever spent a Good Friday walking through the events that unfolded the day of Jesus' death? After all, His story is our story. Not everyone can take the whole day thinking of nothing else, but at least we can all pause at certain times and hours to consider what was going on in that day of Jesus' life. (Only three of these times are certain: 9 a.m., 12 noon, and 3 p.m. The rest are close approximations.)

6 a.m. - Peter is vehemently denying Jesus when the rooster crows. He turns and sees Jesus, then rushes out weeping. The Jewish high court reconvenes. Jesus confesses He is God's Son, and they condemn Him to death. The Jewish officials rush Jesus off to the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate (see Luke 22:59-62).

6:30 a.m. - Pilate hears evidence against Jesus, questions Him, and then declares there is no basis for the charges brought against Him. When he learns that Jesus is a Galilean, he hands the case over to Herod, governor of Galilee (see Luke 23:1-7).

7 a.m. - Jesus is brought before Herod Antipas. Apparently, Herod has an opening for a court magician because he keeps nagging Jesus to perform a miracle. Jesus stands silently. The Jewish officials pile on the charges against Him, but Herod isn't interested, and Jesus remains silent. Herod mocks Jesus, then sends Him back to Pilate (see Luke 23:8-12).

7:30 a.m. - Jesus appears for a second time before Pilate. Pilate tries a variety of tricks to force the Jews to accept Jesus' release, but each one backfires. He offers to release either Jesus or Barabbas; the priests convince the crowd to call for Barabbas. Pilate decides to have Jesus flogged. Then maybe the Jews will be satisfied (see John 18:38-19:1).

8 a.m. - Jesus is stripped for flogging. I deserve this brutal physical suffering for my disobedience and selfishness. Afterward, the soldiers crown Him with thorns and mock His kingship. How often do I make a mockery of His kingship in my life? (See John 19:2-3.)

8:20 a.m. - Pilate presents Jesus to the crowds with the crown of thorns and bloody robe. They demand His crucifixion and while washing his hands, Pilate surrenders Jesus over to their will (see Matthew 27:24-26).

8:30 a.m. - The crucifixion detail makes its procession through the streets of Jerusalem. When Jesus grows too weak to carry the cross, the soldiers force Simon of Cyrene to carry it for Him (see Matthew 27:32).

9 a.m. - Jesus is crucified. (In case you thought Jesus was only on the cross three hours, check out Mark 15:25, 33-34; it was six hours.) He prays "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (see Luke 23:34).

10 a.m. - Jesus is surrounded with mocking and railing from the chief priests, Roman soldiers, and even the criminals, at first. But then one criminal changes his mind and speaks up in Jesus' defense. Then he pleads, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom." Jesus assures him, "Truly, truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise" (see Luke 23:40-43).

11 a.m. - Jesus sees His mother Mary standing nearby with His disciple John. He commends Mary into John's keeping (see John 19:25-27).

12 noon - Three hours of supernatural darkness begin. Jesus is forsaken and silently suffers the torments of hell that I deserve (see Matthew 27:45). This three-hour interval is our eternal damnation condensed to three intense hours. It must have seemed like an eternity to Him.

3 p.m. - The end has come. Jesus makes four statements in rapid succession:

"My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (See Matthew 27:46.) Quoting the first verse of Psalm 22, He summarizes the whole psalm which speaks both of His suffering and His victorious resurrection.

"I'm thirsty" (see John 19:28-29). Jesus wets His mouth so He can proclaim His victory in the next saying.

"It is finished" (see John 19:30). Jesus uses a Greek accounting term that means paid in full. Not a single sin remains against us; each one has been paid in full.

"Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit" (see Luke 23:46).

Jesus dies and a number of miracles take place: a massive earthquake splits rocks and opens tombs; the temple curtain is torn in two. This is probably during the evening sacrifice when a priest is offering incense before it (see Matthew 27:51-53).

The Roman centurion declares, "Certainly, this man was innocent!" (See Luke 23:47). "Truly, this was the Son of God!" (See Matthew 27:54.)

The guilt-stricken crowds are convinced something terribly wrong was done here (see Luke 23:48).

4 p.m. - The Jewish leaders ask Pilate to have the criminals' legs broken to finish them off, so they can be taken down from their crosses before the Sabbath. The soldiers break the legs of the two criminals with Jesus, but find Him already dead. To be sure He is dead they pierce His heart with a spear (see John 19:31-37).

5 p.m. - Joseph of Arimathea asks Pilate for permission to bury Jesus' body. He meets with Nicodemus, removes Jesus' body from the cross, wraps it in spices and strips of linen, and buries it in his own new tomb. The women follow and note where Jesus is laid. They prepare spices and ointments to properly finish the burial early Sunday morning, after the Sabbath has concluded (see John 19:38-42; Luke 23:55-56).

And we know what happened after that. Triumphant and full of glory Jesus rose from the grave on Easter morning, bringing with Him the gift of life eternal to all who receive Him in faith.

He did it for you and me. Our sins are dead and gone. Now it's time to give thanks to God, and gather with our brothers and sisters Sunday morning for a joyous celebration at the empty tomb.

This is a week unlike any other. As we turn our eyes to the fateful circumstances of Jesus' last few hours on this earth, we are reminded that His entire mission, His entire life on earth was spent for us.

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