Sometimes I wonder why we started calling it Good Friday. I know the intention is that we focus on the salvation aspect of the events that occurred on this day. But I think it’s important we not gloss over the depths of the evil that ran rampant, as well as the magnitude of the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross for us. But while there may have been a few days of despair….a lot can happen in three days.
By daybreak (approximately 6a), the Jews had conducted three “trials” under the cover of darkness, but they didn’t have the authority to carry out a death sentence for the “crimes” they accused Jesus of, so they went to Pilate, the Roman governor, for that. Pilate pronounced Jesus innocent and handed Him off to Herod. Herod only mocked Jesus and wanted Him to perform (miracles) like a circus monkey. When Jesus refused, he was returned to Pilate, who absolved himself of any responsibility and gave into the Jews’ cries for crucifixion. Circus, indeed.
Over the next couple of hours, Jesus was mocked and brutally beaten by Roman soldiers until “His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man.” Unbeknownst to them, their offenses had fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah 52:14 NIV c1978)
Mark tells us, “It was the third hour [9a] when they crucified Him.” (Mark 15:25 NIV c1978). I think it’s interesting to note that when Jesus was offered wine mixed with gall (Matthew 27:34), He refused. This was “a drink given to dull the senses and make the pain of crucifixion somewhat easier to bear. But Jesus wanted to be in complete control of His senses, even while hanging on the cross.”*
Jesus suffered three more hours of mockery and pain….but that wasn’t the worst part of the crucifixion. It was during this time that (12-3p) that “darkness came over all the land.” (Matthew 27:45 NIV c1978). It was during this period of darkness that Jesus became the sin-offering for the world. And because He now bore our sins, the Father could not look upon Him; He was a sin-full man, separated from God for the first time in eternity (Mathew 27:46 NIV c1978).
When He could bear Their separation no longer, Jesus cried out, “Father, into Your hands I commit My Spirit.” (Luke 23:46 NIV c1978). “Jesus was in complete control of His life, and He died at the precise moment He determined by dismissing His spirit.” Man didn’t kill Him; Jesus laid His life down in submission to God’s plan.
At the time of Jesus’ death, three momentous events took place:
- “At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” (Matthew 27:51 NIV c1978). This veil is all that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. That it was torn from top to bottom, testifies that God – not man – was responsible for its destruction. This is our assurance that the way of access into God’s Presence is now available to everyone, not just the high priest.
- “The earth shook and the rocks split.” (Matthew 27:51 NIV c1978). This symbolizes that all of creation was affected by Christ’s death.
- “The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.” (Matthew 27:52) Many Bible scholars believe that while the tombs had broken open at the moment of Jesus’ death, these saints (this likely took place at a cemetery near Jerusalem) were not raised to life until after Jesus’ resurrection. (“For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when He comes, those who belong to Him.” 1 Corinthians 15:23 NIV c1978.)
The death of Jesus occurred faster than with the usual crucifixion. Two men, Joseph from Arimathea (a member of the Sanhedrin who believed Jesus was the Messiah) and Nicodemus (a Pharisee and a believer) obtained permission from Pilate to quickly prepared Jesus’ body so He could be buried before nightfall, the beginning of the Sabbath.
Why We Call It Good Friday
It’s hard to imagine what was going on in the hearts and minds of Jesus’ followers this “Good Friday.” We can thank God we have the benefit of the Scriptures to testify to these and the coming events, which give us our hope in Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world. Because of His work on the cross that terrible day, we can have forgiveness of our sins, and the assurance of eternal life in the Presence of God.
Thank You, Jesus. We are not worthy…but we believe You were Messiah, and claim Your gift of salvation. Forgive us for our sins, and make us worthy of Your once-for-all sacrifice. In Jesus’ Name….amen.