How did this happen? Last week they were fighting over who would sit at Jesus right and left hands in his Kingdom. Mt. 20:20-21. The triumphal entry on Sunday made them believe the Kingdom was at hand. No one could stop Jesus. He cleared the temple of injustice on Monday. On Tuesday, he was teaching and no matter how much the leaders tried to stop him, they were silenced. Wednesday was a relaxing day of preparation and moments ago the disciples were celebrating with Jesus in the upper room. On the Mount of Olives, the lateness of the hour and the effect of the meal lulled them to sleep. Suddenly they awakened to chaos and soldiers. Judas led them. In confusion and fear, they dispersed.
The unjust trial leading to Forgiveness Friday
While the disciples fled, Jesus bled. Put through a series of unjust trials held at night against Jewish law, Jesus was taken to the house of Caiaphas instead of the temple courts. He was subjected to false witnesses, multiple hearings between Herod, Caiaphas and Pilate. The charge was blasphemy but as that entailed treating the name of God with contempt, it could not be proven. While the Jewish Council grew enraged over Jesus claim to be Messiah, Rome cared nothing for religious titles. But if the Messiah claimed to be king, that would be of concern to Rome.
The Devil was busy. In the dead of night, Peter was waiting to see what the Jewish Council would do. Three times he would be approached and deny knowing Jesus. As the first rays of morning appeared, the cock crowed. Peter remembering Jesus’ words “wept bitterly” in shame. Mt. 26:75.
As the light of Friday morning grew, another disciple watched a condemned Jesus being taken to Pilate. Recognizing his failure, Judas threw his blood money back at the chief priest and hanged himself. Mt. 27:5. The other disciples were gone, hiding in fear. Only John went to get Mary, Jesus mother. She gathered other women who were brave enough to follow Jesus in the crowds to the cross. Lk. 19:25.
The immense suffering of Forgiveness Friday
Jesus endured great suffering: ridicule, humiliation, and horrific beatings. Before Pilate, the Jews pressed their claim of kingship against Rome. Jesus confessed he was born to be King, but that his Kingdom was not of this world. Jn. 18:36. Pilate could find nothing to charge Jesus with, but afraid of a riot that could remove him from power he handed Jesus over to be crucified. “King of the Jews” read the charge. Mk. 15:26.
Jesus was so weak from the all-night trial and beatings he could not carry his cross. A man named Simon was pulled from the crowd to help. Mt. 27:32. Being hung on a tree outside the city gates, was a great curse for a Jew. Dt. 21:22-23. Cursed and crucified, Christ was nailed to a cross between two thieves. Even then Jesus loved one of the thieves who recognized injustice. This repentant thief asked Jesus to forgive him and receive him into his Kingdom. Jesus assured him, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Lk. 23:43.
The Love and Forgiveness of the Cross
Jesus demonstrated love to his mother. A widow she would need help. Jesus elicited that help from John. Jn. 19:26-27. Then Jesus looked out upon the people. A compassionate God looked lovingly upon His creation. “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Lk. 23:34. As some hurled insults, Jesus forgave. Just hours ago he’d told his friends, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Jn. 15:13. He now demonstrated this love for us in that while we were yet sinners he died for us. Ro. 5:8.
With a great gasp, Jesus breathed his last, “It is finished.” Jn. 19:30. Two Jewish rulers – Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea – arranged to have his body taken down, wrapped and laid in a fresh tomb before sundown. Jn. 19:38-42.
As the sun set, a dead Jesus was placed in a tomb. The light of the world was placed in darkness. The Devil was dancing. Why call this Good Friday?
Because the story isn’t finished. Forgiveness is “good” and … hope is coming!