|Series Theme: Easter|
Title: 2. A Good Friday Meditation - What happened at Easter?
A Reflection on Good Friday
Thursday: Jesus has been teaching in the Temple all week. Tonight the feast starts. The Feast of Unleavened Bread starts with the Passover lamb being killed and the remembrance of the Passover and the Exodus celebrated. Jesus has planned a supper with the disciples.
Lk 22:7,8 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.”
Lk 22:14,19,20 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table.... And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”
After the supper he prophecies that one of them will betray him and another deny him, and the rest will flee. Judas leaves to go and meet the Temple authorities.
Jesus and the rest of the disciples make their way over to the Garden of Gethsemane where he prays. It is late in the evening. Judas arrives with a band of soldiers. He kisses Jesus as a sign that he is the one to be arrested. They take Jesus. Most of the disciples flee. Peter and John follow at a distance.
Jesus is taken into the palace of the high priest and questioned. John is known in the palace and so the two men are allowed into the courtyard. There Peter is challenged and denies knowing Jesus.
Friday: They wait in the courtyard while the Sanhedrin gathers and discuss what to do with Jesus. It is early morning now and twice more Peter is challenged and denies Jesus and a cock crows nearby. Peter remembers Jesus' prophecy about him and weeps and departs in anguish.
Eventually the Sanhedrin condemn Jesus but all power is in the hands of the Romans, so they take Jesus to the Roman Governor, Pilate.
It is still early morning. Pilate questions him but, when realising he is a Galilean, he sends him to Herod who is Sub-Governor of Galilee, but is now in Jerusalem for the feast.
Herod interrogates Jesus but Jesus remains silent. They put a royal robe on him and send him back to PIlate. Perhaps the robe was to act as a provocation to Pilate, a slight mocking from Herod and his Jewish friends.
Pilate again interviews Jesus and declares he can find nothing wrong with him. The religious leaders remonstrate with him and, when he doesn't seem to comply with their wishes, they stir the gathered crowd to call for Jesus' execution.
It is now late morning and the soldiers take Jesus, mock him, push a crown of thorns on his head and thrash him. They give him a cross beam of the crucifix to carry but so weak is he now that he continually stumbles and falls. They grab a bystander, Simon of Cyrene to carry the beam for Jesus up to Golgotha where they nail him to the Cross and crucify him. As they hoist the cross into position Jesus prays, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”
Lev 4:13,14 'If the whole Israelite community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD's commands, even though the community is unaware of the matter, they are guilty. 14 When they become aware of the sin they committed, the assembly must bring a young bull as a sin offering and present it before the Tent of Meeting.
The Father, conforms to His Law and holds back twelve legions of angels, for He knows the time of repentance and judgement will come.
There are two thieves being crucified alongside Jesus. One of them reviles Jesus for not saving them. The other accepts who Jesus is and Jesus declares, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Standing around the foot of the Cross is a group of women and a few men. Among them are Jesus' mother and the apostle, John.
Jesus looks down to his mother and whispers, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” as he passes over care of his mother to John and starts to disassociate himself from his human family. It is now time for the work of the Son of God to begin in earnest. It was now about midday. The Scriptures give us clues to what then took place:
2 Cor 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin.
Heb 9:28 Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
1 Pet 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree
A blackness came over the sky as in the divine economy, in ways beyond our real comprehension, all of our sin was heaped upon the Son of God on the Cross. Blackness surrounded him. The prophetic scriptures continue to hint at what was happening:
Psa 22:12-18 12 Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. 13 Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me. 14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. 15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. 16 Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. 17 I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. 18 They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.
As the Son of God hung there in agony and the soldiers divided up his garments, and the religious opposition mocked him, there too, it seems, were the hoards of hell surrounding him.
‘Satan' means ‘adversary' or ‘accuser', and with the guilt of the world coming upon Jesus on the Cross, Satan and all the hoards of hell, accuse him and blame him for every wrong thing that has ever and will ever happen.
The spotless, perfect Son of God is covered with the blackness of the sin of the world; there is nothing to distinguish him from it. Imagine an experience you would hate more than any other and multiply it a hundred times and you may catch just a glimpse of the awfulness of sin heaped upon the sinless.
Surrounded by the evil, demonic masses he is aware of nothing but evil. For the first and only time in his existence he cannot sense the Father's presence. The Father is still there, He has not moved, but in midst of the awfulness of sin and evil, for the first time ever the Son is not aware of Him, and from his lips comes that most human of cries of the sinner, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Centuries before Job had been challenged by his wife, “Curse God and die!” Certainly that would have been one of Satan's cries to the God-man on the Cross. The battle for purity was on.
Ex 12:3,5 Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household…. The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect
Lev 4:3 he must bring to the LORD a young bull without defect as a sin offering for the sin he has committed.
2 Cor 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be a sin offering for us
The Lamb has to be spotless and remain spotless.
Curse God, Jesus, He has left you! Curse God and cease to be this spotless lamb and you will cease to be a perfect sacrifice, and we will have won! Curse God! Curse these religious leaders for being so blind, curse these soldiers for being so harsh and inhumane, curse these disciples for being so weak and disloyal, curse this stupid world for its sin. Curse them all.
For three hours the battle rages in the darkness of earth and the darkness of evil and the Son refuses to utter a wrong word, refuses to consider a wrong thought. The spotless lamb remains spotless.
At the end of the three hours knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus mouthed through parched lips , “I am thirsty.” and they lift vinegar to him on a sponge.
Utterly spent from the ordeal, the exhausted, beaten, crushed Son of God reveals his humanity and even in that identifies with us. But there is more, for wherever he went he put up prophetic signposts for those who would come looking.
Psa 22:15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth
Psa 69:21 They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst.
Later some would deny that this was a human hanging there taking our sin, but the Son was careful, even there, to leave no doubt for those who would come looking.
When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.”
For the on-looking women it might have appeared as a cry of despair. The bottom of their world had just fallen out. Perhaps, even to the very last minute, there had been the hope that having been through all this, he would suddenly triumph and recover and step down from the Cross. This one who had spoken to wind and waves, who had spoken to blind eyes and deaf ears, this one who had spoken to dead bodies and brought life, surely this one could speak to his own body and revive! But, “It is finished!”
For the disciples who looked on these must have seemed the most terrible words of resignation. It's over, it's the end, I've failed, there is no more! In their grief and anguish these are words of defeat. These are the words of failure. The whole glorious three year ministry of bringing heaven to earth has been terminated prematurely! Months back in the midst of the incredible healings and miracles, if they had been told this would happen (and they were!) they would never have believed it (and they didn't). That all of these wonderful things would be thrown back in his face and he would be smashed into oblivion? No way! The following thirty six hours will be, for them, the blackest in their lives. There is no future, no hope. Our dreams have been shattered. A future? Who cares! It is finished!
But that was the perspective of frail and weak and misunderstanding humanity. It was not the perspective of the Son of God. When he says, “It is finished!” he is saying, “The work is complete! The plan from before the foundation of the world has been fulfilled. The price has been paid on the earth. The way is open for the salvation of whoever comes. It is finished!”
But is it the end? Definitely not! He still has to be taken down and put into the tomb of a rich man. He still has to rise from the dead, but those are things for men and God respectively to do. Jesus' part is finished here on the earth for the moment. Yes, after the Father raises him up there is more to do, but for the moment, the plan has been executed faultlessly. He has completed the task of redemption, there is nothing more to do on earth that can add to that, and so it is time to depart.
So he “gave up his spirit”. Even in the last act he is in control. He could have held on but the work has been finished so he releases his spirit from the body and it is over. The body in front of the watchers will soon be an empty shell. He has no more need of it for the moment. Its function has come to an end. The body was necessary to carry the Son of God through some thirty or so years on the earth, experiencing the things that human beings experience, and expressing the Father's will in the three years of staggeringly wonderful ministry. But that phase has come to an end. The work on earth IS finished!
Yet, there is still one more stage to go that we have missed. There is still one more sign post to be erected.
Luke 23:46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.
Psa 22:22 I will declare your name to my brothers; in the congregation I will praise you.
1 Pet 3:8,9 For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison
Eph 4:9 This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.” What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions
Just before he gives up his spirit, there is this one more utterance.
Jesus awareness is now of the Father. A few hours earlier he had been crying out for God's presence. Now he addresses the Father directly.
Again and again in the psalms there comes a turning point where the psalmist speaks out in faith, while the situation is still unchanged, and praises the Lord. Whether Jesus is now aware of the Father's presence as he approaches death, or whether he determines to make a faith statement despite the circumstances, seems irrelevant.
They key thing is that the Son, at the end, addresses the Father. This has been a plan executed now, but planned since before the world began, a plan formulated within the Godhead. Within the Godhead the Son is always subservient to the Father, and so even here, now, right on the edge of death, the Son's last words remind us of his relationship with the Father. It is as if his final act is to direct us to the Father, as had been his aim throughout his years of ministry.
It is as if the Son is saying, “Father, I've done my part so now I hand over to you for you to do what only you can do at this moment. I leave this body and leave it up to you Father, how and when the resurrection will occur.”
Descending into hell, in going down to eternal punishment to take the fullness of our punishment, he will stay there until the Father retrieves him and gives him back a body on Sunday.
Yes, there he will stay until, on that morning in earth time, the body will be raised up, and the grave clothes will be unwound, and the Son will back with a new body through which to communicate His Father's future plans. THEN we will see that God has “exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
The work is finished! The way is opened, and the Father beckons to whoever will come.