Good Friday for Dummies…
(If you’re new to the Faith. If you don’t understand Christianity. Or at least certain aspects of it. This is for you)
Right now, Christians are celebrating something called, “Good Friday.”
- Traditionally, it’s the day upon which Jesus was crucified. Was nailed to a cross beginning at 9 AM and was dead by 3 PM. It likely could have been a Thursday (not that it matters). Because the Passover entailed holy days outside of Friday sundown-Saturday sundown.
- The Scriptures call Jesus sinless. Which means he never did anything that broke the 600+ laws of the Old Testament. (He went much further in his sinlessness than that. But that’s what the Jews of his time would have understood it to mean.)
- Jesus wasn’t killed for showing love. He was put to death because the Jewish leaders were scared. They believed he’d use his popularity to rise up against the Roman occupiers. If that happened, the Roman military would come in and lay waste to many. Rome was tolerant. Until anyone threatened their rule (John 11:48-50). Yes, the Religious Leaders were also jealous. And tired of hearing Jesus loudly declare them “Sons of hell,” etc. But the real issue?…the very real fear that he would get many Jews killed.
- Jesus was betrayed by his treasurer, who took donations, but also helped himself to the treasury when no one was looking (John 12:6). Jesus’ ministry…food, etc…was supported by donations. When it became clear that Jesus didn’t care about money, but people, Judas decided to betray (Mark 14:1-10).
- Jesus was arrested at night because the Jewish leaders feared the crowd of Jews would turn on them. So they had to wait until the crowd wasn’t there. Because Jesus was very popular.
- He was put to trial during Passover. Which wasn’t legal. Charges centered on Jesus talking about the temple being torn down. Jews took threats against the temple almost as seriously as Romans took threats to their rule over people. Witnesses couldn’t agree on their testimony. It was a sham trial. Everyone knew it.
- Ultimately, Jesus was asked, “Are you Messiah? Are you the Son of God?” If Jesus said he was, he’d be guilty of blasphemy. A crime deserving death. Jesus declared himself so. And went further. Saying he’d be seated at the right hand of God (a position with authority) and would come back again one day from heaven. That did it. He deserved death according to the Jewish leaders.
- Jews couldn’t carry out a death sentence under Roman occupation. So they had to take him to Roman authorities. Before that, the Jewish leaders spat on him and blindfolded him and beat him, asking him to prophesy as to who was hitting him. Mocked him. Even the servants got in on the act. Beating him mercilessly.
- The Jewish/Roman day began with daybreak. Very early in the morning. They turned him over the Pilate, the Roman Governor. Pilate’s wife had been warned in a dream about killing Jesus. But Pilate feared that the Jewish leaders would complain about him to the Emperor. He had Jesus scourged. The flesh ripped off his back with a leather whip embedded with pieces of metal. He was flayed open. Over and over again.
- Hoping to gain sympathy for Jesus, he brought out a scourged and bloody Jesus. And a murdering insurrectionist known as Barabbas. According to tradition, he would release one of them. The Jewish leaders whipped up the crowd. Talk of Romans killing the Jews because of Jesus was enough. The crowd chanted, “Give us Barabbas! Crucify Jesus!” Truth is, it’s human nature to bring down the very people we’ve built up. To turn on them. The moment we see any weakness. This was no different.
- Jesus was given over to the Roman military. He was surrounded by the whole company of Pilate’s Roman soldiers. The put a purple robe on that beaten, open-wound back. It was the color of royalty. They twisted the 7″-10″ Jerusalem thorns into a crown and jammed it down onto his head, scraping back the skin and biting into bone. They spat upon him. A high insult. Calling him, essentially, nothing. They struck him on the head…including where the thorns were…over and over again with a stick. And then bowed down and mocked the so-called king. Then they ripped the robe off that beaten, flayed open back. Put his own clothes back on him.
- Jesus was led off to be crucified. He hung from 9 AM- 3 PM. People again spat at him. Mocked him. And he looked over the gathered crowd as they laughed at his pain. And prayed. “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.” A thief next to him mocked him as well. But a thief on the other side placed his faith in Christ. Jesus said to him, “Today, you’ll be with me in paradise.”
- Crucified men often lingered for days. Pushing up on the cross to catch a breath. Over and over again. It was designed to be cruel and lingering. So that NO ONE would want to be caught acting against the orders of Rome.
- The sky grew black from Noon to 3 PM. Everyone was in awe. All sin… everything that had ever been done against the will of the God. Every wrong act. Wrong thought. Wrong motivation, even. Everything that was currently being done. Or would be done. That God would call “sin.” All of it was placed on Jesus. “He who knew no sin became sin (a sin offering) for us so that we might become the righteousness of God.”
- From early on, people have tried to get to God by being good. By reforming themselves. By sacrificing something. Making changes. Promising God something. As though he needs anything from anyone. It has NEVER worked Not even once. We can’t be good enough to get to a morally perfect God.
- Near 3 PM, Jesus said, “Tetelestai.” Which means, “It is finished. It’s done. NOTHING MORE CAN BE ADDED to what has been done.” He had paid the price for your sin. My sin. Our sins. By suffering and dying on the cross. We don’t access God by simply believing God exists. Or doing good things. But by trusting in what Jesus has done for us on the cross. Placing our faith in him.
- Jesus then said, “Father, into your hands I commend my Spirit.” And breathed his last. He chose when to die. Hours, not days. A centurion standing nearby said, “Surely this was the Son of God.”
This is Good Friday- regardless of the day upon which it occurred. Because it won our adoption into God’s family. It forgave our sins. As we trust Jesus to forgive us and change us from the inside out. Give us the fresh start. The clean slate. That so many of us long for. And many of us have now received.
And…of course…resurrection Sunday would occur just a few days later.
What do you do with this? Know that you are separated from God. Because of sin. And yes, we all sin. You, too. Ask God to forgive you. Choose to trust Jesus’ cross as your forgiveness. And commit your life to Jesus. Asking him in prayer to be your Lord (leader of your life) and Savior (forgiver of your sin-debt to God). Do it now. You’ve got very little to lose and eternity to gain.