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Good Friday Reflections
Matthew 26:47-75, 27; Mark 14:43-72, 15; Luke 22:47-71, 23; John 18-19
This is a special devotional reflecting on the arrest, trial, suffering, crucifixion and burial of our Savior. Rather than excerpt whole chapters of scripture, I’m going to refer to certain portions to drive home the point that unlimited grace and mercy and the ultimate sacrifice from our Lord is something we should all be falling down on our knees in unending gratitude.
A quick aside - I had a more personal devotional on Wednesday, pausing the miracles to talk about my spiritual battle. God is guiding me through my pain and recovery from illness, so I will not discuss any more about that (well, maybe I will, after Easter).
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It is difficult to write about Good Friday. The tears interfere with seeing the words. It should be a heavy burden on every repentant believer to read about His arrest, His trial, the mockery and ugliness of His persecutors, the savage torture, and His death on the cross.
THE ARREST OF JESUS
“While He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, came up accompanied by a large crowd with swords and clubs, who came from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now he who was betraying Him gave them a sign, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the one; seize Him.” Immediately Judas went to Jesus and said, “Hail, Rabbi!” and kissed Him. And Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you have come for.” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and seized Him.”
Matthew 26:47-50 NASB1995
Our Lord’s fate is sealed with a kiss from one of the elected twelve. He accepted 30 pieces of silver for this betrayal (actually a piddling amount). Do we betray Jesus with a glancing kiss when the world intrudes and we turn away? Do we recognize Him but fail to know Him? And His arrest required a large crowd, including a detachment of Roman troops (according to John). The fear from the enemy was palpable. Later in my miracles series, there is a final miracle before the crucifixion associated with this moment.
Here’s what David Guzik in Enduring Word quotes from Charles Spurgeon:
This sign of Judas was typical of the way in which Jesus is generally betrayed. When men intend to undermine the inspiration of the Scriptures, how do they begin their books? Why, always with a declaration that they wish to promote the truth of Christ! Christ’s name is often slandered by those who make a loud profession of attachment to him, and then sin foully as the chief of transgressors.”
THE TRIAL OF JESUS
The trials (there were more than one) of Jesus are long and convoluted. I’m going to focus on two things: Peter’s denial and the final interrogation by Pilate.
“Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, and a servant-girl came to him and said, “You too were with Jesus the Galilean.” But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.” When he had gone out to the gateway, another servant-girl saw him and *said to those who were there, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” And again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.” A little later the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Surely you too are one of them; for even the way you talk gives you away.” Then he began to curse and swear, “I do not know the man!” And immediately a rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, “Before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.”
Matthew 26:69-75 NASB1995
The twelve, who have seen signs and wonders for the ages and heard spiritual truths that should be balm to any soul, once again show their stripes. Judas betrays Him and the rest run like chickens from the Garden, although John and Peter follow surreptitiously behind the arrest party. Peter’s denial is a microcosm of human behaviors. A co-worker mocks Jesus openly and loudly and you do nothing. A “friend” sends you an atheist screed trying to get you to deny Him and you don’t try to counter argue using reason and apologetics. You distance yourself from Him - “Oh, yeah, I believe in that Jesus stuff, but let’s talk about the baseball season.” He is living and here in front of us all the time and we detour around Him hoping we don’t have to acknowledge Him or have our “fun” interrupted.
But Peter’s fate is different than Judas, according to Enduring Word commentary from Mark and Matthew:
From Mark commentary:
Peter’s first problem was that he followed Him at a distance (Mark 14:54). When we distance ourselves from Jesus, it is hard to make a proper stand for Him at the critical time.
Next, Peter sat with the servants and warmed himself at the fire (Mark 14:54). Peter found fellowship and warmth in the company of the ungodly, having forsaken the fellowship of the fleeing disciples. Peter wanted to seem just one of this crowd, not a follower of Jesus.
The officers of Mark 14:65 who struck Jesus are the same people as the servants of Mark 14:54, because the same ancient Greek word is used of both groups. Peter sat and associated himself with the same men who beat Jesus, and they beat Him just because someone else told them that Jesus was a wicked man.
From Matthew commentary:
Apostasy is giving up the truth, as Judas did. Judas was sorry about his sin, but it was not a sorrow leading to repentance.
Backsliding is a decline from a spiritual experience once enjoyed. Peter slipped, but he will not fall; his bitter weeping will lead to repentance and restoration.
Jesus will ask Peter three times later on before the Ascension if he loves Him and to feed His sheep. This is when he is restored as the head of the new church. Judas, on the other hand, is buried in the Potter’s field after hanging himself.
“Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?” Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate *said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and *said to them, “I find no guilt in Him.”
John 18:33-38 NASB1995
Pontius Pilate is an intriguing character. He married well and received an appointment to govern a backwater region in the Empire. At this point, when he sees Jesus again during the trials, our Lord has been beaten and humiliated and would soon be scourged. Pilate was initially expecting a revolutionary zealot with raging eyes, but instead is faced with this gentle, calm figure. This dialogue is very interesting, as Jesus identifies His kingdom to not be of this world. He is the Truth. Pilate asks “What is truth?”
In our current cultural morass, everyone has their “truth”. It is a cacophony of voices defending the worst trends and traits and everyone had better back off when it comes to questioning “truths”. I used to be among the crowd of Truth deniers, seeing no harm/no foul in “progressive” social mores - who is to judge? But God is not pleased and He is the arbiter of real truth and justice. The world under the leadership of the enemy is fooling people into discarding Truth, focusing on their bliss, their self-gratification and their rage at what they don’t have. Pilate had an opportunity to kneel down before Truth, but the sacrifice was necessary to save us.
David Guzik has some interesting observations on this passage in Enduring Word:
My kingdom is not from here: We may imagine that Pilate was relieved and satisfied to hear that the kingdom of Jesus was not from here. Pilate may have concluded that Rome therefore had nothing to fear from Jesus and His kingdom.
Romans thought they knew about kingdoms and their might; that armies, navies, swords, and battles measured the strength of kingdoms. What Jesus knew was that His kingdom – though not of this world – was mightier than Rome and would continue to expand and influence when Rome passed away.
My kingdom is not from here: Augustine observed from this verse that earthly kingdoms are based upon force, pride, the love of human praise, the desire for domination, and self interest – all displayed by Pilate and the Roman Empire.
The heavenly kingdom, exemplified by Jesus and the cross, is based on love, sacrifice, humility, and righteousness – and is to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Gentiles foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:23).
“The obvious inference from his words would be that he came in to the world from another realm, that whoever did not listen to him would not be characterized by truth, and that if Pilate really wanted to know what truth was, he would give Jesus his earnest attention.” (Merrill Tenney)
THE SUFFERING AND HUMILIATION OF JESUS
“Then he released Barabbas for them; but after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified. Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole Roman cohort around Him. They stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. And after twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand; and they knelt down before Him and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They spat on Him, and took the reed and began to beat Him on the head. After they had mocked Him, they took the scarlet robe off Him and put His own garments back on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him.”
Matthew 27:26-31 NASB1995
I recall seeing “The Passion of the Christ” a few years ago for the first time. The epic and graphic story of the last few days of Jesus was produced and directed by Mel Gibson and starred devout Catholic Jim Caviezel as Jesus. The movie is superb, with compelling visual images and the mind-shattering violence that you see wreaked upon the body of the Son of God. We often watch it on Good Friday to remind us that this was an incredible sacrifice. It has been criticized for being too graphic, but here is a backstory from David Guzik that elaborates on “scourging”:
When he had scourged Jesus: The blows came from a whip with many leather strands, each having sharp pieces of bone or metal at the ends. It reduced the back to raw flesh, and it was not unusual for a criminal to die from a scourging, even before crucifixion.
“Scourging was a legal preliminary to every Roman execution, and only women and Roman senators or soldiers (except in cases of desertion) were exempt.” (Dr. William Edwards in the article “On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ” from the Journal of the American Medical Association, 3/21/86)
The goal of the scourging was to weaken the victim to a state just short of collapse and death. “As the Roman soldiers repeatedly struck the victim’s back with full force, the iron balls would cause deep contusions, and the leather thongs and sheep bones would cut into the skin and subcutaneous tissues. Then, as the flogging continued, the lacerations would tear into the underlying skeletal muscles and produce quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh. Pain and blood loss generally set the stage for circulatory shock. The extent of blood loss may well have determined how long the victim would survive the cross.” (Jonathan Edwards)
“The severe scourging, with its intense pain and appreciable blood loss, most probably left Jesus in a pre-shock state. Moreover, hematidrosis had rendered his skin particularly tender. The physical and mental abuse meted out by the Jews and the Romans, as well as the lack of food, water, and sleep, also contributed to his generally weakened state. Therefore, even before the actual crucifixion, Jesus’ physical condition was at least serious and possibly critical.” (Edwards)
When he had scourged Jesus: Commonly the blows of scourging would lessen as the criminal confessed to his crimes. Jesus remained silent, having no crimes to confess, so the blows continued with full strength.
Lest we forget, Jesus was also beat and spat upon by the Jewish leaders of the Sanhedrin and was likely roughly handled by the arrest team. He was fully human and was likely near death before ever being put on that cross. And the ultimate humility happens there, where He takes on every sinful aspect of fallen humanity.
“They took Jesus, therefore, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha. There they crucified Him, and with Him two other men, one on either side, and Jesus in between. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It was written, “JESUS THE NAZARENE, THE KING OF THE JEWS.” Therefore many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews were saying to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews’; but that He said, ‘I am King of the Jews.’ ” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His outer garments and made four parts, a part to every soldier and also the tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece. So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, to decide whose it shall be”; this was to fulfill the Scripture: “They divided My outer garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.” Therefore the soldiers did these things. But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He *said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then He *said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” From that hour the disciple took her into his own household. After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, *said, “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth. Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.”
John 19:17-30 NASB1995
All four Gospel versions of the Crucifixion contain little differences and nuances, like Luke, with the story of the thief who believes, or Matthew, with the temple curtain torn in two. They are additive (and not contradictory) in creating a panorama of incredible compassion and suffering. Jesus is in the center, between two sordid representatives of sinful humanity. We could concentrate again on the details of the utter barbarity of crucifixion, but instead let’s look at the Center. Here is what David Guzik has to say about this incredible victory:
· Jesus was centered among humanity. Jesus never distanced Himself from common men, and freely interacted with those thought to be great men. From His incarnation, through His whole life, He lived as one of us. Jesus died among men and women, Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, high class and no class, the educated and the uneducated, the religious and the secular, the guilty and the innocent, the weepers and the mockers, those deeply moved and those indifferent, those who hated Him and those who loved Him.
· Jesus was centered among sinful men. His enemies thought this would make His sufferings worse. They thought it would bother Him more to see the low company He died with. In His death the righteously religious mocked Him and His disciples forsook Him; yet Jesus was centered among sinners to the end.
· Jesus was centered among confusion. Matthew 27:46-49 says tells us that when Jesus cried out in agony to His Father, the people around Him didn’t understand and some even thought it kind of amusing.
· Jesus was centered between believing and rejecting. Matthew 27:44 told us that both robbers mocked Him, but Luke 23:39-41 tells us of a change in one of the criminals. The last human voice testifying to Jesus was a criminal converted right before his death. The disciples were gone and all Jesus healed and taught were nowhere to be found. The religious leaders mocked Him and spit upon Him, and even the faithful women were silenced by their grief. Yet there was one lone human voice that told the truth about Jesus when all others were silent [Pilate with his order to have “King of the Jews” on the cross honored His truth}.
· Jesus was centered between saved and perishing. The thief on the cross was the last companion of Jesus on this earth before His death – and Jesus brought Him to salvation. Not with a sermon, but with every sermon He had already preached, every righteous deed He had done before. This was perhaps the only comfort to Jesus on the cross. Still, one thief was saved, but one was lost, and Jesus was in the center between them. To pass between one side and the other, you must go through Jesus.
· Jesus was centered between God and man. Jesus on the cross took all the punishment our sin deserved. At the cross Jesus was both the priest and the offering.
· Jesus was centered in all God’s history and work. We do not look at Jesus in the center with pity, as if we should all feel sorry for poor Jesus. He was the winner at the cross. This was the greatest victory of all time.
Jesus is the conduit to our salvation and eternal life. We must pass through Him to God and be utterly chastened and repentant for our sinful selves. My poor Lord, on that old Rugged Cross.
“Then the Jews, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came, and broke the legs of the first man and of the other who was crucified with Him; but coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe. For these things came to pass to fulfill the Scripture, “Not a bone of Him shall be broken.” And again another Scripture says, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced.” After these things Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate granted permission. So he came and took away His body. Nicodemus, who had first come to Him by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen wrappings with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. Therefore because of the Jewish day of preparation, since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.”
John 19:31-42 NASB1995
At the end, Jesus had two friends among the Jewish leaders. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus ask for the body and Pilate grants it. He is brought down from the cross and transported to a tomb that Joseph owned. Here is the task that these two men did, according to David Guzik; the body had to be cleaned and foreign objects removed:
They examined His entire body and found broken pieces of thorn all over the head. They saw His bloody, matted hair; the terrible bruising of the face, the areas of beard pulled out, the dry and cracked lips. They turned the body over to see His shoulders and arms are riddled with splinters; each one was removed with care. The back, from the shoulders down, was a bloody open wound from the terrible scourging suffered before the crucifixion. His hands and feet were smashed and bloodied. On the front – just beneath the rib cage – there was a gaping wound made from the spear thrust that confirmed His death. Worst of it all were the eyes that did not open; the voice that did not speak.
We can only imagine what deep, life-long impressions this left upon both men and how for the rest of their life the smell of those particular spices would bring back every mental detail.
As these two men did this – men who were experts in the law – they must have known that they were fulfilling prophecy; the prophecy in Isaiah 53:9 that said the Messiah would be with the rich at His death. Here the body of Jesus was, at the hands of two rich men – who customarily would have had a servant do such humble, bloody work. Yet they knew they had to do it themselves.
This was a strange work for these two men to do; yet it was also strange that Jesus, in the plan of Godhead, passively submitted to it. Conceivably, after Jesus accomplished all things and yielded His life, Jesus could have sprung from the cross in a super-hero like flash of power and glory five minutes – or five seconds – after His death. Yet in the plan of God the Father, He hung lifeless on the cross for some period of time – long enough for Joseph to gain an audience with Pilate and receive permission to take the body. He hung on that cross until His body was laboriously removed, and hurriedly buried according to Jewish custom.
My next special devotional moves away from this sadness and torture of Good Friday into the glorious and victorious Sunday morning, when the devoted women who followed Jesus go to the tomb to finish His preparations. Jesus has His best miracle prepared for EVERYONE.
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Lord - The stories of Your humiliation, suffering and death on that long-ago Good Friday make me tremble to the depths of my soul. I love you, Lord Jesus. I can never repay you for your sacrifice. Amen
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995, 2020 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org
Commentary from David Guzik on Enduring Word is used with written permission.
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