It’s morning. Many of us are just waking up, hopefully after sleeping peaceably for several hours. We grab our coffee, maybe scan the newspaper, and then spend some time reading scripture. We pray. We think about the coming weekend and all the plans we have with our families. For most of us, today will be another relatively comfortable day in a long series of relatively comfortable days. But it was not that sort of day for our Lord on the first Good Friday.
During the hours we slept, much had already happened to him. Sometime late Thursday evening, perhaps around midnight, he was in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was struggling. He knew what was before him. He asks, “may the cup pass,” but he wants the will of the Father more. He knew he came into the world for this. Before the world was created, he knew this was his purpose. To love us. To die for us. All while he should have been sleeping. Like us.
Then he is betrayed. A kiss from a “friend” is just the first of many slaps in the face over the coming hours. His other friends scatter. Jesus is alone. For you.
Jesus finds no sleep for his tired body. Rest may only be found in the Spirit that he shares with his Father. Before the sun rose he already had three hearings before the Jewish authorities. The interrogators ask questions but want no answers. More slaps. Punches. Due process is nowhere to be found. Zealots of the law are now lawbreakers. The Son of God, maker of heaven and earth, is spit upon. Humiliated. For you. So you could sleep soundly this Friday morning.
Meanwhile, prophecies are being fulfilled. Peter, the rock, crumbles in fear before a little girl. Three times he denies him who he swore he would never deny. Three times the rooster crows. Humiliated and ashamed, he runs away in tears. And Judas, the betrayer, betrays himself. Thirty pieces of silver hit the ground, while his body swings from a tree.
All while we were sleeping. And that awful, beautiful day has just begun.
After 6 am our Friday morning routine begins. We drive to work. It’s a very ordinary day. But we get easily frustrated. Traffic. Potholes. Confusing construction zones. We look forward to resting this weekend.
On Good Friday, Jesus’ morning commute was much different. His accusers take him from the Sanhedrin to Pilate’s headquarters. Lies are told. Pilate finds no guilt in him. Of course, he doesn’t. Jesus is blameless. But we are guilty, and he stands in our place. So the charade pretending to be a trial must go on.
Pilate, passing the buck, sends Jesus off to Herod. It’s been hours since the Last Supper. No one cares that he hasn’t eaten breakfast. Has he even had a drink of water? But we get a moment to enjoy a latte and a scone from Starbucks.
Herod, the clown whom men made king, now mocks the King of Kings. More lies. Satan smiles. They take him back to Pilate. Jesus, full of grace and truth, stands before a man who is blind to truth. Pilate asks the mob who they choose. “Give us Barabbas!”
The agony starts. The Roman whip is efficient in its work. Flesh is ripped from muscle. Muscle is separated from bone. Every stripe he receives buys our grace. God who became flesh is now being tortured. The innocent in place of the guilty. All for us. A crown of thorns is now on His head. The blood of the spotless, sacrificial lamb seeps through a purple robe. Again, Pilate finds no guilt in Jesus. But any courage Pilate may have he washes away. “Crucify him!”
The final part of Jesus’ Good Friday “commute” begins. It’s maybe a half-mile to the Place of the Skull, Golgotha. The way is steep and rocky. So much blood. Our savior is already dying. The large cross is so heavy. But it is the weight of our sins that crushes him most. All this…for us. All before 9 am on Good Friday.
We need a break from our Friday meetings, so we settle into the restaurant with our friends for lunch. We poke fun at each other, but not so much that anyone gets their feelings hurt. After lunch, the Easter outfits are picked up from the cleaners. A phone call is made to our parents to check on them. We look forward to ending the day early.
Jesus can take no break from his labors. His wounds on his back from the Roman whip become embedded with splinters from the wood of his cross. The nails in his hands and his feet have pierced bone. Horribly, he must use the nails in his feet as leverage to push his body up so that he can catch his breath. Jesus is slowly suffocating. The cross smothers him as completely as our sin smothers us.
The mockery continues. Pharisees laugh. Soldiers wager over his clothes. Those passing by on their way into Jerusalem assume Jesus is a criminal who is getting what he deserves. No. He is getting what we deserve. Even a thief beside him mocks him. But another thief is promised paradise. Mary looks up at her son on the cross. John sees his best friend dying. Jesus knows his friend must now care for his mother.
More laughter. “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the King of the Jews, come down from the cross that we may see and believe.” But Jesus will not save himself because he wants to save us. Ultimately, it is love, not nails, that holds him to the cross. The darkness that reigns in men’s hearts now darkens the sky. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And Satan thinks he is winning.
All this is for you. And it is just noon on Good Friday.
It’s nice to quit work early on a Friday. What’s left undone can be picked up again next week, right? So we head home, maybe running a few errands along the way. We have our plans. We have all the time in the world. We have some momentary thoughts about the Good Friday service and Easter. But those brief thoughts of Jesus are quickly choked out by everything else happening in our lives right now.
The greatest event in cosmic history is now coming to an end. Jesus, laboring for hours on the cross, is near death. The most searing pain of this awful day has arrived. It’s not the physical pain that hurts most. It is the pain of his soul bearing the weight of our sins. We are with our family and friends, but Jesus is alone. Suffering. Dying. For us. His only comfort, the presence of his heavenly Father, is now gone. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
The moment of our atonement has now come. All the wrath of a Holy God at every single sin ever committed or will be committed by us…from the first taste of the forbidden fruit until the last sin at the end of time…all that wrath is heaped onto the Son of God and nailed with him to his cross. It crushes him. “It is finished. Into your hands Father I commit my spirit.” Jesus takes his final breath. And he dies.
Calvary is now in chaos. Earthquake. Is he really dead? From a spear in the side flows blood and water. Now the soldiers finally see. “Certainly this man was innocent!” “Truly this man was the Son of God.”It’s all over by Friday afternoon. Our redemption has been purchased, and the veil is torn in two. Grace is given. And our savior is dead. Hanging on that tree. All this…for us.