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Holy Week Messages

GOOD FRIDAY

John 19:17-19

17.) And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha,

18.) where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center.

19.) Now Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross. And the writing was:

JESUS OF NAZARETH

THE KING OF THE JEWS.

 

GOOD FRIDAY:

 

It’s very early Friday, what most people would call the wee hours of the morning.  Jesus and His disciples had celebrated the Passover, where Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper.  He had tried to teach them a little more, hoping that they would gain some insight into the happenings they were about to experience.  They had left the Upper Room and gone back to the Garden of Gethsemane, located at the foot of the Mount of Olives on the eastern side of the Kidron Valley.

The immanence of the moment was felt by Jesus.  Judas had left during the meal to fulfill his obligation in the upcoming events.  Jesus knew it wouldn’t be long before the temple guards would come to retrieve Him.  He separated Peter, James, and John and then went deeper into the olive grove Himself.  He asked them to stay awake and pray with Him, but they couldn’t – they fell asleep even though He asked them twice.  Jesus then asked the Father to take this cup away.  In our humanness, we focus on the terrible mistreatment and abuse He is about to undergo, but I have shared with you in the past, I believe the beatings, the pit, the scourging, and the cross were the least of His worries.  Jesus knew that for at least 3 hours on that cross He would be totally alone.  For the first time, His heavenly Father would be forced to turn His back on the Son, as the wrath of all the sins of the whole world – past, present, and future – were poured out on His body on the cross.  It would be the first time He, Jesus, the sinless one, would be separated from the presence of His heavenly Father.

 

He was arrested, and while being taken to Caiaphas’ house was beaten and mistreated.  After arriving, He was thrown into a pit to await the rest of the kangaroo court which was being hurriedly arranged.  The goal was to get this done before the city really began to wake up and the pilgrims, who would be sympathetic to Jesus, started entering the city.  The pit was about 9’ across and about 30’ deep, making it necessary to lower or pull out any prisoner via a rope.  It was not uncommon for those at ground level to spit, urinate, and defecate into that pit during a person’s detainment.

 

The actors all being assembled, Jesus was eventually pulled from the pit.  He bore the false accusations, endured more physical abuse, and suffered Peter’s denial.  Then He was taken to Pilate because the religious leaders wanted Him dead; but they didn’t just want Jesus dead, they wanted it to be a public spectacle – and they could not pull that off without Pilate’s approval.  Pilate really did not want to deal with this.  He found out that Jesus was from Galilee and proceeded to defer the decision making to King Herod.  Jesus didn’t play Herod’s game, however, and was sent back to Pilate.

 

Pilate has been made to look a whole lot better in this than he should.  He would have put Jesus to death in a split second if it had only been about Jesus.  He despised the priests and the elders, and he was aware that the priests and the elders wanted this man dead for no good reason.  Pilate would have liked nothing better than to let Jesus go free just to spite the Sanhedrin.  Thus, this all became a game of politics – back and forth – as Pilate tried to do what he could to punish Jesus and still let Him go.  Success here would have been the only way to have victory over the religious elders.  So Pilate had Jesus beaten and scourged, during which time He was humiliated and beaten by the Roman troops with a crown of Judean thorns also being pressed upon His head.  I’ve seen them, these thorns, and they are all of 3-4 inches long.  Jesus was then brought back to Pilate.  He tried to release Jesus as the prisoner set free at Passover, but the Sanhedrin weren’t  having any of that.  They cried out for Barabbas, a known criminal.  Pilate asked, “You want me to crucify your king?” and they answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” This was where the political game really became clear.  Pilate had already been told to stand down several times by his father-in-law.  The family of King Herod was very close to the emperor, and the religious leaders also had influence at the Roman court.  If Pilate’s releasing of Jesus got back to the court in Rome, it would have been interpreted as having chosen a kingship over Caesar. The religious leaders played their trump card, and Jesus was sent to be crucified…

 

When I was in Jerusalem last year, I walked the Via Crucis, which starts at the praetorium and goes through the old city.  The road is rough and uneven, being about 10 feet wide at its most narrow points and 30 feet at its widest.  It is also uphill all the way.  About halfway along, there is a little prayer chapel where the only piece of the old Jerusalem city gate is still standing.  On the far side of this point, there is still city but newer buildings and pathway (only about 1600-1700 years old, being built 250-to 350 years after Jesus’ time.) That part of the road now is a little smoother and wider, it is still uphill all the way.  On the day Jesus was crucified, once that gate was passed, there was nothing but rocky road and barren ground all the way to Calvary.  As one walks along the street in the old city, one looks at the building on either side, all of which now are two-story or more; but there comes the realization that although these structures were not present at Jesus’ crucifixion, they are still built on the very foundations of the original buildings that were there!  The road hasn’t changed because the foundations of those buildings hasn’t changed for 3000 years.

 

For me, climbing the hill was difficult.  (This trip took place before my knee replacement surgery).  But then I started thinking about Jesus.  For five or six hours, He had been beaten several times and whipped.  The movie, “The Passion”, shows Him being caned before he was scourged.  After the scourging, the Roman soldiers put a robe on Him, pressed a crown of thorns on His head, beat Him again, and then removed the robe, opening up all His wounds once more.  On my trip, I had enjoyed my breakfast and hot tea first – Jesus was undernourished and dehydrated.  The abuse and loss of blood, plus the burden of carrying the cross up the crowded street while being continuously beaten by the soldiers is unimaginable.  No wonder Jesus needed help.  Simon of Cyrene was conscripted by the Romans to assist in carrying His cross.  From my experience, it was hard to tell how far the walk actually was from the praetorium to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – I didn’t ask and I couldn’t find it on Google – but I would guess around a mile to a mile and a quarter.  Again, uphill all the way.

 

On that long-ago day, the group finally got to Calvary, where the soldiers again ripped off the robe so that wounds were once more reopened to bleed.  They laid Him out to nail Him to the cross, using spikes through His hands and ankles, and then they turned it over so they could hammer down the spikes on the back side. Next, they lifted the cross up and dropped it into a hole in the ground.  Jesus hung there between Heaven and Earth, between a righteous God and a sinful humanity.  He was suffocating (that’s how you die on a cross, hanging in such a position that breathing is impossible except for intermittently pushing up on the ankle spike to gasp a breath).

 

What did Jesus see from there?  He saw none of the disciples except John.  He saw His mother and a few of the other faithful women.  He saw that He was hanging between two thieves.  He saw the soldiers gambling over His robe.  He saw the angry mob shaking their fists and ridiculing Him.  He saw the religious leaders doing the same with sanctimonious attitudes.  

 

What did Jesus hear?  He heard words like, “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross so we can believe in you. (Satan in his appointed time) He saved others – let Him save Himself.” He did hear one good word, when one of the thieves declared his personal guilt, Jesus’s complete innocence and kingship, and was asked to be remembered when Jesus came into His kingdom.

 

What did Jesus say?  “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do!”  “Today you will be with me in paradise.”  “Woman, behold thy son! Son, behold thy mother!”   “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”  “I thirst.”   “It is finished.”   “Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit.”

At 12 noon the sky turned dark.  When Jesus was born, the glory of God shown so bright that midnight became midday.  At the cross, God removed Himself from the situation so that midday became midnight.  Jesus was totally alone, and He quoted the Psalms.  He said, “I thirst”, but it was not for something wet to drink.  He thirsted for the presence of the Father back in His life….Then, after all of our sin and the sin of the world had been poured out on His body, after the total wrath of God had been exhausted upon His person, He said, “It is finished!”   At about 3 p.m., He sensed the presence of His Father once again, and He said, “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit.”  His work on earth was altogether and finally done…

 

What wondrous grace this is.  He took what you and I deserved so that from that point forward, we could have what He deserved.  With His stripes He gave us our healing.  By hanging on the tree, He bore our curse.  With His blood He bought our redemption, and through His death He made unconditional forgiveness a reality.  With His resurrection…..well, we will talk about that on Sunday.

 

BLESSINGS AND PEACE

 

I conclude with the words of two songs:

 

It Is Finished” by Petra, written by Bob Hartman

 

In the heat of the early morning,

On a hill they call the skull,

The roaring of the angry mob had settled to a lull.

All eyes were cast upon the man whose hands and feet were bound –

They heard Him cry in anguish when they heard the hammer pound.

They saw the bloody woven thorns with which His head was crowned,

They watched the bloody cross of wood be dropped into the ground,

The soldiers gambled for His clothes, He watched them win and lose,

They saw the sign above His head that said, “King of the Jews”

 

It is finished, and the sky grew black as the night.

It is finished, and the people scattered in fright.

The work has been done, redemption had been won,

The war was over without a fight.

It is finished!

 

They searched His face for anger, for vengeance in His stare.

Instead of eyes that burned with hate a look of love was there.

He prayed for their forgiveness and bowed His battered head,

And no one knew the meaning of the final words He said.

 

It is finished, and the sky grew black as the night.

It is finished, and the people scattered in fright.

The work has been done, redemption has been won,

The war was over without a fight.

It is finished!

 

The provision has been made,

The foundation has been laid,

He paid the ransom due and tore the temple veil in two

And opened up the way for me and you.

IT IS FINISHED

 

*****************************

Via Dolorosa”  by Sandy Patty

 

Down the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem that day

The soldiers tried to clear the narrow street,

But the crowd pressed in to see

A man condemned to die on Calvary.

 

He was bleeding from a beating, there were stripes upon His back,

And He wore a crown of thorns upon His head.

And He bore with every step

The scorn of those who cried out for His death.

 

Down the Via Dolorosa, called the way of suffering,

Like a lamb came the Messiah, Christ the King.

But He chose to walk that road out of His love for you and me –

Down the Via Dolorosa all the way to Calvary.

 

The blood that would cleanse the souls of men

Made its way through the heart of Jerusalem

 

Down the Via Dolorosa, called the way of suffering,

Like a lamb came the Messiah, Christ the King.

But He chose to walk that road out of His love for you and me –

Down the Via Dolorosa all the way to Calvary……

 

**************************

 

Remember to read Psalm 91 in first person each day and claim it.

       

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