Personalizing Good Friday

It’s Good Friday. 

Since God saved me 12 years ago, this day has always felt…..heavy and good at the the same time.

As soon as my eyes opened this morning, thoughts from scripture remind me that while I lay sleeping in my warm comfortable bed, one thousand nine hundred eighty three years ago, my Jesus was betrayed by a close friend who cared more for money, was then arrested by a mob of Roman soldiers, witnessed the rest of his closest friends abandon and deny him, whom just a few short hours prior, had dinner with and had washed their feet. Alone he faced two secret unjust hearings where he was hit and spit at, accused of blasphemy because he admitted to being the Son of God, the Christ, the blessed One.

When my body would begin to stir, sensing the rising of the sun outside my bedroom window, the Sanhedrin, a sect of Jewish chief priests, would render their final verdict. They condemn Jesus to death for blasphemy. Jesus would not deny being the Son of God and they could not fathom this bold death deserving statement. Tearing their clothes gave the outward appearance that the self admission of “sin” that Jesus was bringing on himself was too much for them to handle. They believed the act of tearing their robes would please God and appease the people who knew the significance of the tearing of robes in regard to sin.  

The charge of blasphemy was deserving of death but the Jewish council and high priests could not enforce a death sentence so they sent him to the Roman governor, Pontus Pilate. This would be the first of two official Roman trials. When Pilate questioned Jesus about the charges that were brought against him, Jesus did not try to exonerate himself and Pilate was clearly amazed at the demeanor of Jesus for not trying to “save” himself. 
However, I knew why he did not. 

Saving himself from the hands of vengeful and wicked chief priests meant not saving me from hell and death that my sin clearly deserved. He chose his suffering, and his impending death, so that he would have the power to save me. He predestined me to be one of his sheep and in that election, God gave him the strength and resolve to endure in suffering. My redeemed life would bring God glory and Jesus knew that. Bringing God glory was what Jesus was ultimately after and reconciling me back to my Father, his Father, would accomplish just that. Jesus did not save himself because he chose God’s glory over his life and in losing his life, he saved mine.

So he stays silent, giving Pilate just enough to have a feeble conversation but not enough to exonerate himself. Pilate is able to clearly discern that Jesus is innocent but doesn’t seem to know what to do with Jesus at this point. Pilate is given an “out” when it is discovered that Jesus was from Galilee, so…..Pilate then does what every politician does when he wants to appease the masses and not bring any culpability on himself. He passes the buck. He sends Jesus and the chief priests to someone else.

In steps Herod Antipas. 

At Jesus’s second Roman trial, when Herod saw Jesus, 

he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him. So he questioned him at some length, but he made no answer. The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him. Then, arraying him in splendid clothing, he sent him back to Pilate. (Luke 23:8-12) 

Herod’s wickedness shows. He had heard of the things that Jesus had done so its apparent that it was a big let down to see Jesus in such a lowly state.  Jesus knew the ugliness of Herod’s heart and doesn’t entertain giving him any answers to Herod’s questions. Because of this, Jesus succumbs to more abuse at the hands of wicked men. 

Herod sends Jesus back to Pilate. Neither Pilate nor Herod really knew what to do with him. They knew he was innocent and I’m quite sure they were aware that the chief priests were evil envious men. So instead of letting Jesus go, they give the high priests a choice. Jesus or a notorious prisoner named Barrabas.

The wicked chief priests convinced the masses to release the murderer Barrabas and to crucify the innocent Jesus. Remember, these are the same people, who a week prior, were laying down palm branches in honor of their perceived future king when Jesus entered Jerusalem. Dealing with a mob of people is always an interesting thing. Mobs are finicky. It does not take much to get them going in one direction and it was no different with this crowd. They became so stirred up with evil in their hearts that when Pilate washed his hands of the whole mess, the people actually said 

His blood be on us and on our children. 

They had no idea the ramification of their statement concerning Jesus’s blood, though at the time, they wanted to take full credit for Jesus’s death. The chief priest may have convinced them of the wrongful blasphemous charges made against Jesus so they must have believed that he was sinning against God by claiming to come from God himself.

Pilate’s back was against the wall and there seemed to be no other choice but to deliver Jesus to be crucified, but sadly, not before a traditional Roman style flogging.  Jesus endured a horrendous beating that ripped his flesh from his body, shedding massive amounts of blood. This beating left him so disfigured that he did not resemble human likeness to such a degree that I am sure people were unable to handle looking at him, except of course for those stiff necked chief priests. 

Remembering the Roman style beating that Jesus endured always seems to bring to mind the day that my daughter, then 4 but now 15, had her accident. She was thrown from a 4 wheeler into a barbed wire fence in such a way that one side of her tiny face and her sweet little nose was torn open and shredded. I was heavy pregnant with my now 10 year old son and when the accident happened across a wide field I was unable to run to her….so they brought her to me. When I saw her face, I could hardly contain myself. I felt faint and could not grasp breath. Seeing blood and bone on my baby girl left me hysterical. Once we arrived at the hospital, her face was so disfigured I could not properly console her due to the stress of being pregnant along with the surreal reality of seeing my little girl’s helpless body lying in a hospital bed. The torn flesh that used to be her precious face was unbearably overwhelming. Being a Christian for a little over year when her accident occurred and now looking back on it, miraculously I know that it was God that sustained all of us through that. 

My reason for sharing all that is to say that torn flesh is not something our minds can grasp. The only explanation for the chief priests and Roman soldiers to be able to handle seeing the flesh of Jesus torn to shreds is pure hate and evil. Wretched sin on full display. Unlike my daughter, there would be no plastic surgeon on hand to sew Jesus’s torn flesh back together again.

The Roman soldiers, after scouring him, took custody of him and to mock him made a crown of thorns and placed it on his head, along with placing on his body of torn flesh a purple robe. How they could continue to ridicule him in all his mangled-ness is a thought too hard to comprehend. 

After the scene of kingship mockery, they then made him carry a heavy wooden cross to his place of death. Jesus had probably lost so much blood at this point that he may have stumbled in weakness over the burden of such a heavy weight. The soldiers then solicited another man, Simon of Cyrene, to finish carrying the cross to Jesus’s final resting point, the Place of the Skull, or Golgotha. 

After being nailed to his death cross, Jesus was then lifted up and placed between two thieves. Still, after all the torture, those same high chief priests continued to ridicule him and degrade him by saying that he cannot even save himself. For all the parties involved in wanting Jesus dead for claiming to be God’s Son, they must have felt some sort of redemption. They must have felt validated that the man who claimed to have come from God himself could not save himself.

Are you not the Christ? Save yourself was the constant mockery that rang in Jesus’ ear while he hung on that cross. This message was a never ending call of “I told you so”.

Beaten. Flogged. Spit on. Ridiculed. Degraded beyond all recognition. 

I would have been considered a Gentile woman all those years ago but what if I had used Isaiah 53:12 to rebuke them?

Yet he bore the sins of many and makes intercession for the transgressors. 

They probably would have laughed at such a thought because according to their traditions, I was a nobody due to not owning Jewish lineage. I had no right to use their scriptures against them. Heck, they would not have even talked to me, lest I make them unclean. And nobody wants an unclean chief priest right before Passover, for heavens sake.

The irony is that they had no earthly idea that they were already preparing the Passover Lamb. Through their envious and ugly hearts, they secured and led to slaughter an Unblemished Perfect Sacrifice. They had no clue that they were the very vessels the Father used to atone for not only the sins of Israel, but the Gentile world as well. Which includes me! So even if they would not have talked to me, because of their outward role as high Jewish chief priests, in their self righteous prideful evil hearts, God was still using them to save ME.

Father, forgive them for they know not what they do could not have been any more simply stated. They were clueless of God’s redemptive plan and how it was playing out. 

They were expecting someone to come. It was in the scriptures and they studied those scriptures well. They just could not fathom that this Someone would come in the way that he did, doing the things that he did, saying the things that he said. 

As I went about my day today, I reflected deeply on what happened one thousand nine hundred and eighty three years ago in Jerusalem. 

As the day progressed and clouds covered the afternoon sun, I was reminded that darkness swept across Israel and in the weeping and mourning that ensued over seeing Jesus dying slowly on a crucifixion cross, Jesus uttered his last words and final breath. 

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me…..he is clearly destroyed. 

The weight of not only my sin, but every person who has been saved and redeemed through this very act of Jesus’s bloody and treacherous death, was pressing down on him so severely. God, who is HOLY HOLY HOLY, could not be there with his son. He no longer could give him strength to persevere. Jesus was alone. Feeling the due wrath that ugly despicable deplorable destructive sin deserves. This very act of substituting my sin for his sinlessness left Jesus completely and wholly separated from God, his father….and he felt every second of that separation. He soon gave up his spirit and died. 

That’s what happened today…. one thousand nine hundred and eighty three years ago. 

And as horrible as all this sounds…..it is very good for this silly laughable Gentile Mexican woman clinging daily to the death of a Middle Eastern man, claiming to be God’s Son. 

For reasons unbeknown to me, the God of the Universe, the Creator of heaven and earth felt that my full of sin life would be better saved and redeemed and reconciled to him through his sinless Son’s death and that all of this would bring HIM glory. 

For that fact alone…makes this day….very very good!

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