The Bible gives us eye witness accounts of what happened the night before and day that Jesus died. Every year I read the four versions and write to reflect on all that happened that day:
Thursday Night 6 PM - Friday Morning 6 AM
Jesus celebrated Passover with His disciples, but it was no ordinary Passover. He told them that the holiday would no longer be about their nation’s history, but it would be about Him. Jesus had made many bold and brazen claims, but this might have been His most extreme. Yet as that night and the weekend would unfold, perhaps He was telling the truth…
Judas had abruptly left the gathering. Maybe Jesus had taken things too far for even a rebel like Judas? Whispers throughout the room suggested that Judas had been considering turning Jesus over to the Religious Leaders, for heresy. They would have no trouble building a case against Jesus now.
Jesus was visibly anxious. The mood had changed rather quickly. He led His disciples in a psalm, to bring levity and peace. He then led them to His private sanctuary, a secret garden where He would often pray. They had never been here before. They had never been invited. Jesus asked them to pray with Him. This was odd? Why did Jesus need their prayers?
He prayed in great distress and agony. When He emerged from prayer, He looked as if He had been fighting someone, rather than praying. The disciples heard Him pray, over and over again, “Not my will, but Yours be done.” They didn’t hear much else. They had dozed off. They couldn’t figure out what was going on? They had never seen Jesus like this.
Suddenly, a mob with swords, clubs, and torches appeared. Judas had brought an entourage with Him, to seize Jesus. They came as if they were expecting to find a legion of warriors preparing for a rebellion. Yet, Jesus held no weapon, put up no fight, and surrendered with almost no resistance.
Things were all happening so fast. But the disciples had seen enough. Jesus wasn’t the same man they had followed for all those years. He was shaken, weak, confused, and seemed as if He had lost all the power and glory He once had. There was no doubt that He had possessed it, but it was as if He had just laid it down, given it up, and was letting it go. They couldn’t explain it? The Messiah would never just willingly surrender.
Most of the disciples fled, fearing that if Jesus was indeed a fraud, they too would be taken in and no doubt punished for their foolish association with Him. Peter, however, wasn’t letting go of hopes that Jesus was just biding His time. Perhaps, this was a part of His plan all along?
The High Priest, and his council, had met with Judas. They had devised a plan to do away with Jesus, once and for all. A kangaroo court was assembled late into the night. Accusations were made, lies were told, and Jesus said nothing. They mocked His claim to be the Messiah, as they lorded their authority over Him. Jesus warned them, however, that they had yet to see His true power on display.
They spit on Him. They slapped Him, They even beat him with clubs. He took every insult and bruise. Peter watched from the courtyard, and began to doubt that Jesus had one last miracle to pull off. Upon being recognized, Peter quickly began shuffling his way through the crowd, trying to flee. He denied any connection to Jesus. Why would anyone stand beside a would-be Messiah who could be beaten?
Good Friday 6 AM - 9 AM
The Religious Leaders waited for morning to come. They were so proud of themselves. Their scheme had worked. All they had to do now was convince Pilate that Jesus was a threat to Rome, and He would be gone for good. Pilate couldn’t risk upsetting Rome. He couldn’t risk losing his own throne.
But Jesus seemed so inoffensive to Pilate. He appeared so toothless. What threat did He pose? What harm could He do? He had no support, no angry mob on His side. He appeared as weak in spirit as He seemed in His bruised flesh.
Upon pressing Jesus for answers, Pilate gets nowhere. Alas, Pilate is insulted that someone would remain so calm when knowing that their life was on the line. Pilate was indignant, “Will you not speak to me? Do you not know who I am? What I can do to You?”.
Finally He had Jesus’ attention. Jesus smirked and spoke clearly, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above…” Pilate was visibly shook. He was terrified because Jesus wasn’t afraid of him, Rome, or death. Jesus acted as if everything was going just as He intended it to go.
Pilate’s ego is now on the line. He can’t be intimidated by someone as delusional and insane as Jesus. He orders Jesus to be flogged. This not only stroked his own ego, but he was hoping it would satisfy the Jews want for blood. He presents Jesus to the Jews, crowned with thorns, robed in purple, and covered in blood. Yet still, the insatiable crowd demands more and cries, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!".
Pilate concedes, allowing an actual criminal to be freed, while sentencing the innocent Jesus to die on Calvary, by way of Roman crucifixion. Beaten to near-death and bathed in unjust shame, Jesus is led to Calvary…
Good Friday 9 AM - Noon:
"They crucified Him."
The hands that healed lepers, embraced outcasts, and washed His own disciples' feet, were pierced by nails into a rugged cross. The feet that walked on water, proving He had dominion over all of creation, were hammered as well. Jesus kept silent though, reserving His energy and breath until He was lifted up.
The religious elite mocked Him, having always doubted His claim that He could reconcile people to God, apart from their twisted dogma. They felt justified now, their hate and vitriol had overcome His love and grace. He could "save" others, but look at Him now...
John and Mary stood by and wept. Everyone else had ran away. Why were they there? Maybe Jesus still had one more miracle up His sleeve. Maybe not.
Two other criminals were crucified as well, one to His left and another to His right. They joined in on the harassing. Sin had led them all of their life. It wasn't about to let go now.
Alas, He spoke. Words that foreshadowed something huge. Words with power untold. "Father forgive them for they know not what they do…" He prayed. Who could He be referring to? Everyone seemed to know good and well what they were doing. Eerily so, actually.
One of the criminals, no doubt taken aback by Jesus' words, made an outlandish request. With death and the reality of eternity overwhelming him, he realized he had lived an unfulfilled, wasted life. Starring into his future bliss and the sure cessation of his life. He didn't want to be forgotten forever. Nobody does. Jesus seemed to care even while suffering unjustly. The grace He displayed was seemingly irresistible. So, the thief audaciously, yet simply, asked Jesus to "remember" him, trusting Jesus to be more than just a man. Jesus, knowing His heart, promised him much, much more.
It was now noon, but instead of the sun reaching its highest point, the whole earth was swallowed by darkness. Judgement loomed. But over whom? Would God punish those who had crucified His Son? Would Christ save Himself and call for His Father's wrath to be poured upon those on Calvary's hill, in Jerusalem, or even in all the world? Regardless there was no doubt that what was about to transpire was too much for humans to witness…
Good Friday Noon - 6 PM:
The hour had come. The Father watched what humanity had come to. They had despised and rejected His own Son. There was no hope, it seemed. Sin had ruined the creation He most loved. His holy nature couldn't tolerate it's poison and destructive lust. A price had to be paid.
Enter Jesus' plea: He had His Father at beck and call, knowing He could "ask for anything and it would be given unto [Him]." Already losing vitality, with blood shedding profusely because of the scourging, the piercing nails and the crown of thorns, and with a heart on the brink of cardiac arrest, Jesus made one last request to His Father.
The request was for the unthinkable. Jesus volunteered to take the punishment for all sins. So that humans could be forgiven by and reconciled unto their Creator, He would be forsaken in their place. Jesus presented Himself as the perfect sacrifice, spotless and sinless: The Lamb of God, who came to take away the sins of the world. He took the wrath due to those who would believe and even those who wouldn't believe. He could meet God's righteous standard, that men had been trying and failing to meet for centuries.
For this reason had He been born. For this purpose had He entered our world. All that had preceded was but preparation for this moment. The sun forbid to shine and the earth ceased to turn, as the Father punished Jesus in our place. Jesus drank every last drop of God's wrath. When the cup was empty, He cried out with a loud voice, "It is finished!" The veil in the temple, that separated man from God's presence, was rent in two. This signified that the debt of sin was paid in full. In Christ all would have access to God by faith in His finished work.
About 3 PM, Jesus had endured the unrestrained wrath of God. As the last drop of blood dripped to the ground, He bowed His head and gave up His life. But His arms were still stretched out wide, as if to suggest His true ministry had only just begun. The debt had been paid. The wrath of God was satisfied.
They came to break His legs to speed up the process of death, which could take more than a day at times. However, the solders found no need for that. He looked marred beyond that of a normal crucified victim. They had seen 1000s in their service of Rome and none were as mangled and deformed as Jesus was. The wrath of God had left Him unrecognizable and indistinguishable as a human anymore.
One thing was certain by the blood stained hillside, just like a Passover lamb, He had been slaughtered, but on a more brutal scale. Jesus had bled to death. The Lamb of God had taken away the sins of the world. The love of God would forever be magnified and proven by this day.
One of the soldiers bowed his head in disbelief at what all had happened this day. He could only whisper, "Truly this was the Son of God."
Later that evening, before His body could be thrown in the valley to be burnt, two men who had admired Jesus from a distance decided it was time to go public, and boldly asked for the body of Jesus. One of them, Joseph of Arimathea, gave up his seat on the council and then gave up his own tomb so Jesus could have a proper burial. The bleeding had stopped, the darkness had lifted, now Jesus could rest.
Everyone else went about their evenings wondering if things would ever be the same. As the sun set, one thing was certain, this day would never be forgotten...