Good Friday (The Passion of our Lord)

NOTE: Please read this blog as a continuation of the Holy Thursday blog posted yesterday, as one coherent narrative. There is so much beauty and mystery revealed in the Passion of Jesus. Here, we will only emphasize a few scenes, but to truly grasp the enormity of Jesus’ Passion, please prayerfully read and meditate upon the full Passion Narratives listed below. Few things exist in all four Gospels and the fact that all four evangelists dedicate an entire chapter to the Passion indicates just how important it should be to us. We cannot shy away from the cross, no matter how shocking it may be.

Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 19

After a night in jail, Jesus is bound and led to the palace of Pontius Pilate. He is questioned, savagely beaten with whips and reeds, crowned with thorns and presented to the Jews as their king. Less than a week ago, He was lauded as the Son of the David, the one who had come in the name of the Lord to bring Israel to glory. Now He stands, bruised and bloodied before His people. He wears no fine garment, no crown of gold, and holds no scepter. Instead, He can barely support His weight on a reed as a dirty purple cloth drapes over His beaten body, and large thorns dig into His head.

Pilate reluctantly sentences Jesus to death, releasing instead Barabbas, whose name means “Son of the Father.” While the true Son accepts His cross upon His weak and bloodied shoulders, this imposter is allowed to go free.

Under the weight of the wooden beams, Jesus begins to walk, step by step, to His death. Alongside Him are two criminals who would hang on crosses to His left and right. The walk itself is about a mile long, first through the winding streets of Jerusalem, then out of the city to Golgotha, the Place of the Skull. Along the way, Jesus is mocked and spat upon, jeered at and cursed. He looks at their faces and knows each of them. He knew them when they were conceived, and He knows their every joy and pain. He looks at faces that filled with such hate, yet He loves them. He weeps for them. It is their sins that cause Him to fall over and over. It is their sins that will nail Him to the cross. But these are the lives He is dying to save. These are His people; His beloved.

Eventually, the weight becomes too much. Between the blood loss, the heat, and the weight of the cross, He falls to the ground. The guards worry that He will die before He reaches Calvary. So, in order to keep Jesus alive long enough to be killed, the guards pull Simon of Cyrene from the crowd and force him to help Jesus carry His cross.

As Simon lifted the blood-soaked cross, he may have thought, “Why me?” As far as he knew, Jesus was just another criminal on His way to die as criminals should. But, as he turned to look into the eyes of Jesus, Simon must have felt a wave of peace that transcended all reason. In Christ’s eyes Simon found a love that ran deeper than any river or valley, and though he may not have known it, Simon was being given a great gift. Scripture doesn’t record a single word spoken between the two, but as they walked, Simon must have begun to grasp that this man did not deserve to die. They walked together, and in doing so, Simon gave Jesus an oasis of friendship amidst the cruelty of His captors. In return Simon experienced a unique encounter with the living God.

They walk to Calvary’s hill, and there Jesus is crucified. They lay His beaten body on the wood and drive spikes through His wrists and ankles to hold Him in place. This bloody instrument of death is to become the new Tree of Life. This apparent defeat is the means by which Jesus chose to conquer death. Jesus hangs there in silence as people mock Him and curse His name. They yell at Him to prove His power by stepping down, but He stays on the cross. He remains immersed in suffering because He must enter the depths of darkness to bring us to light.

His last action is to call forth His disciple John and His mother Mary. To John He says, “Behold, your mother”, and to Mary, “Behold, your son.” (Jn 19:26-27). The last thing He has on earth is His mother, and He relinquishes Her for our good. In this, He totally empties himself. He makes sure that there is no relationship and no earthly thing He possesses at the end. He gives everything there is to give, and after three hours of torture, He gives up his spirit. He breathes His last and is laid to rest.

Today, we are meant to enter into the tomb with Jesus. Our tabernacles stand open and empty in memorial of the fact that the Lord of Life has died. As we read through each of the accounts of Jesus’ death, let us try to place ourselves in the story. Walk with him. Fall with him. Suffer with him. There is no Easter Sunday without a Good Friday. If we feel lonely or awkward today in prayer, thank God. Allow yourself to feel the emptiness and turmoil that Jesus and His disciples experienced. Pray that we will be glorified in the coming resurrection. Most of all, remember comfort is coming. Good Friday is the day that our God conquered death. Today is the day we are made new.


Image via FlickrCC 2.0 Logo added

About the Author

Perry Rihl

I love Thai food, old books, and stupid puns. I'm married to a beautiful, patient, and holy woman and I live and work as a youth minister in the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia. God allows me to lead worship and retreats all over the place and you can follow me on Twitter @dprihl.

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