NOTE: This content is provided by Brian Andre and used with his permission.
Yesterday we ended our review as Jesus had entered the garden of Gethsemane. I didn’t feel qualified to give my own description of this event but let’s review a little of what the scriptures share.
Matthew records, “Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. (Matthew 26:36–38)
Mark adds his testimony with this detail, “And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy; And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch.(Mark 14:33–34) Another way to translate “sore amazed” is “to be astonished” or “to become anxious”. Mark continues, “And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt. (Mark 14:35–36) The word “Abba” is the affectionate form of the Hebrew word for father the same as we say, “papa” or “daddy” in English.
Luke adds this detail, “And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (Luke 22:44)
Words worthy of serious reflection, “and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink.”
We can feel something in His desperation to not “shrink.” Think about the meaning of what He must have been feeling and trying to communicate. Jesus is pleading with Heavenly Father and saying something like, “Father this pain and this weight is something even I did not anticipate and cannot comprehend. Please don’t let me shrink and fail. I cannot fail my brothers and sisters. They are all counting on me to save them and bring them back Home. I am trying my best to drink this bitter cup. Please give me strength to do Thy will. I must not fail.” Remember also that Jesus doesn’t just suffer one time in the Garden, but that He comes out to speak with Peter, James, and John twice and then willingly returns two more times to face the fearful abyss alone, “descending below all things” to suffer something incomprehensible.
So all of this makes us wonder, why would anybody voluntarily, knowingly return to a place to suffer that same impossible, indescribable pain and anguish as He had just experienced in the hours before?
What allowed Him to endure all of this? Jesus himself tells us what gave Him the fearless determination and willpower not to fail us — “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) As always, Jesus’ desire was not focused inwardly, for His own welfare and comfort, but outwardly on Gods’ children… on all of us together and on each one of us individually.
Sometime in the early morning hours, after midnight and before sunrise, (Friday) Jesus completed this part of His atoning sacrifice. He then awakened His three sleeping apostles. If we had more time, we would talk about how they were unable to “watch’ with Him and were unable to stay awake. We might ask ourselves, “How ‘awake’ am I as a Christian?” Or how often do I “fall asleep” in living the gospel? or How easily do I get “lulled” into unconsciousness by the adversary and fall to temptations or worldliness or contention or pride…?
NOTE: At this point I am going to attempt to outline the illegal trials and events of the early morning hours of Friday. But even in summary this will add quite a bit of reading so you may wish to scroll down to the paragraph titled, “THE CROSS OF CALVARY” which will focus on the crucifixion and what most of Christianity commemorates on Good Friday.
Jesus was then bound and arrested on false charges, and then the records say that His disciples “all forsook Him and fled” into the shadows. (Mark 14:50) When things get hard and life becomes uncertain, I hope we won’t “forsake Him.”
Next, the temple guards marched our Savior back down through the Kidron valley, up the stone stairs onto the temple mount, and down into the city. Jesus was led first to the house of Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest. During His appearance before Annas, an officer slapped Jesus with the palm of his hand. (John18:12-13, 22) Still bound, Jesus was then sent to Caiaphas where the whole council was present. False testimony was sought against Jesus. Then they “began to spit on him, and to cover his face, and to buffet him.” (bully Him) They blindfolded Him, slapped Him, then mocked Him by saying, “Prophesy unto us. Tell us who struck you?” They spoke many other blasphemous things against Him. (John 18:24; Matthew 26:57–68; Mark 14:65; Luke 22:65) As you likely know, it was against Jewish law to hold any kind of disciplinary counsel at night, and never were they allowed to have a trial during one of the high holy days, like Passover. These and numerous other major laws were broken, yet Jesus remained composed and opened not His mouth. (see Isaiah 53:7)
Meanwhile, Peter and John followed Jesus to see what was happening to Him, no doubt, hoping to rescue Him. As he entered the fortress, Peter was questioned three different times and asked if he knew Jesus, or if he had been with Him. Peter denied knowing Jesus all three times. After the third denial Jesus turned and looked at Peter. (Luke 22:61) Oh how must Peter have felt in that moment? Suddenly a rooster crowed. This was perhaps the saddest moment in Peter’s life, a fulfillment of prophecy and a defining event which made him flee in shame but also would set his heart to never faint again. (Luke 22:54–61; Matthew 26:58) This must have been the end of night, a time when the sun started rising, since that is when roosters instinctively crow.
Next, the council condemned Jesus for affirming to them that He was the Son of God. They said, “What further testimony do we need?” In their mind, His admission was a capital crime of blasphemy–punishable by death. (Luke 22:66–71; Matthew 26:66) They brought Him to Pilate the Roman procurator of Judea. The Jews were prohibited from putting anyone to death, so they needed permission and a death sentence pronouncement from a Roman official. (John 18:28–31; Luke 23:1–5; Matthew 27:1–2) When Pilate found no fault in Jesus, he sent Him to appear before Herod. During this appearance, the chief priests and scribes with the venom of pride in their blood accused and condemned Jesus again. The cowardly Herod refused to make judgement obviously knowing Jesus was innocent (the unblemished Lamb) and sent Jesus back to Pilate a second time. Someone smarter than me estimated that the distance from the city to the garden and then back and forth to the different officials would have added up to over 20 miles of walking throughout the night up to this point…nearly a marathon. Through this entire ordeal, Jesus kept calm, determined and for the most part remained silent. Why? Because you were worth it. His perfect love kept Him resolute… “And charity suffereth long…is not easily provoked…endure the all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4–7) Try to remember this next time you are faced with trials in your life. The next time you feel forsaken and left alone. The next time you are wrongly accused. The next time you are bullied. The next time you must endure persecution for your faith. Remember Jesus and His love for you…. Stay focused and determined to hold on to your faith. Show your love for Him because He loved us first. (1 John 4:19)
Pilate then tried a strategy to release Jesus knowing that the Roman custom was to release one prisoner, whomever the Jews might desire during the Passover celebration. He gave the Jews a choice between Jesus or a notorious murderer and Zealot leader named Barabbas. As you know, when Pilate asked which should be given freedom the people chose Barabbas. (Matthew 27:15–23; Luke 23:13–21) There is a dark irony in this because the name Bar-abba in Hebrew means “son of the father.” The wicked son of the father was freed while the only begotten “Son of the Eternal Father” was sentenced to die.
Next Pilate tried another option by sending Jesus away to be scourged thinking perhaps this would satisfy the Jewish Leaders’ desire for punishment. (John 19:1) The scourge was a whip with a handle and several braided lashes with bits of metal, glass, and bone embedded in the fibers. This instrument was applied to the back of the victim and was considered one of the cruelest and most painful forms of torture ever performed. In some cases just one lashing would cause the victim such pain they would faint. Jesus would not faint. Why? Because you were worth it.
Sometime surrounding the scourging, the scoffing soldiers twisted together a crude crown of thorns and pressed it onto Jesus’ head to ridicule Him in derision. This action was just plain mean and is what we call “bullying.” They stripped Him of his outer garments, placed a purple robe on His shoulders, and shoved a reed (a stalk of tall grass) in His hand as a mock scepter. Then they verbally abused Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews.” They also spit on Jesus, then took the reed out of His hand, and struck Him across the head and face with it. (John 19:2–3; Matthew 27:28–30) Imagine how they will feel one day when they meet Him again and realize the part they played in history.
Still wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Jesus was brought before the people again. When Pilate told the people that he could find no fault with Jesus, they drowned out his speech with shouting scorn, “crucify him, crucify him.” Pilate, gave up, then washed his hands, (symbolically wanting nothing to do with this) and released Barabbas. He bent to political pressure and did what he knew was wrong by condemning the perfectly innocent Jesus to be crucified. (John 19:5–7; Luke 23:23–25; Mark 15:15)
Remember Jesus had been awake for over 24 hours without sleep and had now walked over a marathon in miles since leaving Bethany the day before. He hadn’t had anything to eat or drink since the Passover meal. Think of how thirsty and fatigued he was. No Gatorade or energy bars to assist. No mortal man would have been able to endure all of this yet Jesus kept fighting.
When they reached the site of the crucifixion—this morning around 9am—Jesus was secured to the cross with large iron spikes, one through the palm of each hand, another between the bones of each of His wrists (called the nail in the sure place), and another through His overlapping feet. (John 20:25, 27) The Romans were experts in knowing how to avoid the major arteries and blood vessels thus minimizing the loss of blood, and yet at the same time inflicting the most pain and suffering upon the victim.
I found this added heartbreaking detail about crucifixion in the “Dictionary of Images and Symbols” by William Stewart. It says, “Hung from a crossbar astride an upright peg, the naked victim was allowed to hang as a public spectacle until dead.” It was common for the Romans to disrobe the victim and hang them naked as another form of torture and humiliation. If they did this to Jesus, imagine how the perfectly virtuous Son of God must have felt. Think of how his mother, and His closest friends would have felt for Him as witnesses of such a cruel, degrading, dishonor.
About the ninth hour—about 3pm today—Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Imagine how Heavenly Father must have felt. But the withdrawal of His Spirit was mandatory and something the eternal law required—Jesus must atone alone, without any help so that the ransom for death and sin could be paid in full by “the One.” This was the law of redemption. It also shows that Heavenly Father knew Jesus would prevail. Interesting to think that even Heavenly Father had faith in Jesus Christ.
So much to think about on this day. Can you see why this is called, “Long Friday” in some cultures? I feel subdued even just trying to write and reread this. I am reminded of the words of my little seven year old son, Tyler, so many years ago as we talked about these things in much, much, much less detail… Looking up at me as we stood in the Salt Lake City temple visitors’ center looking at a painting depicting the crucifixion he said, “It sure would be a waste after all that Jesus did for us if we don’t live the gospel, huh dad?”
That is really all that needs to be understood. When I was young, I used to wonder why they called this “Good Friday” when so many horrible things happened to Jesus on this day. Now I think I understand it better… Jesus doesn’t want us only to remember that He suffered for us, but more importantly to recognize the reason He was willing to go through it all. It’s not only WHAT He did but WHY He did it. Why? Because we were worth dying for—YOU were worth dying for.
And because of His infinite love and our love for Him we can have the hope of salvation and the promised opportunity of being together as family and friends forever… That makes this Friday a really, really good Friday.
• Make this a good Friday by thinking about Jesus and your relationship with Him. Think of a way you can express your gratitude to Him today in prayer or action. Perhaps post something on social media or text a friend to share your feelings about how your life is better because of Him.
Watch this powerful little video depicting the fierce love that Jesus demonstrated on that first Long Good Friday…