By: Berni Dymet
Good Friday. Gee – you read the historical account – doesn’t seem that good. So – was there anything good about Good Friday?
They call it “Good Friday”, so what’s so good about Friday? Well I guess every Friday’s good; it’s the day before the weekend. But not this particular Friday, it’s a day when the criminal justice system broke down, a day when justice became a sham. It’s a day when an ugly, angry, mob demanded a lynching a day when an innocent man was flogged to within an inch of His life. And with blood pouring from His wounds and soldiers spit running down His face, dragged a huge cross along a road called the Via Delarosa to a hill they called Golgotha, which means the place of the skull. There they nailed Him to a cross and over the next few hours, in excruciating pain He died an agonising death. Justice? Good Friday? Not this particular day.
We’ve all experienced bureaucratic buck passing. You know, when you have to go to the government, you need something and you get handed from department to department to department from official to official to official and you end up hanging the phone, or leaving the office and you get absolutely no satisfaction. Been there, done that, got the T-Shirt. But when it comes to the justice system, well, we kind of expect a lot more from the criminal justice system.
We expect a fair hearing, a fair go, a just outcome. Jesus was betrayed by a man called Judas Iscariot, who goes and hangs himself ultimately. And He’s handed over to be tried, for what? Now there’s a problem. He’s been upsetting the religions leaders because, gee He’s been helping people and He’s been telling them what God’s like and He’s been pointing out the religious hypocrisy that was floating around the system at the time.
So, He’s got up the noses of the religious leaders, He hasn’t broken any laws but they want to get rid of him. What do they pick? Well Jesus did put himself forth as the Messiah. A lot of prophesies in the Old Testament about the King coming back and of course most of Israel was waiting for a king like King David of a thousand years before, to come back and kick the Romans out of Israel and give them freedom again. They had what are called by theologians, Davidic expectations of a warrior King.
But of course there was the Roman Emperor, the Roman Empire and so what the religious leaders did was they trumped up some charges that said, “Look, this guy is putting himself forth as the new King of the Jews. He’s going to overthrow the Roman Empire, He’s a political threat. He wants Israel to sussed.” Yeah, right! Jesus, this one guy with twelve disciples is going to throw the Roman Empire out of Israel, sure!
And then begins a string of trials that defies explanation. First, Jesus is wheeled in front of the Chief Priest; they ask him, “Are you the Messiah?” He doesn’t answer them. So they beat him and spit of him and mock him. This is like, in a church you know, and that’s what they do to Him. And after that they take Him one peg up to the council, the Sanhedrin, which was the religious ruling body of the day. And they ask him “Are you the Messiah?” And He says “Yes”. And they think, “right, now we’ve got Him.”
Next they wheel him into Pontius Pilate. Now Pontius Pilate is the Roman governor of Judea at that point in time. And Pilate has the power to decide to crucify him, no one else did, the Roman governor did, and so Pilate could have decided to crucify him. And the religious leaders accuse him they say he’s against the Emperor and he doesn’t want you to pay taxes, He’s the King of the Jews. And shortly Pilate discovers that Jesus comes from Galilee, which is up to the North, so he duck shoves this off, (because he didn’t want to deal with it), to King Herod who is like the illegitimate Jewish King up there in Galilee.
And again the religious leaders prosecute Him and put forth all these things, anyway Herod says “I’m not going to decide this.” So he sends him back to Pontius Pilate, and Pilate (second trial by Pilate), finds nothing against Him. But there was a tradition, at the Passover and it was the Passover festival. There was a tradition where the Roman Governor would let the people choose one prisoner to go free.
Now the two candidates for this were Barabbas, who was a real crook, I mean he’d done some bad things, and Jesus. Remember no one could find anything against Jesus. And so Pilate gives the crowd, the mob, a choice, and they scream, “We want Barabbas, we want Barabbas!” “What about Jesus?” Said Pontius Pilate, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!”
Now the record shows that Pilate tried to change their minds, but their minds wouldn’t be changed. These are the same people who just a few days before had shouted with jubilation when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey.
Amazing scene! So Pontius Pilate says, “I can find nothing wrong with this man, I wash my hands of it, I’ll have Him flogged and then I’ll hand him over to you and you do as you please.” And that’s exactly what happened. Just a few days before, Jesus was a superstar. Just a few days before the crowds said “This is the Messiah” and then with the Passover festival and the religious leaders who hated him, who’d been plotting to kill him, incited the mob and the violence, public opinion swung on Him.
These people had seen Him do miracles, these people had heard Him preach with power and authority and that ring of authenticity that only Jesus had. And yet they turned against Him. And the crook Barabbas was redeemed, he was released, he went free and Jesus, the Son of God, Jesus was crucified.
It’s ugly mob mentality. You know a few months ago, it was played in news, right around the world in the suburb of Cronulla in Sydney, where I live. There was rioting, this ugly stuff that was whipped up by some ring leaders. It’s the same sort of thing, only two thousand years ago, nothing new under the sun.
So they nailed Him to cross and at the six hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” Which means “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” When some of those standing near Him heard this they said “listen He’s calling for Elijah”, one man ran a filled a sponge with wine vinegar and put it on a stick and offered it to Jesus. And with a loud cry he breathed His last.
And the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the Centurion, the Soldier who stood there in front of Jesus heard His cry and saw how He died he said “Surely this man was the Son of God.”
What terrible injustice, yet on the cross, Jesus took my burden of guilt and your burden of guilt and He cried out a cry of love, a cry from God, “don’t you realise how much I love you?’ And right at that point when He died, in the temple where the presence of God dwelt, in the Holiest of Holy places the thick curtain was torn in two. When our sin was paid for on the cross, the door was thrown open to the throne room of God, flung open, the first time in history, never ever would it be closed again. A door that you and I can only walk through when we believe what happened on that cross.
Was it a good Friday? Oh it was a great Friday because amongst the blood and the flesh of Jesus nailed to the cross there is a personal invitation of God, an invitation to you, an invitation to me to live our lives in God’s presence from this moment forth for ever and ever and ever.
Surely, surely this man was the Son of God!
Article supplied with thanks to Christianityworks
About the Author: Berni Dymet is founder of Christianityworks, a non-denominational, global media ministry headquartered in Sydney.