The day had come — mockery, insults, the fiction of a legal trial, boundless pain, betrayal, and finally, death on the cross.
It was the day of suffering for Jesus Christ. Dawn was the misty witness on that Friday when Jesus, insulted and slapped in the home of Annas, was bound and led away to the palace of Caiaphas, high priest.
The day's first grief came when Peter, frightened and confused, stoutly denied in Caiaphas' courtyard that he was a Disciple of Christ; that he even knew Him. A distant cock crew and Peter gazed into Jesus' face and remembered His words:
"Before the cock crow twice thou shalt deny me thrice."
And Peter stumbled into the streets and wept bitterly, his face hidden in the cloak.
Into the crowded Sanhedrin Jesus, alone now and wrists bound with rope, was shoved to hear perjurers testify before Caiaphas. Two of them swore they had heard Him say in the Temple of God: "I will destroy this temple that is made with hands and in three days I will build another made without hands."
But Jesus answered nothing; nothing until His own words condemned Him in the eyes of these evil schemers.
Caiaphas crooked a finger towards Him and asked: "Art Thou the Son of God?"
And Jesus wrote His own death sentence: "Ye say that I am. I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming with the clouds of heaven."
Caiaphas triumphantly arose and tore his priestly garments in a deceitful show of rage, shouting:
"Ye have heard the blasphemy. What think ye?"
Death! Death! Death! The halls shook with their verdict. Jesus, exhausted and blindfolded, dried blood still on His cheeks, stood with the guards. A passing Scribe spat on Him. The rabble of servants and guards gleefully followed suit. And then they played blind man's buff--striking Him in His blindness and demanding that He identify His assailants without sight if He were really a prophet.
But they soon tired and Jesus was taken before Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor, for confirmation of His sentence. The Pharisees falsely testified again and Pilate, unwilling to shoulder the responsibility, sent Him to Herod when He told him He was a Galilean. But Jesus was silent before Herod and the mob returned Him to Pilate for final decision.
Pilate, defending Jesus through hate of Caiaphas, not love, offered Barabbas, an assassin, in exchange for Jesus, but the throng still clamored for His death. So Pilate had Him stripped and arrayed in a purple garment and the soldiers in the courtyard placed a crown of thorns upon His head and a reed in His right hand.
And they spat upon Him and struck Him and mocked Him with: "Hail, King of the Jews!"
And finally Pilate, fearful of the rising tumult, delivered Him unto the mob and washed his hands in water saying: "I am innocent of the blood of this man; see ye to it!"
Down the stony streets Jesus trudged, bearing His own cross. Two thieves followed, also doomed to crucifixion. Sobbing women, old men, dirty children followed the procession with cries of pity. But Jesus urged them not to weep for Him.
No longer could His strength hold. He fell to the street under His cross. He seemed dead; only gasps of breath indicated life.
The Pharisees cast about in the crowd and picked one Simon to lift His cross that the procession might not be delayed. Outside the city's walls--capital punishment was illegal in the city itself--came the tragic, broken Jesus of Nazareth to a place called Golgotha, scene of the crucifixion.
Four soldiers readied Jesus and the two thieves. Ropes under His arms lifted Him to the cross and nails were driven into His hands and feet.
"Father, forgive them for they know not what they do..."
And one of the repentant thieves moaned in agony as Jesus comforted him.
"Today shall thou be with me in paradise..."
Away from the howling men, fearful of it all, stood His mother, Mary. To John and Mary, Jesus whispered:
"Woman, behold thy son: son, behold thy mother!"
Midnight darkness came and the sun was obscured. Many fled in fear but some lingered. The parched lips moved again and at the ninth hour He said:
"My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?"
Dust and blood coated His lips:
And a vile soldier dipped a reed in vinegar and brushed it to His mouth.
"It is finished..."
The body trembled and the lips parted in final agony:
"Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit..."
And His head bowed and He gave up the ghost.
Suddenly, told Matthew, an earthquake struck the Temple veil was torn from top to bottom. The earth shook and rocks were splintered. Tombs opened and bodies of saints were raised.
The people, in fear and awe, beat their breasts and cried: "Truly, this was the Son of God!
Friday, April 10, 2009
Good Friday: Day of Suffering
This is an excerpt from The Immortal Story by Felix R. McKnight: