Summary: Why do we call this day Good Friday when it was the darkest day in history?
What is good about “Good Friday”? This is the darkest day in history, Wall Street could have a million “Black Fridays” and it wouldn’t compare to the day the world killed its Saviour. The only thing Christians have to celebrate about this day is that we don’t have to work. Sure we know that it ends well and we’ll celebrate that on Sunday, but for a few moments would you walk with me in the shoes of the disciples, not knowing for sure what was going to come a couple days later.
Let’s begin in the Garden of Gethsemane after we have enjoyed our Passover meal, feeling very full and sleepy. Jesus is in great anguish, sweating blood as he prays, fighting the desire to be released from what he has to do, but everyone’s sleeping so we don’t really know what he’s going through.
He is utterly alone. Luke says: he prayed “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done”. And there appeared an Angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
We are awoken by Judas Iscariot coming with the army, and suddenly reality is beginning to set in as they take Jesus away. We keep our distance, but at dawn we watch the events of Good Friday unfold. It begins with some questioning of Jesus and he’s taken to Pilate who can’t find any guilt in him, but the angry Jewish mob outside is growing and becoming very agitated, yelling that they wanted Jesus crucified simply because he claimed to be the Son of God which he was.
The mob demands that Barabbas, a real criminal be released, as is the custom at the Passover, and Jesus take his place. Pilate chickens out and consents, but washes his hands of the whole thing. So he has Jesus flogged not just with a belt or whip but with a specially designed whip containing metal barbs designed to rip the flesh but not go so deep as to cause the person to bleed to death. Just excruciating pain. Do we care?
The soldiers are now feeding off the energy of the mob and begin humiliating Jesus, hitting him, spitting on him, and placing a painful crown of thorns on his head. Now blood, tears and sweat flow mingled down into his eyes. He can taste it on his lips. Then he has to carry his own cross on his raw skinless back, through town all the way out to Golgotha or the “place of the skull”.
Along the way he no doubt sees all his friends and the women who loved him weeping. Everyone followed the entourage to the hill and watched the soldiers hammer the spikes into his hands and feet. They had to hammer the spikes through this area of the wrist so that the weight of the body could be held. If they did it in this part of the hand the spikes would just rip out when they hung him. Make no mistake this was the most painful and humiliating death imaginable.
In this position hanging on the cross, it’s very difficult to breathe, so with every breath the prisoner would have to push up with his legs in order to get air into the lungs. Of course his feet have nails through them and this is the platform to push up on, not to mention the rough wood sliding up and down his recently flogged back each time he took a breath. Oh yeah, it’s about noon so it’s getting pretty hot and with the blood loss he is getting very thirsty. So they soak a sponge with wine and a narcotic to help ease the pain and speed up the stopping of the breathing, but Jesus wouldn’t take it because he wanted to be fully conscious for this momentous event.