it’s only the beginning

Friday — Good and Black

Christian tradition says Christ spent most of Friday on a Roman cross, juxtaposed between two thieves, completing God’s plan for reconciling his fallen creation (man) to himself.

Hollywood and the History Channel take great pleasure in depicting the horror of Christ’s final hours. With the special effects possible in today’s world of technology it’s not difficult to produce the blood soaked images. And you can see them all. At any time. Right in your living room! During Holy week in 2012 we watched video documentary after documentary. Some on Christian TV, some on the History Channel, and even one during the Good Friday communion service at the church we were attending at the time.

We watched as a replica of a Roman cat of nine-tails was graphically demonstrated flogging a “life-like” silicon dummy. We saw the shredded skin. The Romans flogged their prisoners using no more than thirty-nine lashes. Thirty-nine lashes was the maximum number they determined a human being could endure and still live.

We saw the crown of thorns. His crown of thorns was made using a plant with pliable stems that could be twisted into a circle. Euphorbia Millii bears thorns that are from one to two inches long, thorns sharp as nails and toxic. (Google it! Any of it– the facts are available.)

We watched as they drove the nails into his wrists and into his feet. We watched as they lifted up the Cross.Crucifixion was a horrible way to die. History tells us it was practiced for centuries as a form of public humiliation and torture.  Jesus Christ died an unspeakable death, tortured, humiliated and killed by the Roman government at the insistence of  the religious leaders of the time. And, if you’d care to watch it happen in graphic, brutal detail, Hollywood or your TV can help you out. {This weekend–2016–Fox TV will offer The Passion in a new and probably even more graphic presentation}

Yes, Christ died on a hill outside Jerusalem called Golgotha and with the exception of Christian films, that’s where they leave it.

Mark 15.22-24

The brutal death of Jesus Christ on a Roman cross gave rise to the centuries old title Black Friday — a title that would continued for centuries —  a title used by ‘the church’ to commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus. Only after the Bible was translated from Greek to English in about 1490 was the term Good Friday introduced into the culture.

So….what’s good about the brutal and humiliating torture of another Roman prisoner? History records thousands were crucified for minor infractions of Roman rules. What makes this one better than another? What makes this death on a cross good? Non-Christians are still asking the 2000 year old question today.

To find to an answer it is necessary to skip over the morning of Good Friday, and look closely at the afternoon. Matthew 27:45-50, Mark 15:33-41, Luke 23: 44-49, John 19:28-37

Picture it, if you can…

Jesus has been hanging on the cross since about nine in the morning. He’s barely alive. Close to noon the sky begins to darken. By this time most of the crowd who followed as he made his way along the Via Dolorosa (the road of suffering) had dispersed. A few of his followers and a few Roman soldiers were still standing at the foot of the hill looking up at three crosses silhouetted against the roiling clouds…watching…waiting. The sky keeps getting darker and darker. Luke writes “the sun’s light failed.” This is more than just a few storm clouds folks! Matthew and Mark both speak of a “darkness over the whole land.” The light of the world went out!

God turned off the lights and all of creation was in darkness for the final three hours of Christ’s life.

It had to be dark. And not only were the lights off in the created realm, I believe the spiritual realm was in total darkness as well. God could not bear to look upon this death, ordained to heal and restore mankind to himself. Neither could he allow heaven or hell to look upon this death. This all-man, all-God, Son of God who cried out, “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” understood in that moment, God (the Heavenly Father) had turned away, turned off the lights, and for a moment in eternity, closed his eyes.

All of heaven and all of hell had been watching and waiting for Jesus to either save himself, thus proving once and for all his Godly parentage, or simply give up and die. Only the Father and the Son understood completely what was required to finish the work of the cross.

So…while his body, hardly recognizable as human any longer, hung on the cross, alone in the darkness, on that Friday afternoon, Jesus carried the sins, sickness, disease, and misery of mankind into the presence of God the Father. His spirit entered the Holy of Holies, and announced, “It is finished!”

God the Father opened his eyes, turned his face toward God the Son, and the lights came back on.

At that exact moment, the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Split forever was the dividing wall between God and mankind.

From that exact moment forward, we – you and I – could walk boldly into God’s presence and say, “Abba, I come before you in Jesus holy name, can you help me out here?”

Then Jesus, the man, cried out from the cross, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!” and he breathed his last breath as a man.

Now when a Roman centurion, standing at the foot of the hill, saw what had taken place, he praised God, and said, “Certainly this man was innocent! Truly this man was the Son of God!”

The lightening flashed across the sky, the earth shook and the rocks were split. Matthew, the tax collector (he was the disciple with the analytical mind, remember?), saw the tombs opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep coming out of them.

Wonder why Hollywood missed the opportunity to portray that one with all their special effects lights and magic? Zombies have always been a Hollywood B movie favorite!

Since it was the day of Preparation, in order to prevent the bodies from remaining on the cross on the Sabbath, the Jews asked Pilate to break their legs and have the bodies be taken away. Those Jewish leaders wanted to make absolutely sure Jesus was dead, and buried…that they were finished with him once and for all.

If they only knew!

Afterward, a rich disciple of Christ’s, Joseph of Arimathea, asked Pilate for permission to take away his body. At that point Pilate could have cared less. I can see him in my imagination waving them away, brushing them off with a bored gesture. “Take him. Get him out of my sight. What a day this has been….I’m going to retire to my place…eat, drink and be merry. I’m sick of all this drama!”

So they took the body of Jesus, prepared it for burial, probably wondering, “What next?” and placed it in the garden in Joseph’s new tomb. They closed it up by rolling a huge rock across the entrance, and went home to prepare for the Sabbath rest.

Thinking this new movement they had been a part of was over  they expected to get up on Saturday and face another day of ‘business as usual’ without hope and without Him, they went home Friday night thinking…”It’s all over.”

They thought it was the end for the followers of Christ.

It was only the beginning!