The Final Week: Friday 3rd April, AD 33
(Mt 26:47-27:61; Mk 14:43-15:47; Lk 22:47-23:56; Jn 18:2-19:42)
The likelihood is that Judas and the authorities came to arrest Jesus long into the night, under the cover of darkness, putting it in the very earliest hours of what we now call Good Friday. These authorities are a “great crowd” (Mt 26:47), armed to the teeth and they won’t be taking no for an answer. They haven’t come to debate, question or to try and trick Jesus. They’ve come to take him by force.
Judas indicates the one they are here to arrest with a kiss. Echoes of the proverb ring true: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy” (Pr 27:6). Once again though, Jesus gives permission for them to take him (Mt 26:50), and shows just how in control he is.
Peter, the raucous one, cuts the ear off one of the crowd, who we learn is named Malchus. Jesus then heals him and turns to address the crowd. He comments on the overkill nature of the weapons and the vast number of people… Have they come for some hardened criminal and his posse or a rabbi and his disciples? Jesus had been in the temple all week… why not arrest him then? Their covert operation is illegal. There is not sufficient grounds on which to arrest and condemn Jesus… yet. Under the cover of night, the disciples flee and God once again moves the pawns into play and Jesus takes one step closer to the cross.
He is first informally questions by Annas, who doesn’t really get anywhere with his questioning so hands him over to Caiaphas who resumes a harder line of interrogation. Finally, he gets what he is looking for when Jesus replies in the affirmative that he is the Son of God and will do all the things he said he will do in razing the temple, and bringing in a new kingdom.
Then the beatings begin.
Throughout all this, Peter who has been watching gets cornered and denies Jesus three times before the crow of the rooster. Judas realises the grim reality and consequences of his betrayal and takes his own life. Abandoned, accused, mocked, spat upon, and in the beginnings of his beatings, Jesus is taken before a great crowd. This crowd, of whom many would have been saying “Hosanna!” a few days ago, are now condemning him to die by saying “give us Barabbas!”, the murderer… the criminal… gets freedom, while Jesus gets a death sentence.
Jesus is flogged, struck, stripped and mocked publicly. Having sustained wounds too great to be survived, Jesus is made to carry his own cross through the dusty, dirty, crowded city streets of Jerusalem. He had to carry it all the way outside the city gates, but, failing in his strength, a bystander is commanded to help.
Once reaching Golgotha (which means, The Place of The Skull, also known as Calvary), Jesus is nailed to the cross, a sign, simultaneously mocking him and describing his crimes is placed over his head. “Hail, King of the Jews!” it reads. A Crown of thorns is driven over his scalp and the long, painful, excruciating death of suffocating on a wooden cross begins.
Jesus’ first act on the cross is to pray for the forgiveness of those who have just put him there.
On his left and right are two thieves. One thief blasphemes Jesus, whilst the other reaches out to Jesus for salvation. His second act on the cross is to extend salvation to this thief.
Jesus then looks upon his mother, Mary, and best friend, John and urges them to live as if they were mother and son.
He then quotes Ps 22:1, and declares that God has forsaken him, so that we can be forgiven.
The soldiers gamble for his clothes, which is a fulfilment of a prophecy also found in Psalm 22.
Jesus gets thirsty, and the Living Water has run dry so that he can purchase eternally satisfying, priceless living water for us.
He cries out to his Father again and demonstrates his trust in God’s plan. And then, before he takes his last breath, he declares, “It is finished.”
Jesus accomplished the first major part of his mission: to die for the sins of the world. God’s punishment had been dished out. The wrath of God was satisfied. The justice of God had been enacted, and the sin had been sentenced in the body of Jesus.
A spear is rammed into his side, and blood and water poured out, showing that he had really died. He’s taken down from the cross, and buried in the tomb belonging to the rich man named Joseph of Arimathea. Everyone knew the location of the tomb.
As Jesus died though, the temple in the curtain separating the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place is torn in two. Jesus’ death has made away to enter God’s presence. An earthquake hits, perhaps as a sign of God’s judgment. And people saw deceased saints rise from death and walk Jerusalem’s streets. As a centurion watches this happen, he acknowledges Jesus’ true identity and declares “Certainly this man was innocent!”
But what for the disciples? An earthquake, a ripped curtain and a few resuscitations weren’t going to bring back their Messiah! For them, it had all ended the wrong way. It wasn’t meant to finish like this! Jesus had promised them a new Kingdom! Where was this Kingdom?
The wait wasn’t long…