|Why is Good Friday So Good? –by Lisa Phillips|
WHY IS GOOD FRIDAY SO GOOD?
–by Lisa Phillips
–by Lisa Phillips
It was a warm and sultry night in Jerusalem. We had had a good meal. We were just walking and talking in the Garden with our Lord as usual. He told the rest of the disciples to stay and relax in an area. But for some reason He picked three of us to accompany Him further, me, James and John. We could see that He was very “distressed and troubled”.
He told us “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch”. (Matt 26:38, Mk14:34) He told us to pray so that we would “not enter into temptation” (Lk 22:40). He left us and wander a little further up the path. I watched as He walked up the path. He was but a stone’s throw away. My eyes were getting heavy and I was tired. But, I saw my Lord go to prayer. “He advanced a little and fell to the ground and prayed that if it were possible the hour might pass by him: he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.'” (Mk 14:35-36) “And to strengthen him an angel from heaven appeared to him. He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground.” (Lk 22:43-44). I remember thinking as I dropped off to sleep which overpowered me that He was only thirty-three and He did not want to die. I so desperately wanted to stay awake, I prayed in earnest, but I just could not keep my eyes open. About an hour later, Jesus came back and woke us up. He was upset. He called me Simon, the name I had before He called me to be His disciple. “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” (Mk 14:37-38) I tried again desperately to be there for Him. But once again sleep overtook me. He returned again and woke us up. And again I tried to stay awake. A third time He woke us up and said “Are you sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough. The hour has come. Behold the Son of Man is to be handed over to the sinners. Get up, let us go. See, my betrayer is at hand.” (Mk 14:41-42).
Just as He finished saying this I turned and looked, and there was Judas with a crowd of people with swords and clubs. Judas kissed Jesus. Then the crowd came forward and grabbed him. I didn’t know what to do. All I could think of was to grab my sword to stop them from taking them. I am not good with a sword. My aim was bad and I cut off the ear of a high priest’s servant. “But Jesus said in reply, Stop, no more of this!’ Then he touched the servants ear and healed him.” (Lk 22:51) He turned to me and said “Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot call upon my Father and he will not provide me at this moment with more than twelve legions of angels? But then how would the scriptures be fulfilled which say that it must come to pass in this way?'” (Mt 26:52-55) He turned to those who came to arrest him and they took him away. We were so afraid they would take us too that we fled. John Mark was almost caught, because he tried to follow them. They grabbed him but all they got were his clothes. (Mk 14:51-52)
They took Jesus to the Chief Priests and the Sanhedrin. This was highly suspicious. This was set up a long time in advance to get them all together. I followed at a distance. I was afraid but had to see what was going on. I made it into the courtyard so that I could hear what was happening. They tried to get Jesus to talk they even had many who gave false witness against Him, but they could not come up with a good enough reason to have Him put to death. One of the maids of the High Priest came out to warm her hands by the fire. She accused me of being with Jesus. I denied that. I moved away from her, but she talked to some of the other people and again accused me of being with Jesus. Again I denied Him. Later, another person also accused me of being with Jesus. I started cussing and swearing. Again I denied that I was with Jesus. Just then the cock crowed three times. I remembered the words of Christ at dinner. I was so ashamed and hurt that I would do that, I broke down and wept.
When morning came they tied Jesus up and took him to Pilate. Pilate talked to him and listened to the false accusations. With relief I heard him say “I find this man not guilty” (Luke 23:4) That was not what the religious leaders wanted. They took him to Herod. Jesus stood calmly before Herod and His accusers. He remained silent even though they were falsely accusing him. “Herod and his soldiers treated him contemptuously and mocked him, and after clothing him in resplendent garb, he sent Him back to Pilate.” (Luke 23:11)
When He had made it back to Pilate, Pilate assembled everyone. I listened with joy in my heart as Pilate said, “You brought this man to me and accused Him of inciting the people to revolt. I have conducted my investigation in your presence and have not found this man guilty of the charges you have brought against Him, nor did Herod, for he sent Him back to us. Therefore I shall have Him scourged and then release Him.” (Lk 23:14-16) But then all of a sudden the crowd was stirred up and they began yelling ‘release Barabbas’ . What were they thinking? Barrabas? He was a murderer. Why would they want him back out? I could not understand. Jesus had done nothing but love and try to show them the way of love. Yet they kept yelling ‘crucify Him’. I yelled to stop it but they would not. I tried to convince those around me to yell for Jesus. I screamed until my throat was sore. But still they pushed Pilate to release Barrabas and crucify my Lord. Finally I watched as Pilate with great sadness in his heart, took a bowl of water and washed his hands. He said, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. Look to it yourselves. Then he let Barabbas go. My Lord was led away to be scourged. Most men do not even survive the scourging. When they brought Him back out He was almost unrecognizable. He was a bloody mess. They had put a purple robe around His shoulders and put a crown on his head that they had made from thorns three inches long. The blood flowed from the wounds in His head. How had He survived the loss of blood and the pain. But still He remained silent as they played with Him. I was horrified and yet I could not stop watching. I could not help but think that somehow I should have done something. Surely there was something.
They led Him away, like a dog. He had to carry the wood for the sacrifice. He fell time after time and the soldiers kept pulling on the rope around His neck and whipping Him to get Him back up. When it became obvious that He would not be able to get up again under the weight they pulled a man out of the crowd. Simon had to carry my Lord’s cross. It was slippery from my Lord’s blood. But, they finally made it up the hill. They laid Jesus down on the cross. As they pounded the nails through His wrists and hands I could feel every blow of the hammer striking the nails. It felt as if it were ripping my heart out with every stroke. They lifted the cross and dropped it in the ground. How is it that He is still alive? People from the crowd were laughing and making fun of Him. He had a sign above his head to tell all the world his crime. Pilate had put up that sign. “Jesus, King of the Jews.” People were upset. The thief on one side of Christ cursed him and taunted Him. The thief on the other side of Him protested and said that he was dying for a reason but Jesus was innocent. He asked Jesus to remember him when He came into His kingdom. How did the thief know? Even bloodied and hanging on the cross, there was something about Jesus that made a person believe in Him. Maybe it was His eyes. Whatever it was, even the thief on the cross who had known Him only a little while, a fellow sufferer on the cross, knew. I wondered how like both thieves I was. Part of me wanted to believe that He was the King and yet when it came down to it I was much like the other thief. After all, not long ago I violently denied I knew Christ. Jesus said something to the thief that I took into my heart. “I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Lk23:43) All of a sudden the world went dark. A darkness like nothing I have ever experienced before. I could not see the hand in front of my face. I could feel the fear of the people around me. You could not see anything. It was so scary. It was noon. How was this possible? What was happening? Was God taking my Lord now? Would He be released from the cross? My heart lept for joy at the thought that maybe those legions of angels, He had talked about in the garden, were coming to save Him. Finally at three o’clock the world became light again. My Lord was still there.
He was gasping for air. The weight of His body was on His wrists and it was cutting off His oxygen. I felt myself struggling to breathe for Him. With great pain, as spasms racked his body, He pushed Himself up with His legs. His back scraped up against the rough wood of the cross bringing more pain. With great sorrow and compassion, He looked down at the foot of His cross at the soldiers throwing dice for His clothing and at us who were witnessing His death. Between gasps of air, his throat constricted with spasms, He said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Lk 23:34) I felt that forgiveness wash over me. It was as if He were looking straight at me and feeling my guilt and shame.
He could no longer keep the weight on His feet. He lowered himself again. He hung there gasping for every breath, feeling the cramps course through His body. Once again, He lifted Himself up, He looked at His mother. Tears were streaming down her face as she watched Her Son die. He wanted to make sure that His mother was taken care of. John was standing next to her. He looked at the both of them and said “Woman, behold your son!….Behold your mother”. Jesus must have known that John would take care of His mother for Him. Joseph was gone and Jesus had no brothers to take care of His mother. It was heart wrenching to watch Him. What a double pain that must have been, not only for Him to feel His own pain, but that of His mother as well. He let Himself drop to spare His legs again. Later He raised Himself again. He cried “Eli, Eli, lama Sabachthani”. Some in the crowd thought He was calling for Elijah. But I heard the anguish. I felt that absolute loneliness in Him as He was saying “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46). He was the Son. He walked with the Father. Yet, at His death He felt abandoned by God. He could not feel that presence. How horrible that must have been for Him, like He was missing a part of Himself at that crucial moment. How much longer does this have to go on? He had suffered enough physical and emotional pain. He drew Himself up again. He said simply “I thirst” (Jn 19:28). With a sprig of hyssop they lifted a sponge soaked with wine to Him. As if with a renewed burst of energy, with a loud triumphant voice, He cried out “It is finished.”(Jn 19:30) “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” (Lk 23:46) and He breathed His last. Tears were streaming down my face. My throat hurt from holding back my sorrow. My chest felt like bursting from trying to breath for Him. All of a sudden the earth shook so hard that we were thrown to the ground. I heard a centurion and many others say “Truly this is the Son of God”. (Mt 27:54) I was awestruck at that amazing power of God. How angry He must have been that He had to send His only Son to die for us. Me a sinner, who would time after time deny I even knew Him.
It was evening and according to Jewish Law they could not allow the people on the crosses to stay up there all night. The soldiers broke the legs of the thieves so they would hasten their deaths. They came to Jesus. Since He was dead, there was no need to break His legs. For some reason they could not just leave Him alone. “One soldier thrust His lance into His side, and immediately blood and water flowed out.” (Jn 19:34)
One of our fellow disciples of Christ, Joseph of Aramethia, went to Pilate and asked if he might have the body of Jesus. This was a major risk for him. He took Him and some of the women hastily wrapped his body in a burial cloth. They would go back later to complete the job.
I went back into Jerusalem to find some of the other disciples. Most of us found our way to the upper room where we had had dinner the night before. Each had a story to tell of that day and what they saw. Some of them told of “rocks split and tombs opened and the bodies of many saints who had died were raised. They went into the city and appeared to many.” (Mt 27:51-53)
What a day! Good Friday. Well, it was the day that my Lord died. But He died for me so that I would be saved. Yes for my sake it was a good Friday.
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