"It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun's light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, 'Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!' And having said this he breathed his last."
Luke 23:44-46, ESV
We call it Good Friday
Let's recap the events of the night before. On Thursday night, Jesus spent time with his disciples, had his last supper and then went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. After he finished praying, the soldiers arrived with Judas. Jesus was betrayed by a kiss and then arrested. The disciples all abandoned him.
After his arrest, Jesus was brought before the High Priest Caiaphas and the entire Jewish Council. They held a mock trial at which they tried to bring accusations that would stick. They had nothing to convict him on. In the end, Jesus gave them the ammunition they needed to seek his death. As soon as they charged him with blasphemy they beat and mocked him.
Early in the morning on Friday, the Jewish leaders brought him bound to Pilate. They needed him to condemn him to death. Pilate found no reason to execute him. He sent him to King Herod who sent Jesus back. Pilate tried to set him free, but the crowds led by the Jewish leaders chose the release of Barabbas, a notorious prisoner. Pilate washed his hands of the situation then delivered Jesus up to be scourged and crucified.
The soldiers beat Jesus mercilessly. They mocked him and put a crown of thorns on his head. They made him carry his own cross. Then they crucified him. He was nailed to the cross in the morning. From noon to 3 p.m. darkness came over the land. At 3 p.m. Jesus cried out to God and then died.
The disciples were crushed. Their rabbi, the one they thought was the Messiah, died. All hope seemed lost. The one who said he was the Son of God, was tortured and died like a criminal.
Before night fall, Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Jewish Council, asked Pilate for Jesus' body. He laid his body in his own tomb and had the large, heavy stone rolled into place. The Pharisees had Pilate post a guard. This seemed to be the end.
So how do we respond?
Why do we call it Good Friday? It is the day that the innocent, sinless man Jesus was condemned to death and executed. The Son of God who become a human being to bring salvation and reconciliation was killed by his own creation. Good Friday is about the tragedy of the cross. It was a horrible Friday for Jesus…he experienced the entirety of sin and with it total separation from God.
This Good Friday, I will commemorate Jesus' sacrifice by fasting from Thursday night through Sunday morning…during the time that he suffered, died and laid in the tomb. I am choosing to deny myself food and drink to actively remember what Jesus endured for me. This Friday, I will be reminded every time I get hungry — at 6am when he was led to Pilate, at noon when he was on the cross, and at night when he was buried — that Jesus gave up much more than a meal to provide me with the possibility of salvation.
It is Good Friday for us, because on that day Jesus nailed all sin to the cross. Salvation is now ours, available to everyone who believes that Jesus is the Son of God who died, simply by accepting Jesus' payment for all our sin. But, I'm getting ahead of myself. Today, on Good Friday, the only thing we know for sure is that Jesus died. That is not the Good News. Stay tuned because Easter is coming!