Somewhere in the midst of the dinner, prayer and the garden, Thursday turned into Friday. Whether you count days like the Jews, as if the day began at sunset, or you account for time like we do today, marking the beginning of Friday at midnight, either way the change of days is just a blur. And how much more it must have been for Jesus and the disciples.
As that garrison of soldiers embarked on the garden, I’m pretty sure you could never have convinced any of the men with Jesus that the day was “good.” There are so many things I wonder about that night/morning:
Did Peter mentally beat himself up that he slept and didn’t keep an eye out for the soldiers?
What did the disciples think when they saw the drops of blood as Jesus prayed?
Why did the high priest see a need to send 300 some soldiers and servants to arrest Jesus?
What was Peter thinking when he drew that sword? Did he really think he could take on a whole company of soldiers?
When the 300+ who came to arrest Jesus all fell down when the Messiah revealed who He was why didn’t a few of those guys decide that arresting Him was a bad idea?
And that’s just the questions that the garden scene raises!
A middle of the night trial by the Sanhedrin just SOUNDS wrong, and Pilate and Herod not doing a thing to make it right (even after a warning from Pilate’s wife) makes it even worse. I have put myself in the shoes of many people in this Thursday/Friday story, and in every scenario, I can only hope that I would have been standing with the minority. Even running away would be a better alternative to me than being in the crowd that shouted “Crucify Him.”
I have imagined myself as Peter, John and any of the twelve, Herod, Pilate, Caiaphas, Annas or the Sanhedrin (which always begs the question, “Were Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea invited to the impromptu trial and then silent, or was their notification conveniently delayed because they were known sympathizers?”) I have pictured myself as the soldiers and the servants, as Mark running away naked and the women at the foot of the cross. I have tried to put myself in Jesus’ mother’s sandals, and have even speculated what Judas may have felt like.
Every picture makes me ask myself, “Would I have stood up for Christ or held my tongue for fear of being killed myself?” I’d like to think I would have fought for Him, but if all of the disciples ran away in fear, how can I think I would do better?
By daybreak on Friday Jesus had already been condemned. Before the morning was over, the governor and the tetrarch had both questioned him and sentenced Jesus to death. Soldiers beat Him almost unrecognizable before they took their lunch break, and then a man whose sons would later become followers of the Messiah was forced out of the crowd, probably at random, to carry the cross of the One they called a traitor.
Not once did Jesus fight. We never hear a word of disrespect leave His lips. He didn’t act like a rebel. And if anyone along the way would have paid attention, they’d have noted that there were many moments when Jesus could have just walked away, one being in the garden when all of the soldiers and guards had fallen down at the mention of His name. Maybe many of them noticed, but every one was afraid to be the one who brought the notion out in front of everyone else.
By noon, most of the excitement was over. The exhausted Jesus, the man who’d been up for at least 30 hours or so and endured ridicule, lies, floggings, beatings and nails driven through His hands and feet, was now just waiting to die. It was only a matter of time. And from everything I’ve read, it could have been a LONG time.
Again, the story raises questions . . .
- Did the sky going black cause anyone to wonder if they were making a mistake?
Did the tearing of the thick cloth between the Holy and Most Holy Place cause any of the priests to have second thoughts about murdering this Man the people loved?
Did the soldiers regret their part when they heard Jesus say, “Father, forgive them.”? What kind of guilty traitor says that right before He dies?
But God out of love for His Son did not allow the agony to go on as long as it could have. Everyone was surprised to find Jesus dead as quickly as He was. (although the 3+ hours on the cross and the floggings and more before are more than I can wrap my brain around).
Friday was a hard day. I felt very alone most of today, so I can’t imagine how much more so Jesus must have felt. He had been deserted by all of His friends. All the people He had healed and touched, fed and blessed, and no one bothered to stand up for Him. He may have been fully God, but the fully human part of Him felt the separation from His Heavenly Father. Carrying my own sin is hard enough, my heart begins to feel heavy and burdened when I picture Jesus carrying the weight of my sin also. It’s difficult for me when I think about the fact that my sin is what caused the words, “Father, Father, Why have you forsaken me?”
Friday is only “Good” because of the gift that the sacrifice is. In no other way can it be classified as good. The loneliness and pain that Jesus felt can not be humanly imagined. The reality of what happened that day is sort of surreal. I want to embrace it, but I think I embrace the truth of it more than the reality of it. The reality of the day more than my mind can comprehend. It is unfathomable that so many people could let it happen without a fight, yet I truly believe God gave none of them the courage to enter the battle because Jesus, in His humanness, begged His heavenly Father that none be lost. And had any of them had the guts to stand up for Jesus, I’m pretty certain they would have lost their lives.
So, tonight I can only Praise Jesus for hanging there for me . . . for taking my pain, for wearing my sin. I can never thank Him enough, but I can live every day trying!