Jesus to die…’Good’ Friday…really? Easter week.
It is late on the night we call Maundy Thursday … the disciples have dispersed into the night, save two … Jesus is thrust before Annas in what is the first of six trials that will span about nine hours. (Indeed it will be a long night for Jesus—a night that he will probably not sleep at all.) Effectively, the first three trials are conducted by religious officials, and the latter three by Roman officials. Clearly, the Jews are intent on putting Jesus to death, but under Roman law, they have no authority to do so.
First, Annas, then Caiaphas, and then around 5 a.m., a battered, bloodied Jesus is brought before a meeting of the full Sanhedrin—some 71 men, and the Jews’ highest court. They come to the quick decision, wanting to expedite the matter so they can execute Jesus by Sabbath, and return to celebrating the Passover. In order for that to happen, they will have to change the charge against Jesus from blasphemy to treason; that way, Pilate, the Roman governor, has reason to act.
As the Jews take Jesus to Pilate, (Trial no. 4—the first civil trial), it is now daylight and Pilate finds no fault in Jesus, and sends him to Herod, believing he has ‘dodged a bullet’. All the while, Jesus’ legs grow wearier, his battered arms throb, his face is bloody and his head is aching from the blows he has sustained.
From Pilate the Roman governor, Jesus is sent to Herod, a rather gross, perverted human being who hopes to see Jesus ‘work some magic’ in his presence, but in short order, returns him again to Pilate. Pilate looks for some ‘out’, deciding to offer a known criminal Barabbas, or Jesus—certain that the crowd would choose to execute Barabbas. The crowd will be satiated with the blood of One alone, shouting "Away with this Man, and release to us Barabbas...” and of Jesus, “Crucify, crucify him!”
As they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country and laid on him the cross to carry it behind Jesus. Luke 23
"Pick up that cross! Now!" When Simon looked at Jesus, he felt tremendous, though unexplainable love and sorrow for him. He could see Jesus' indescribable pain as blood dripped profusely all over his torn flesh. Simon saw love radiate from Jesus' eyes such as he had never seen before.
Simon reached down and picked up the cross. He had heard about this teacher from Nazareth. People followed him everywhere - from town to town and village to village. His breathing was labored; the pain from the scourging caused unbearable torment throughout his body.
Jesus turned and walked toward the hill where his crucifixion would take place; Simon walked behind him. Three times he witnessed Jesus fall and each time he thought this pure and gentle man would not get up.
As they walked the dirty, dusty road, Simon would never forget the moment when Jesus met his mother, Mary. He could see the pain in Mary's eyes. The look that passed between mother and Son was full of love and understanding. Mary wiped away some of the blood from Jesus' cheek before gently giving him a kiss on the forehead. He looked at her with tenderness and slowly moved on.
As Simon continued following Jesus, he noticed curious onlookers on the edge of the crowd. Both men and women from nearby villages wept uncontrollably.
When they reached the top of Calvary, Simon laid the cross on the ground and sadly looked at Jesus. Tears flowed down his cheeks. Why were they crucifying Him?!
Three crosses raised up on Golgotha--"The Skull"--Jesus between two criminals. And in his crucifixion, we hear, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." They cast lots to divide his garments, (a fulfillment of the prophecy of Psalm 22.18). The people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, 'He saved others; let him save himself!’ The soldiers also, "If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself!' There was an inscription over him, 'This is the King of the Jews.'
Until the end, they scoffed; until the end, he loved. . .
* Anne Graham Lotz
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