Friday, April 22, 2011

If you need a synopsis...

If your day proves to be busy or distracted, or if you are intimidated by those old, sometimes odd words, or if you have ever wondered why Christians celebrate Good Friday, here is the briefest synopsis I could mash together:

"When Jesus had finished saying these things, he said to his disciples, 'As you know, the Passover is two days away - and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.'" (Matt. 26:1-2) (I love this! He knew it was coming; He talked about it openly...)

"Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John saying, 'Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.'" (Matt. 26:17-18)

"When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, 'I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer...he took break, gave thanks, and broke it, and gave it to them, saying 'This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me...This cup is the new covenant of my blood, which is poured out for you.'" (Luke 22)

There were mind-boggling and perhaps awkward moments:
  • a foot washing (an act so degrading that even a Jewish slave could not be forced to do it.);
  • a piece of bread handed to Judas with the order: "what you are about to do, do quickly.";
  • a prediction that Judas would not be the only betrayer, that Peter would deny Him three times;
  • perplexed disciples who whispered to one another "We don't understand what he is saying.'" (John 16:18);
  • drowsy, confused and sorrowful disciples in an olive grove (Luke 22:45);
  • this Messiah pouring out honesty like blood, with hard words like "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death" and "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done."
  • perhaps the most awkward kiss in the history of mankind, when Jesus caught his betrayer off-guard: "'Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?' Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, 'Rabbi!' and kissed him." (Luke 22:48)
  • the impulsive, badly-aimed sword of Peter, that cut off an ear and earned him a rebuke from the One he was trying to defend: "No more of this!" Jesus healed the ear.
  • chaotic, unorganized trials before a wicked priest, a deep-thinking governor (Pilate ends his conversation with Jesus by asking a seemingly unanswerable question, "What is truth?"), then, a curious and almost giddy Herod who receives nothing but silence from Jesus.
  • The screaming, riotous crowd choosing Barabbas the Bandit to be mercifully freed; for Jesus, their choice was clear: "Crucify! crucify!" (How skewed was their idea of mercy!)
  • The people convincing Pilate to hesitantly give them what they wanted, even taking the blame for Jesus' imminent death: "Let his blood be on us and on our children!" (Matt. 27:25) (To which I say, Amen!)
  • A crown of thorns, a royal purple robe to parade this King through town, then a poorly timed passerby who was forced to carry Jesus' cross to Golgotha. (Matthew 27:27-32)
  • "From the bullying game of Blind Man's Bluff in the high priest's courtyard to the professional thuggery of Pilate's and Herod's guards, to the catcalls of spectators turned out to jeer the criminals stumbling up the long road to Calvary, and finally to the cross itself where Jesus heard a stream of taunts from the ground below and even from the cross alongside. You call yourself a Messiah? Well, then come down from that cross. How you gonna save us if you can't even save yourself?" (Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew, p. 260)
  • This Rabbi Jesus hung on the cross, no modest white cloth covering his nakedness like it was on the Sunday School coloring pages. His shame was complete. Still, he said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." Not only did he forgive his accusers, but he provided for his mother and welcomed a thief next to him - "Today, you will be with me in paradise." (John 23:43)
  • "King of the Jews" said the notice, much to the Jewish leaders' dismay. "No, [t]his man claimed to be king of the Jews." (Matt. 27:37) Pilate was done with them: "What I have written, I have written.
  • There was darkness, and weird words uttered from dry lips: "It is finished." "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." and the most baffling of all, words that haunt me every Good Friday: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (These puzzling words seem to convince folks of the authenticity of the accounts. "For what reason would the founders of a new religion put such despairing words in the mouth of their dying hero - unless that's precisely what he said." Yancey, pg. 261)
  • In that moment, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us--for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.'" (Gal. 3:13)
On the cross, Jesus shows one of two things: that God is completely powerless or that God is nothing but Love. I choose to see it - or, He has opened my eyes to see it - as the latter.

"Power, no matter how well-intentioned, tends to cause suffering. Love, being vulnerable, absorbs it. In a point of convergence on a hill called Calvary, God renounced the one for the sake of the other." -Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew, p. 267

Resting Here,

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