We now call it Good Friday. It was actually a disaster for many people who had such high hopes going into that weekend 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem. ◊
Often things look so different in retrospect. So is the case with Good Friday. The great lows and highs of that last weekend of Christ’s life took everyone by surprise. No sane person would have labeled it Good Friday. By 3:00 that afternoon, Jesus was killed by crucifixion and his followers had scattered in shock and horror after witnessing a swift and dubious trial and brutal execution. Saturday would have been a day of stunned fear with questions abuzz as to what happens now to the whole Jesus movement that had so captured the city and region.
By Sunday, the depression would have continued. The hope of Israel, the so-called Messiah, this Jesus, the Christ, was dead. He, the one that many of the Jews in Jerusalem had determined was the anointed king who would free them from oppression and bring to life the promises of their beloved Hebrew prophets of old.
But now the dream and the dreamers were crushed. Jesus, their leader, was gone – thoroughly snuffed out by a cruel Roman occupying authority with the cooperation and encouragement of a corrupt and deceitful Jewish religious ruling class.
What was so good had turned out so bad. Why would we call this Good Friday?
“You Don’t Know?”
We’re fortunate to have a detailed account of a fascinating conversation that took place a couple of days later, on Sunday morning – that very first Easter Day. The account is written by historian and doctor, Luke, in Luke 24. Here is the full text about two men leaving Jerusalem on the road to the neighboring village of Emmaus following the crucifixion of Jesus. The story is amazingly captured by Luke and reads like an interview transcript.
Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.
He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
They stood still; their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
“What things?” he asked.
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So, he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread. (Luke 24:13-35)
The Necessity of Good Friday
Easter, celebrating the resurrection of the living Jesus, does not happen without the death of Jesus on the Cross on Good Friday. Jesus fulfilled His purpose by dying. God became man/flesh incarnate in Jesus for the sole purpose of the Son becoming sin, and slain like a holy lamb of sacrifice. Christ’s destiny was the Cross.
Anything short of that would have been a failure of the mission. How unfortunate that many people miss this bigger picture.
It’s interesting that Jesus turns the tables on these two normal, unsuspecting men who wonder how this man could be so clueless about the biggest event that happened in town during Passover holiday. But He tells them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” Then Jesus gives them a history lecture about Moses and all the Prophets and all they said in the Scriptures concerning himself.
Now that would have been a lecture to take great notes!
The Response of All of Us to Good Friday, and Easter
No matter the current global Coronavirus crisis or, for that matter, any calamity the world has known over the past 2,000 years, each individual person from any part of the world must consider their own personal response to Good Friday, and Easter.
Do we understand how Jesus connected the Biblical Scriptures from Moses and all the Prophets which referenced His coming as the promised Messiah? Have we studied it ourselves or do we just take other people’s word on the topic? Do we fully recognize the reason and purpose of His coming or do we simply hold Jesus up as a nice teacher of loving kindness for the earth and our fellow man?
Again, that wasn’t His purpose. His teaching and manner were a reflection of who He was: God in the flesh who came to die for our sins and the sins of all mankind.
Today, more than ever, Good Friday and Easter are easily lost in all the many distractions of our modern lives. Yet, these recognized Christian holidays are really significant points of reckoning for each person around the world.
Perhaps the best way to consider Jesus and Christianity is to ask yourself how you would have reacted if you had been one of those individuals on that dusty road to Emmaus who encountered this stranger. Would you have listened? Would you have known what He was talking about? Would you have redirected your life when you realized you had confronted the resurrected Jesus? Would your perspective on this life and your circumstances be changed forever?
The death of Christ on the Cross (Good Friday) shook the foundations of the spiritual realm. The resurrection of Christ (Easter) sealed the most significant life and event in human history. How we respond to both is actually the most significant decision of our life.
Do you really understand Good Friday and Easter?
“This Jesus, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken, and by wicked hands have put Him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him.” – Acts 2:23-24