It started late on Thursday night.
BETRAYED – Jesus anguished through His prayer, knowing what was about to happen. He was betrayed with a kiss by one of His disciples, a friend, or at least a pretend friend named Judas Iscariot. Judas had spent three years with Jesus. Three years. Jesus had commissioned him, fed him, loved him, taught him, cared for him, and invested in him, but Judas betrayed him for thirty pieces of silver.
It sounds like a lot of money but it was only enough to buy a small field.
DENIED – Jesus was arrested and taken away. Peter followed, at a distance, to the home of the high priest, but had to stay outside the gate until a woman opened it for him. As he entered, the woman asked Peter, “You’re not one of that man’s disciples, are you?”
“No,” he said, “I am not.”
Because it was cold, the household servants and the guards made a fire. They stood around it, warming themselves, and Peter stood with them, warming himself. Once again, someone asked Peter, “You’re not one of his disciples, are you?”
He denied it once again, saying, “No, I am not.”
Soon after, one of the slaves of the high priest, asked, “Didn’t I see you out there in the olive grove with Jesus?” And for the third time, Peter denied it.
And the rooster crowed.
CONDEMNED – Jesus was taken to Pilate, the Roman governor, who asked, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
Jesus replied, “You have said it.”
But when the leading priests and the elders made their accusations against him, Jesus remained silent, much to the governor’s surprise.
It was Pilate’s custom each year during Passover to release one prisoner to the crowd—anyone they wanted. This year there was a notorious prisoner named Barabbas.
As the crowds gathered before Pilate’s house that morning, he asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you—Barabbas or Jesus?”
Meanwhile, the leading priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas to be released and for Jesus to be put to death.
So Pilate asked the crowd, “Then what should I do with Jesus?”
“Crucify Him!” they shouted.
“Why?” Pilate demanded. “What has He done?”
But they shouted all the louder.
Then Pilate sent for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood.”
So Pilate released Barabbas to the people. He ordered Jesus to be scourged, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified.
SCOURGED – Then the Bible says, “They took Him and had Him scourged.” Now, scourging was such that it often killed the victim. But Jesus was a young and strong man in his early thirties. He was in good physical condition. That could be why He didn’t die from the scourging. They stripped Jesus nearly naked, and shackled His hands over His head. Then soldiers stood on either side of Him and whipped Him brutally with what’s called a flagrum or a cat o’ nine tails. It was a wooden handle that had long straps of leather protruding from it. At the end of each strap was a ball of either metal or stone, and that would tenderize the human flesh. Sometimes there were hooks at the end, usually made of metal.
The soldiers took turns doing their job, inflicting as much pain as possible on Jesus.
At this point, for Jesus, the process of death has begun.
CRUCIFIED – Jesus was forced to carry His cross to the place of death. The cross was an enormous wooden beam that you would use to secure a roof in an ancient home. This was recycled timber. Other men had carried it to their own crucifixion. It was covered with their tears and their blood, and their sweat.
On the way, Jesus was so exhausted that He collapsed under the weight of the cross. Simon of Cyrene, a bystander, was commanded to help Him carry the cross to the place of crucifixion. And then, this Carpenter who Himself had driven many nails, had the equivalent of railroad spikes driven through His hands and feet.
Jesus’ cross was then lifted up and dropped into the ground, shaking His body violently.
From the cross, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”
In that moment, something legal, something spiritual, something eternal happened. Jesus traded places with us. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says: “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” Adam and Eve, in the Garden, substituted themselves for God and introduced sin to mankind. But here, in this place God substituted Himself for us, defeating the power of sin.
Then Jesus cried out, “It is finished!” and then He died.
His last words might have been hard to understand, but they were triumphant just the same. Salvation through Him was available. It was finished.
Jesus died on that Friday, paying the price for our sin.
His mother cried. His disciples scattered. His enemies laughed. His followers mourned.
It happened on a Friday. Christ was killed on a Friday. God displayed His love on a Friday.
And the world was forever changed.
*Photo courtesy of Dylan McLeod of Unsplash