Holy Week- Good Friday- Whats So Good About It?

Today we have reached Good Friday. A dark and hard day to be sure. A day of suffering, a day of pain, a day of death. Justice is abused. Goodness disregarded. Courage evaporates. Friendship fails. Tears and blood are shed. It seems like sin, sadness and death have won. The light of the world was snuffed out.

Given all of this, have you ever wondered why we call today ‘Good Friday’?

Let me ask you a question; how do you describe what happened to Jesus today? Did Jesus die? Was Jesus murdered? Did Jesus sacrifice himself?

Perhaps when you read the words; die, murdered, and sacrifice you think ‘what’s the difference? Couldn’t I say all of these things happened, aren’t those words in this situation more or less synonyms?’ 

In one sense yes you could say all of those words describe what happened to Jesus. Only a very few serious historians deny that Jesus died on Good Friday. However I have found that when tragedy happens people don’t only want to know what happened they want to know why it happened.

Which leaves us with two other descriptors, murder and sacrifice. So is murder the best descriptor for what happened to Jesus or is sacrifice?

At first glance murder has a lot going for it. Jesus was arrested at night by a mob, changed with false allegations, dragged through a kangaroo court, and then put to death. When we examine what the motivation behind these horrendous acts was we find they are motivated by fear and jealousy. Many of the religious leaders of the day were jealous of the crowds that were following Jesus. While others seemed to be legitimately afraid of what Rome might do if they though Jesus was amassing followers to stage a revolt.

The religious leaders feared Jesus would lead the people away from them. Which made them fear that Rome would see Jesus’ followers as a threat and send in the troops. Herod feared for his kingdom. And Pilate feared the mob of people calling for Jesus to be put to death. A case could be made that jealousy, and fear prompted a handful of men to have Jesus murdered.

Except for one thing.

Jesus made it clear that while it seemed like others had power over him, it only seemed that way. No one could ‘put him to death’ without his permission.

This statement of Jesus moves us away from the vocabulary of murder and moves us into the vocabulary of sacrifice. When you scan the New Testament you will find that the language of a willing sacrifice is very prominent, whereas the language of murder is not.

Jesus’ own words make this point even clearer, ‘My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.’

Death and sin, pain and suffering, didn’t win on Good Friday, only to have their victory overturned on Easter. Death and sin, pain and suffering, became tools of salvation in God’s hands. When people thought they were bringing destruction, defeating Jesus they really were bringing salvation, completing Jesus’ mission on earth.

Today is Good Friday because when Jesus sacrificed himself death and sin, pain and suffering were conquered. God’s love and mercy won the battle through Jesus Christ.

I don’t know about you, but I’d call that good!

Today as you take time to reflect on Good Friday ask yourself; ‘Am I loving others as Christ commanded? Am I laying down my life everyday in service to others?’

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Holy Week- Maundy Thursday- What’s For Supper?

We have now reached Thursday of Holy Week, or as some know it by Maundy Thursday. Today is the day that Jesus shared his Last Supper with his disciples.

Jesus was the host, he made the arrangements, and he had a lot to do any say in a very short window of time. The last supper may well be the most important dinner party the world has ever known.

I really enjoy the way Matthew tells the story. Things unfold as we come to expect. Bread is broken, wine is poured, Jesus predicts his death, and everyone swears their loyalty to Jesus up to and including their own deaths.

But buried in this familiar passage is some of the most amazing news humanity has ever been given; a new covenant.

During one of Israel’s lowest points, when their very survival seemed to be threatened, God promised that he would one day make a new covenant, a different covenant with his people. This covenant would be internal, not external. They would not be given a new set of rules to follow but a heart ready to serve God.

And a new heart is something that we desperately need. If we were to scan the our news feeds on any given day and what would we find? We find stories of poverty, of sickness, of war, of violence, of greed, of injustices of all kinds.

It seems obvious that humanity has a heart problem. And Jesus is offering a heart solution. Not more rules. Not more rituals. Not even more religion. Jesus is offering more of himself, he is offering more God.

The promise of the new covenant is one of the most beautiful verses in the bible, ‘I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbour, nor say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

As Jesus broke the bread and poured the wine he said that this covenant begins now, and that it begins with him. He would make it possible for us to have new hearts, and he would make it possible for us to be made right with God.

As you go about your day today and your stomach inevitably reminds you that you are hungry, take time and reflect on all Jesus said and did at the Last Supper. Likewise next time you take communion remember how much more was given that night then a little bread and wine.

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Holy Week- Wednesday- Time For A Rest

For the last few days I have noticed that people have found their way to my little corner of the Internet by asking questions to Google. Something like ‘What did Jesus do during holy week Monday/Tuesday?’ So you may have found you way here today asking; ‘What did Jesus do during Holy Week Wednesday?’ I can sum up Jesus’ activities in one word.

Nothing.

That’s right all is quiet in the Gospels about the Wednesday of Holy Week. It seems like Jesus took the day off. When we consider the week Jesus has had so far, and when we think about what the rest of the week will be like isn’t it interesting to think about Jesus having a down day with his friends.

What would you do if you had only a few days left to live? Jesus knows the path he is on is heading straight for the cross. He knows the coming pain and suffering. He knows that when everything is said and done the life he is currently living will be over.

If you knew that your time was coming to an end very soon wouldn’t you want to make every moment count? Maybe you would want to say everything you always wanted to say. Profess love to people you never could. Forgive the difficult people in your life. Maybe you’d take the time to impart some parental wisdom to your child, or make extra sure your spouse knows how you feel. Maybe you’d write a letter, or a book, or record a video. Whatever your method you’d make sure you said everything, taught everything, kissed, hugged and visited everyone you could.

Maybe we should expect the same from Jesus.

Jesus after all was running out of time to teach. His disciples still didn’t seem to understand a lot of what he was telling them. He could have healed more people, performed more signs, told more parables. Jesus could have spent Wednesday clearing out the nearest hospital, or writing down some things he knew the disciples needed to remember.

He could have done all of that. But he didn’t.

As far as we know Jesus rested. He took the day off. Amazing isn’t it. It defies conventional wisdom. Everyone knows when you are running out of time, you don’t stop for a breather, you speed up.But not Jesus. He stopped and rested.

I think he rested because he trusted that God had everything under control. Yes the last few days were hectic. And remaining few will be chaos. But Jesus knew God had everything under control, which gave him the peace rest.

Couldn’t you use a little of that peace right now? Couldn’t you use a little rest? Was yesterday crazy? Does today seem worse? Do you have too much to do too little time to do it in? That’s the mindset that says ‘it’s all up to me’.

But Easter should remind us that it is not us against the world. It is God and us against whatever comes our way. So as you continue to prepare yourself for Easter take some time today to rest. Rest, even if you are in the middle of the most important week of your life.

Jesus Did.

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