Good Friday Morning Prayer (15 April 2022)
Today is Good Friday. It is a day to remember and meditate on the passion and death of Jesus Christ on the cross. The conclusion is that Jesus fulfilled His part of the new covenant when He was crucified on the cross.
We are all familiar with what happened on that night after Jesus was betrayed by Judas. Jesus was taken to the high priest’s palace. There, false witnesses arose against Jesus. Jesus was then taken to Pilate, but Pilate sent Jesus to Herod because Jesus was from Galilee. Luke 23: 8 says “when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad: for he was desirous to see him of a long season, because he had heard many things of him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by him.” Herod questioned Jesus but Jesus did not answer Herod’s questioning. The chief priests and scribes stood and accused him. Herod and his men mocked Jesus, “arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate”. Pilate wanted to release Jesus but the people shouted “Crucify him, crucify him”. Jesus was delivered to be crucified. The soldiers stripped him and put on him a scarlet robe. They plaited a crown of thorns and put it on his head and a reed in his right hand. They mocked Him saying, Hail, King of the Jews! They spat on Him, took the reed and smote Him on the head. After they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put His own clothes on Him and led Him out to crucify Him. Jesus was crucified between two thieves and they parted his garments by casting lots. In the Old Testament, we read prophecies relating to all these events. Of particular mention are Isaiah 53 verses 3, 4, 7,12 and Psalm 22:18.
Jesus spoke even when He was hanging on the Cross. Let us briefly meditate on His seven sayings. I hope this will help us to know more about Jesus’s nature and His expectation.
1. The first saying of Jesus when He was on the cross was “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He prayed saying, “Forgive our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us”. Often, it is easy to preach, but it is very difficult to practice. But, we see in the Bible that Jesus always practised what He preached. Jesus was humiliated and tortured before being crucified on the cross. Even after going through all that agony, He prayed for those who inflicted that pain and prayed to His Father to forgive them. Jesus knew that He had to endure all the suffering to fulfil the Almighty Father’s will. He had a clear understanding and acceptance of the purpose of His birth and death. He knew He had to be offered as the Passover Lamb for the redemption of the sins of the whole world. Because Jesus knew His vision and mission, He could plead even for those who crucified Him. Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever”. So even today, He continues to intercede for us. 1 John 2:2&3 says, “if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world”.
2. Jesus spoke the second saying to one of the malefactors who was crucified along with Him: “Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Jesus was crucified between two malefactors and He was numbered with the transgressors. One of the malefactors challenged Jesus and said, “If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” Jesus did not answer the challenge but responded to the plea. Jesus replied, “Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Both the malefactors were in the same situation and given the same opportunity. One of them challenged Jesus, another repented and received the assurance of eternal life with Jesus. 1 John 1: 9 says “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. It is encouraging to know that even the last moments of our life are not late to repent and inherit eternal life. But I pray we do not leave repentance to the last moment as we do not know when and how our last moment will be. We should also remember that we cannot challenge God and expect Him to respond to us.
3. When Jesus was hanging on the Cross, His mother Mary was in a very tough situation. Jesus told her “Woman, behold thy son! Behold thy mother!” (John 19:26,27). When Mary took Jesus to the temple, Simeon blessed Jesus and prophesized, “Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also” (Luke 2:35). When Jesus hung on the cross, this prophecy was fulfilled. No parent wants to see the death of their child. Here, Mary witnessed the suffering of Jesus for hours. Jesus was aware of the humiliation that Mary had to face during His birth and the role she played in preparing Jesus for His ministry. Even when He was hanging on the cross, Jesus fulfilled his responsibility as the eldest son and made sure that His mother was cared for. He handed over the responsibility of His mother to His disciple whom He loved.
4. The fourth saying of Jesus on the cross was “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34). Some thought that he was calling Elias to save Him, but Jesus was crying to His Father. Jesus knew He had to suffer and die for the sins of the world. But as He was going through the agony as a human, He needed strength from above. He prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. His prayer was answered when an angel appeared unto him from heaven to strengthen him. 2 Corinthians 2:21 says “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin”. Jesus bore the sins of the whole world. He who knew no sin was made sin for us. Isaiah 59:2 says, “your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” When hanging on the cross, Jesus bore the guilt and punishment for our sins. He was forsaken because our sins were laid on Him. Because of this, He was separated from the presence of the Almighty Father. This is why Jesus cried “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”.
5. We read the fifth saying “I thirst” in John 19:28. In Luke 22:44 we read that “his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground”. After Jesus was betrayed, He was taken to the chief priest’s palace, Pilate, Herod and back to Pilate, all in one night. Physically, He must have been exhauseted and dehydrated. When we read Jesus saying “I thirst”, we are reminded of Jesus' physical nature, his humanity. It reminds us that Jesus died in the flesh for us and for our sins. When He said this words, the prophecy in Psalm 22: 15 was fulfilled: “My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws”. The soldiers gave Him vinegar and fulfilled the prophecy in Psalm 69: 21: “they gave me vinegar for my thirst.” Spiritually, Jesus was speaking about His great thirst and desire to see the salvation of his people. Even in the last moments of His life, Jesus thirsted for the salvation of the entire human race. He thirsted for all of us to inherit eternal life.
6. After receiving the vinegar Jesus said the sixth saying, “It is finished” (John 19:30). By this, He meant His mission was completed. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. He was the one-time sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. He fulfilled the Old Testament Law of sacrifice on the cross. The blood of the righteous Lamb was shed for the remission of sins. In Matthew 5:17 Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil”. By saying this, Jesus confirmed His life and call had a purpose. Jesus was focussed on His priorities. He obeyed His Father’s will. He was willing to suffer to fulfil His mission.
7. The seventh saying of Jesus was “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46). By speaking this word, Jesus handed over everything in His Father’s hand and gave up His spirit. There was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. The sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. Under the Old Testament Law, only the priests could go into the most holy place to worship God. He made a way for everyone to go to the presence of God without an intermediary. This saying is similar to the last part of the Lord’s Prayer where we surrender everything to God’s hands.
The first three sayings of Jesus show Jesus’ horizontal relationship with fellow humans. The next four statements demonstrate His vertical relationship with the Almighty Father. The cross calls us to strengthen our horizontal and vertical relationships. We are in a new covenant with Jesus. We are called to be witnesses to Him. Pilate was not a Jew or a follower of Jesus, but he witnessed that Jesus was innocent. The people who had hailed Jesus as king a couple of days back were persuaded by the chief priests and elders to demand a notable prisoner to be released and Jesus to be crucified. We are His disciples and are expected to show the qualities of Jesus in our everyday lives.
Jesus chose both Peter and Judas as His disciples. Both Peter and Judas had the call to go out into the world to make disciples for Jesus. Both Peter and Judas committed sin. Judas chose to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver; he went to the chief priests to return the silver and hung himself when he realised He had betrayed Jesus. Peter denied Jesus thrice but he turned to the LORD Jesus. He repented when he realised his mistake, wept bitterly and received forgiveness from Jesus. Judas lost his life and failed to fulfil God’s plan in his life. Peter became the rock on which the early church was built.
Let us self-examine ourselves. How is our horizontal relationship with others and vertical relationship with LORD Jesus? Is Jesus’ passion and death and the new covenant meaningful in our lives? Do we pursue to fulfil our Lord’s plan in our lives? Or are we happily giving up our call for earthly benefits? Having meditated on the saying of Jesus on the Cross, it is our turn to keep our part of the covenant.
Jesus faced the incredible task of laying down his life as a ransom for the world. This task was traumatic and overwhelming, but Jesus accepted it willingly. Good Friday is a time to give thanks to Jesus for his steadfast love and faithfulness that led him to lay down his life for us as a ransom. “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord” (Psalm 116:12, 13). Amen!