to glorify God... one thought at a time

to glorify God... one thought at a time

Friday, April 18, 2014

Why Celebrate?…Good Friday

but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” Luke 22:46 

Here we are on Good Friday.  Kind of an oxymoron if you ask me, but I guess when we really think about it, if this day did not happen, we would all spend an eternity in hell.  Bottom line, we are human and we will fail!  God knew this, which is why He sent His Son to be the sacrifice.  He took our place on the cross and when we put our faith in that truth alone, we are part of His eternal kingdom.

I remember when we were young, my mom would not let us speak for three hours on Good Friday.  She would tell us that we had to think about what Jesus went through during that time.  When I remember that silence, not in reflection mind you, simply to eliminate punishment, I think of the game of chess.  My dad had a marble chess board with beautifully sculpted ivory and ebony pieces.  As I think on the events of Good Friday, I think of that chess board.  An interesting game, chess.  A whole lot going on, moving, thinking, scheming, sounds so much like the last days of Jesus on earth.

There are a few characters in a chess game.  Some of them are displayed throughout this story.  We have two kings.  One on one end of the board, the king of darkness, who is the devil and on the other end, Jesus, the King of light.  There are pawns on both sides.  The ivory ones total 12 disciples as well as some others that sat under Jesus’ teachings.  The ebony, appears to be in short demand, hosting chief priests, scribes and elders.  Pontius Pilate appears to be on the ivory side at first.  The game unfolds, there are good men and there are bad men.  It’s simple, the good men follow Jesus all the time, right?  Wrong!  As we read, we will see that sometimes the colors can change, the game can and will change forever.

At the Passover meal, Jesus explains to the men that His time was coming.  He tells Peter that Satan has asked to sift him as wheat.  I love Peter, he reminds me of myself, so zealous, yet sometimes clueless.  He swears that he will stand strong, telling Jesus that everyone else's faith may fail, but not his.  Move those ivory pawns up one space each.

  After dinner, Jesus heads toward Mt. Olive to pray.  His disciples follow him.  Jesus asks them to stop and pray that they will not give into temptation.  He slips away to have a word with The Father.  Luke tells us that there was an angel there giving Him strength.  His prayers were so intense that He began to sweat blood.  When He went back to His disciples, He found them asleep.  He asked them again to pray that they would not give into temptation.  But again, they fell asleep.  Let’s move our ivory pawns right back.

Up walks the crowd with Judas, who greets Jesus with words of betrayal.  “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him.  It wasn’t bad enough that he would betray Jesus.  It wasn’t even bad enough that he would identify Him by a kiss, but Judas insulted Him by calling Him teacher, identifying Him as one who teaches the truth.  At this point we can remove one ivory pawn and move the ebony king forward.  

According to Luke 22:51, Peter, our overzealous friend, gets all fired up and pulls his sword out.  He cuts one of the priests ears off, to which Jesus yells “No more of this!”  Let’s move an ivory pawn a couple forward for that one.  At this point the game seems to be moving slowly, though the king of darkness has made ground, there is still control of the board on the ivory side.

After Jesus is taken into custody, His men do what any frightened accomplice would do, run.  They scattered about, leaving Jesus to His captors.  Peter, our man of faith, found himself by a fire, a girl calls out “This man also was with him.” says verse 56.  Two other times, Peter is asked if he knows this Jesus and two other times, three total, Peter denies it!  After hearing the rooster crow, Peter realizes he fell into temptation.  Oh, if only he would have stayed awake to pray.  Let’s remove an ivory pawn and move forward an ebony one.

Meanwhile, in Matthew 27, Judas realizes what he has done and takes the money back to the elders and chief priests.  He tells them he was wrong and that Jesus was innocent, but it was too late.  The men had their hands on Jesus and they weren’t about to release Him.  Judas leaves the coins and hangs himself out of disgust for his own flesh.   Let’s remove an ebony pawn for him.  Wow this game is getting interesting.

Here is where it gets tough.  Back to Luke 22 beginning in verse 63, it tells us that the ones who arrested Jesus beat Him and mocked Him.  They would blindfold Him and punch Him in the face, telling Him “Prophecy!  Who is it that struck you?”  I can just see the ebony pawns moving forward, one by one.

They bring Jesus before Pontius Pilate.  He cannot find any wrong done by Him.  Even after they give him their complaint, he dismisses him to Harrod.  He  and his men treated Jesus with contempt and mocked Him.  They sent Him back to Pilate who still refuses to find fault.  He proposed that they beat Jesus and let Him go, however the crowds did not like this and they began to scream “Crucify, crucify him!” in Luke 23:21  

They demanded Barabbas be released instead.  The ebony pieces begin to close in on the ivory side as Pilate caves and says “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” per Matthew 27:24.  Though Pilate did not find fault in Jesus, he held his god of people pleasing higher than the God of eternity.

From there, the bible tells us that they gathered a whole battalion before Him.  They put a scarlet robe on Him and gave Him a crown of twisted thorns.  They gave Him a reed to hold and shouted things like “Hail, King of the Jews!” then hitting Him with that very reed.  They did unthinkable things like spit on him as they made Him carry His own cross, beating Him all they way to the top of the mount.

As He was nailed or crucified, they yelled things like “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”  They cast lots on His clothing and laughed as they humiliated Him.  At this point even the ivory pawns are starting to look ebony.   But this is where the game changes, Jesus speaks!  He tells John to look after His mother and tells His mother that John will now be her son.  The ivory King moves forward.

As Jesus loses breath, His back flat against the rough wood, He pulls up on His wrists in order to get enough air to speak.  Growing tired, He speaks again.  Luke 23:34 “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  You see Jesus knew that the commotion going on was all at the hand of the devil.  These men would not treat Him this way if they knew who He truly was.  Let’s move that ivory King forward again.

There were two criminals on either side of Jesus.  Both were having fun with the crowd, yelling things at Jesus, mocking Him.  But something happens, one of them speaks.  “Are you not the Christ?  Save yourself and us!”  The opposite criminal mocks, now, Jesus and the criminal.  As the winds change, the once ebony pawn becomes pure white as he says “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

These words of belief give Jesus the energy to pull Himself up enough to speak again.  Luke 23:43 Jesus says “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”  Death begins to encompass the King, He begins to feel the separation from His Father, who cannot look on sin.  He cries out with all He has “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?”  

You see hell is simply the separation from God.  It’s an eternal thirst and hunger.  It is the lack of satisfaction and a never ending pain.  Like an itch on your body that is numb, you can never scratch it because you can’t feel it, yet you feel the itch that you cannot stop thinking about.  Jesus felt that empty longing feeling for His Father.  The chess board looks more grim than ever at this point, there is a whisper from the enemy “check”.  Believing he won the game, I believe he begins to celebrate, even Jesus questions God!  In John 19:28, Jesus says “I thirst”.

One of the Soldiers gives Jesus a sip of sour wine that they put a hyssop branch with a sponge to his mouth.  Do you remember that branch?  The same one used to paint the doorframe with sacrificial blood on the very first Passover.    It seems to be the end of the game, but our Jesus, our King is made stronger in His weakness and He moves forward again as He speaks one final time.

Through the angst in His voice, He pulls up one last time and says “It is finished,” and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit. (John 19:30)  The bible tells us that the men go away beating their chests, assuming the victory.  But of course, in Jesus fashion, it’s not the end of the story.  As death seems to encompass the region and darkness appears to fall.  There is a wind that comes from the direction of heaven.  If you listen closely you can hear it.  It’s the sound of Jesus whispering “Check mate!”

Let’s pray:  “Lord,we thank You that this is not a game!  We thank You for being victory.  This road that Your Son walked makes me physically sick, I cannot imagine how it makes You feel.  God, You created this world.  It’s hard to believe the suffering that You had to endure, via Your Son.  God we sit here thankful that in less than 100 hours, we get to celebrate a resurrection.  A life from death.  Your Son came back to life and lives and today!  As I read this story I see that You allowed Peter to walk his story so that we can fight the urge to deny You when others are speaking against You.  I see that You allowed Thomas to doubt so that we don’t have to when our world is falling apart, we can cling to what we know is truth.  I see that You allowed Judas to betray Jesus for thirty coins so that we may know that nothing is worth selling out our faith.  So that we would be aware when we believe we deserve prosperity or health for our faith.  We understand that we are no different than those men.  We thank You for making us strong in our weakness and for helping us to remain victorious.  Lord, thank You for allowing us to live in eternity with You.  It doesn’t make sense that Your perfect, righteous, blameless, spotless Son would take my place, but I am so humbled and thankful that I cannot help but follow You!  We thank You for the tears, because without them, there would be no joy!  It’s in Your Sons name that I ask these things.  Amen”