A Good Friday Meditation
This is a self-directed Good Friday meditation, a written tool to help one reflect on the Crucifixion Jesus Christ. It is designed to provoke thought; deeper thinking about Jesus’ death and its meaning in one’s personal life. It is not something to be read through quickly to get to the end but with purposeful pausing and meditating. It is recommended that the reader read through this without interference or distraction; take steps to make sure he or she won’t be interrupted.
Before you begin this meditation, take some time to quiet your heart, clear your mind of all thoughts except for Jesus. Good Friday is a sacred day because it is the day we remember that Jesus died for our sins. In a world of distractions and amusements we seldom take time to think about deep and important ideas. The idea that Jesus died for your sin is a heavy thought to contemplate.
This series of meditative devotionals are based on the Twelve Stations of the Cross. Catholic churches have Twelve Stations in their sanctuaries that depict the Crucifixion and death of Jesus. This self-guided meditation will use these stations to guide the thought process and the meaning Jesus’ death has for each individual.
Please, take your time and do not rush through the process. Pause at each of these “stations” to reflect on the Scripture reference and the devotionals intended to frame our thoughts as we walk with Jesus to Golgotha.
Pastor C. D. Moore
Wiltsie Community Church
Jesus Condemned to Death
Matthew 27:17 So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18 For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him. 19 While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.” 20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed. 21 “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor. “Barabbas,” they answered. 22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!” 23 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!” 24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!” 25 All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!” 26 Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
I wonder what the dinner conversation was like in the Pilate home later that evening? Mrs. Pilate had made it clear, Jesus is innocent; the best course of action is to get away from this trial. And try as he might, there was no escape for Pilate; he had to deal with Jesus. Unfortunately for him, the entire world judges his whole gubernatorial administration by the one incident that he wanted nothing to do with. Pilate is found lacking. Invested with all the power of Rome behind him, he fails to enforce what’s right and sends the most innocent man to the cruelest kind of death.
Who was to blame? Pilate? He points the finger at the Jews demanding crucifixion. They say, “He claims to be a king. That’s against the law. This man has to be executed.”
“Well what about the prisoner release program? The guilty can be pardoned,” Pilate offers.
“Great! Give us Barabbas,” they retort.
“Barabbas? What about Jesus? He’s the better choice.”
“No, he’s a criminal that deserves crucifixion according to the Roman law… that you are required to enforce.”
They could have gone back and forth all day long, but Pilate finally caved in to the perception that Jesus wasn’t worth the hassel. And so the question still remains, “Who was to blame for Jesus’ death?” Pilate? The Jews? Barabbas? All of them? Yes! Truthfully, it was you and I as well. If you were the only one that had sin, that sin alone would have required Jesus’ life in order to be made right with God. We are all guilty, collectively and personally.
Jesus Carries His Cross
Mark 8:34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
Jesus didn’t speak these words to sound impressive nor just to scare away half-hearted followers. Crucifixions were not so uncommon that people could only imagine what Jesus was talking about. Chances are, if anyone in the crowd that Jesus was speaking to had ever seen a crucifixion, they would have said it was one too many. In the history of Israel, 100 years before Jesus was born, 800 Pharisees were crucified in one day as the result of a politcal struggle. Jesus was not the first to die on a cross, nor was he the last.
The cross was a symbol of a curse and only the cursed were crucified. Like tying the knot for your noose; tightening the fuses for your electric chair; loading the guns for you firing squad; sharpening the blade of your guillotine; filling your syringe with poison; was carrying your cross to The Skull. It was the final act of shame. The cursed one had to share the responsibility for his execution. But unlike the modern modes of execution, the cross was deliberately designed to be an excruciating torturous death.
The crossbeam that Jesus carried was more than just a piece of wood used to execute a man. Jesus carried the beam that would bear the sins of all time and of the entire world. A weakened Savior carried this cross, on your behalf, so that your death would be nothing more than a passing into eternal life.
Pilgrims to the Holy Land, to this day, follow the same path that Jesus took to his execution site. It has been called Via Dolorous, The Way of Sorrows. It is an ever-increasing incline that peaks at Skull Hill. Jesus was weakened by the traumas that he had suffered. Perhaps he was dazed and light-headed. What would have been an easy load for a carpenter to carry became unbearable. It was too much and he fell, not just once, but three times.
Falling is painful. The body struggles, loses balance and then receives a blow that shocks the nervous system. Strength has to be rallied and exerted to get back up and continue in the painful circumstances that caused the fall in the first place.
Have you ever experienced a fall? Not just tripping or stumbling with clumsiness. Have you ever fallen in the walk of putting yourself to death? You know, dying daily, carrying your cross, and trying to accomplish God’s purpose? That kind of fall comes in a moment of weakness. I know it’s not the same thing as Jesus’ falling with the cross, but nonetheless, Jesus can relate. He knows that the easy thing to do is to stay down, give up and die. But he modeled the determination needed to finish the course God has for you. He also proves that God’s greatest joys are worth the struggle of getting to the finish. Yes, Jesus fell, and hopefully it will keep you from falling into a bottomless pit of dispair.
“To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.” Jude 24
Simon Helps Carry the Cross
Mark 15:21 A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross.
What Simon was originally forced to do, he never stopped doing by choice.
Simon is mysterious. He shows up in Scripture just before the death of Jesus and he is forever changed. Perhaps he mever any association with Jesus prior to this event. Maybe he was one of 5,000 that got a fish sandwich from Jesus. Maybe he had heard Jesus once or twice before teaching in some village, or in the temple courts. Prior to this he is unnamed.
On this particular day, Simon was headed into town when the flow of people surrounding Jesus was heading out. Simon, “in the wrong place at the wrong time” becomes a convenient tool to get the job done. It is an unwelcome situation. No one wants to be associated with the stigma of carrying a cross. But for some reason, Simon doesn’t melt into the crowd that gathers at the top of the hill. He doesn’t remain anonymous. He stays around long enough to understand what this cross was all about. His name is recorded in the gospels because he stayed around the Jesus people long enough to know them and for them to call him by name. Not only does he become one of the Jesus people, so do his boys. They grow up to be members at the First Christian Church in Rome.
Without a doubt, carrying the cross for Jesus was a life-changing event for Simon. So it is with anyone that carries a cross for Jesus.
Jesus Speaks to the Women
Luke 23:27 A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him.
Considering the difficulty to speak in such a setting, Jesus says many words to these women who are grieving. This was by far the worst thing that they could imagine. They could not see God in this. This was the triumph of evil. What could be worse than what was happening to Jesus? So they wailed and moaned from deep within. Who could imagine that this was God’s plan for the salvation of the world?
Allow me to paraphrase what Jesus said to these women: “Dear ladies, far worse than what is happening to me, is the failure to understand it.” Yes, what was happening to Jesus was so bad that it stretched the limits of comprehension. But there was something even worse: Failure to understand that this is how God takes away the sins of the world. And with that, the failure to accept this gift, or make application of it; resulting in hell. Nothing is worse than this.
Jesus Stripped of His Clothes
John 19:23 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes…Let us decide by lot who will get [what].
They weren’t much, but they were all that he owned. The only possessions of Jesus were the clothes that he wore. And as if he hadn’t suffered enough shame, Greed gambled to get the lion’s share at this final scene. Jesus died without having one single possession on this earth. There was nothing to bequeath, or to give away as he died on the cross. Perhaps that’s why he was able to go to the cross as he did.
Jesus was car-less. He walked everywhere he went. He went everywhere because he did not have a home. He was homeless. He didn’t have land, he didn’t have money, and he didn’t have any need for storage space because (as hard as it is to believe in our day) he didn’t have any stuff. Jesus didn’t have any possessions. He didn’t claim anything exclusively as his. He didn’t have a hold on anything when he went to the cross; therefore nothing had a hold on him.
Rich Mullins wrote in a song, “The world can’t stand what it can’t own, and it can’t own you, because you did not have a home. Birds have nests, foxes have dens, but the hope of the whole world rests on the shoulders of a homeless man…” By never attaching himself to the things of this earth, Satan was never given an opportunity to get a hold on Jesus. Therefore, he was able to lay down his life with “no strings attached.”
Jesus is Nailed to the Cross
Luke 23:33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there…
Nailing Jesus to the cross seems to be the point of no return. Typically, the Jews did not like crucifixion as a form of punishment. They even had certain provisions to make the experience somewhat merciful. A narcotic drink was provided to ease pain. There also was a relay of soldiers that would line the way from the execution site to the governor. Should there be a change in the sentence, the criminal could be released at a moment’s notice. As the nails are being pounded into Jesus’ wrists, there is no movement in the relay. There is no last minute stay of execution.
With the last opportunity for mercy and true justice gone, it would seem there should be at least a word or two of protest from Jesus. It was the typical response of the one to be executed. Pleadings ignored, obscenities would follow suit. Instead of foul curses, Jesus pleads for the crowd’s forgiveness, as if they were the guilty ones before a Judge. The Executed, begging for mercy on behalf of His executioners.
In the routine of this crucifixion, at least one soldier doesn’t miss that there was something different with this one. By the time Jesus reaches the point of his death, a centurion recognizes that he has not witnessed the execution of a common criminal but that he has seen the Son of God.
Jesus Pardons a Dying Thief
Luke 23:42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Of the characters that appear in the story of the Crucifixion, the thief with faith is the most amazing. The one that spews out insults and obscenities only rises to what one might expect. The other makes an enormous impression that is far greater than his brief appearance.
He is on his way to a certain death; it is only a matter of hours. He knows that his body will go to an unmarked county grave and that his spirit will go to the judgment of God. (At least this is what he remembers from Sunday school.) The weight of his sin becomes increasingly heavy. It is too late to make a sacrifice for his sin at the temple. There is no blood that can atone for his sin. If only there was some way for a sacrifice to be made on his behalf.
The time to blame others and fake innocence is past. It is time to come clean before God and all, “…we are getting what are deeds deserve,” he confesses. Just stating the truth, for a change, gives a certain sense of peace in the suffering. The thief sees the justice and the appropriateness for his circumstances. He doesn’t see it that way for the guy on the middle cross.
This is where he makes an incredible leap into faith: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” This thief did not see Jesus as just another victim of the Roman justice system but as a Savior that was yet to come into his own. Everyone else saw a good man dying an unjust death. Everyone else saw defeat; “the end of the road.” But the thief saw Jesus as the King of kings and the Lord of lords about to come into his kingdom, despite the fact that he was dying on a cross.
Here’s what might stretch your theology: What did he do to deserve paradise? He didn’t go to church. He didn’t give any money to God. He didn’t pay back what he had stolen. He didn’t teach a Sunday school class that nobody else wanted to take on. He didn’t do nearly enough good deeds to balance the scales in his favor. He died owing a debt on the sins he had committed. What good thing did he ever do? None. What got him into paradise? Faith. He knew that he could never do anything to save himself, on, or off his cross. He soley trusted Jesus for what he could never do.
In the end, Jesus thought that it was all that was needed.
Jesus Cares for His Mother
John 19:26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
The moments between Jesus, Mary and John are so tender we almost feel out of place reading them. This is a private moment between an agonizing Son, a soul pierced mother and a grieving friend. Of Jesus’ immediate family, only Mary is at the Crucifixion. Of Jesus’ friends, only John. This is not how anyone wants to see their most loved one die.
When we read, we imagine. We wish we could somehow go to them at that point in time and share words of encouragement and comfort. Would they understand our words, “It’s Friday… But Sunday’s a comin?” Could they see past the moment? Would a pain too deep paralyze their faith?”
Since we cannot go to them at the foot of the Cross, perhaps we can see what they teach us when in the crushing grip of pain: Love one another. Stay close to one another. Support one another. Hang in there together and you will make it to a better day; when even your deepest pain will seem forgotten.
Jesus Becomes Sin
2 Corinthians 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
There came that moment when sins were transferred from the sinful to the Sinless. It was the moment when the purpose of the Cross, the Crucifixion and the resulting death of Jesus took effect. Jesus, who was morally and spiritually pure, had the sins of the world placed on him and he was separated from the Father. As a result we may embrace a salvation to a life that we do no deserve. In the same way, Jesus embraced a punishment to death that he did not deserve. He, who was a perfect Stranger to rebellion against the Father, was treated as if he was fully responsible for man’s rebellion against God. He suffered what God does to sin. His identification with man was complete. He became our substitute. He became our sacrifice. He died that we might live.
John 19:28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Finished. Complete. There was nothing more to be done or do. The work of the Cross was finished; it did everything that needed to be done, and did it thoroughly; perfectly. The mission of Jesus was accomplished to the specifications that God the Father had set. Nothing was overlooked, omitted or left questionable. A decisive battle had been fought and won.
Song writer Bill Gaither captured the sense of this great battle in his song, It Is Finished. Part of the lyrics says:
On one side, march the forces of evil
All the demons, all the devils of hell
On the other, the angels of glory
And they meet on Golgotha's hill
The earth shakes with the force of the conflict
And the sun refuses to shine
For there hangs God's son, in the balance
And then through the darkness he cries
It is finished, the battle is over
It is finished, there'll be no more war
It is finished, the end of the conflict
It is finished and Jesus is Lord
The power of sin was broken. The blood shed by Jesus was its undoing. It was a costly battle; the price paid is beyond comprehension. But it is settled for all eternity and cannot be altered. It is FINISHED.
Jesus is Put in the Tomb
John 19:41 At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. 42 Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
In your mind’s eye, take a good look at the dead body of Jesus Christ. Watch as they care for and prepare his body for burial. They are careful, but they are rushed by the coming of the Sabbath. Jesus is to be left in the tomb. It is time to leave. You may come back to this place to leave flowers and meet with other mourners, after the Sabbath. Jesus has died and this is where you must leave him.
Thank you for taking time to reflect on this Good Friday meditation. May your heart be drawn closer to God as we wait to celebrate this Sunday.