Friday, April 2, 2010

Thankful, Tearful, Joyful Good Friday

John was the son of a fisherman who spent his days fishing off Lake Genesareth. He was a disciple of John the Baptist and then later became one of the twelve disciples of Christ. He is believed to be the author of the gospel John, the Epistles of John (1 John, 2 John, 3 John), and the book of Revelation. He is often referred to as the disciple Jesus loved and sat next to Jesus at the Last Supper. He is also one of three disciples (along with Peter and James) who was present at the garden of Gethsemane and he was at the feet of Christ, along with Mary and the other women, during his crucifixion. It was John that Jesus requested care for his mother, Mary, while hanging upon the cross.

In an effort to fully understand the sacrifice of Christ, I find it beneficial to place myself in the shoes of John and imagine the events leading up to, and during, the crucifixion from John's point of view.

John loved Christ with a passion hardly imaginable. He knew that Jesus was the promised Messiah, his savior in the flesh. During the meal that evening, Jesus had foreshadowed disturbing events. He had revealed that one of his beloved disciples would betray him and that he would be leaving his disciples soon.

He seemed greatly troubled at the garden of Gethesamene, where he prayed for himself and his disciples.They left the garden and crossed the Kidron Valley, finally reaching an olive grove they had visited often. Shortly after their arrival, the disciple Judas arrived with armed soldiers, chief priests and Pharisees who were intent on capturing Jesus. Peter pulled a sword to defend his savior, but Jesus rebuked him and demanded he put the sword away. He relinquished himself to the custody of his captors.

John and Peter followed closely behind and watched in agony as Jesus was bound and dragged before the high priest Caiaphas. John was known to Caiaphas, and therefore allowed to follow Jesus into the priest's courtyard. He watched as they questioned and struck Jesus across the face.

Jesus was then dragged, still bound, to the palace of the Roman Governor. His captors made it clear that they wanted Jesus to be executed, something they could not do under their own law. They wanted to hand Jesus over to the governor to be tried and convicted to death. The governor instead sentenced Jesus to be flogged. He was beaten relentlessly with whips equipped with skin piercing and flesh tearing tools. This was a punishment so brutal that the Roman government would not inflict such a severe and life-threatening punishment against its own citizens-- it was unlawful to sentence a Roman citizen to such a horrifying beating.

Jesus was returned before a crowd of Jews, beaten, bloody and bruised. His flesh was torn and it hung from his body in bloody clumps where it had been ripped from the bone. It was custom to release one prisoner at Passover but the crowd chose to release a dangerous criminal, Barabbas, instead of their Savior and King. The man in which John loved so intensely was sentenced to death.

They strapped a heavy, wooden cross to Jesus' blood soaked and torn back. The wood rubbed against his wounds, tearing his flesh further. John watched as he started the long trek to Calvary, where he would be nailed to the very wood that lay across his shoulders. The people spat at Jesus and called him names, often knocking him to the ground. At one point along the journey, Jesus collapsed and another man had to carry the cross the rest of the way as he was no longer able to bear the weight of the wood.

John continued to follow Jesus along this journey and watched in horror as his broken body was nailed to the piece of wood and then hoisted above the earth, with only nails holding his weight. With every breath he took, he cringed in agony as his flesh rubbed against the wood, tearing it even further and leaving splinters in his wounds. He hung there for hours, as the the people continued to spit at him and subject him to harsh ridicule. Gravity became an unbearable force and it took all his strength to lift his chest to breathe. Every breath he took became an excruciating and exhausting experience. John witnessed all of this from the foot of the cross, comforting Mary and promising Jesus to care for her following his death in the flesh.

A darkness then fell over the land and his King and Savior breathed his last. A solider jabbed his side and water and blood poured out, supporting the modern medical theory that a physically bruised and beaten heart had burst inside the chest of Christ. His body was removed from the cross and they began preparing him for burial in a rich man's tomb.

John couldn't have imagined, even in the most amazing dream, what would come three days following....

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